Science

In 1985, when Carl Sagan was writing the novel Contact, he needed to quickly transport his protagonist Dr. Ellie Arroway from Earth to the star Vega. He had her enter a black hole and exit light-years away, but he didn’t know if this made any sense. The Cornell University astrophysicist…

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Researchers have caught their best glimpse yet into the origins of photosynthesis, one of nature’s most momentous innovations. By taking near-atomic, high-resolution X-ray images of proteins from primitive bacteria, investigators at Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University have extrapolated what the earliest version of photosynthesis might have looked like…

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Some of the brightest flashes in the universe may be coming into focus. So-called fast radio bursts are enigmatic, ultra-brief, ultra-powerful bursts of energy coming from distant galaxies. They last for only a fraction of a second, but in that time they emit the energy of perhaps 500 million suns….

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In the complex cells of humans and other organisms, two different genomes collaborate to sustain life. The larger genome, with DNA encoding thousands of genes, resides in the cell nucleus, while copies of the much smaller one sit in all the energy-producing organelles called mitochondria. Normally, they work in quiet…

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Even as machines known as “deep neural networks” have learned to converse, drive cars, beat video games and Go champions, dream, paint pictures and help make scientific discoveries, they have also confounded their human creators, who never expected so-called “deep-learning” algorithms to work so well. No underlying principle has guided…

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Brains, beyond their signature achievements in thinking and problem solving, are paragons of energy efficiency. The human brain’s power consumption resembles that of a 20-watt incandescent lightbulb. In contrast, one of the world’s largest and fastest supercomputers, the K computer in Kobe, Japan, consumes as much as 9.89 megawatts of…

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The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, has failed to find any of the hoped-for particles that would lead physicists beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. But it’s possible that the LHC has been producing such pivotal new particles all…

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You probably can’t remember what it feels like to play Super Mario Bros. for the very first time, but try to picture it. An 8-bit game world blinks into being: baby blue sky, tessellated stone ground, and in between, a squat, red-suited man standing still—waiting. He’s facing rightward; you nudge…

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When new species evolve, where do their viruses come from? As little more than free-ranging bundles of genetic material, viruses desperately need to hijack their hosts’ cellular machinery and resources to replicate, over and over again. Without its host, a virus is nothing. Because of that dependence, some viruses have…

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When Rebecca Goldin spoke to a recent class of incoming freshmen at George Mason University, she relayed a disheartening statistic: According to a recent study, 36 percent of college students don’t significantly improve in critical thinking during their four-year tenure. “These students had trouble distinguishing fact from opinion, and cause…

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