The Computer Scientist Who Finds Life Lessons in Games

For Shang-Hua Teng, theoretical computer science has never been purely theoretical. Now 58, Teng is a professor of computer science at the University of Southern California and a two-time winner of the Gödel Prize, an annual award recognizing groundbreaking theoretical work. But he often strives to connect that abstract theory to everyday life in ways … Read more

Starfish Whisperer Develops a Physical Language of Life

In a sunny lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, two starfish fought over their prey. Overlapping arms pinned a hunk of thawing cocktail shrimp against the side of the tank. Thousands of suction cups rippled furiously against the glass as each echinoderm struggled to inch the prize toward its own maw. The physicist Nikta … Read more

New Algorithm Closes Quantum Supremacy Window

In what specific cases do quantum computers surpass their classical counterparts? That’s a hard question to answer, in part because today’s quantum computers are finicky things, plagued with errors that can pile up and spoil their calculations. By one measure, of course, they’ve already done it. In 2019, physicists at Google announced that they used … Read more

The Year in Comments

Every Quanta article, video and podcast has its own backstory. By the time it arrives on your screen, our staff has nurtured it through weeks (and sometimes months) of careful work: research, reporting, writing, editing, art direction, animation, filming, recording, fact-checking, copy editing and web production. Then it’s my turn. My job is to engage … Read more

The Year in Math

We can think of a mathematician as a kind of archaeologist, painstakingly brushing dust off the hidden structures of the world. But the structures mathematicians reveal are not only durable, but also inevitable. They could never have been any other way. They are also remarkably interconnected: Though each year the mathematical frontier continues to expand … Read more

The Year in Physics

The year began right as the James Webb Space Telescope was unfurling its sunshield — the giant, nail-bitingly thin and delicate blanket that, once open, would plunge the observatory into frigid shade and open up its view of the infrared universe. Within hours of the ball dropping here in New York City, the sunshield could … Read more

The Year in Computer Science

As computer scientists tackle a greater range of problems, their work has grown increasingly interdisciplinary. This year, many of the most significant computer science results also involved other scientists and mathematicians. Perhaps the most practical involved the cryptographic questions underlying the security of the internet, which tend to be complicated mathematical problems. Source

The Year in Biology

Our memories are the cornerstone of our identity. Their importance is a big part of what makes Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia so cruel and poignant. It’s why we’ve hoped so desperately for science to deliver a cure for Alzheimer’s, and why it is so frustrating and tragic that useful treatments have been … Read more

‘Fullertubes’ Join the Family of Carbon Crystals

Carbon can arrange itself into one of the hardest materials in nature, or into one so soft that children inscribe trails of it on paper. Several decades ago, scientists started wondering: Aside from diamond and graphite, what other crystalline forms might carbon take? In 1985, they had their first answer. A group of chemists discovered … Read more

She Finds Keys to Ecology in Cells That Steal From Others

Nature, red in tooth and claw, is rife with organisms that eat their neighbors to get ahead. But in the systems studied by the theoretical ecologist Holly Moeller, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the consumed become part of the consumer in surprising ways. Moeller … Read more

How the Brain Distinguishes Memories From Perceptions

Memory and perception seem like entirely distinct experiences, and neuroscientists used to be confident that the brain produced them differently, too. But in the 1990s neuroimaging studies revealed that parts of the brain that were thought to be active only during sensory perception are also active during the recall of memories. “It started to raise … Read more

Generated by Feedzy