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In a Numerical Coincidence, Some See Evidence for String Theory

Recently, three physicists calculated a number pertaining to the quantum nature of gravity. When they saw the value, “we couldn’t believe it,” said Pedro Vieira, one of the three. Gravity’s quantum-scale details are not something physicists usually know how to quantify, but the trio attacked the problem using an approach that has lately been racking...

Any Single Galaxy Reveals the Composition of an Entire Universe

A group of scientists may have stumbled upon a radical new way to do cosmology. Cosmologists usually determine the composition of the universe by observing as much of it as possible. But these researchers have found that a machine learning algorithm can scrutinize a single simulated galaxy and predict the overall makeup of the digital universe in which...

Computer Scientists Eliminate Pesky Quantum Computations

As quantum computers have become more functional, our understanding of them has remained muddled. Work by a pair of computer scientists has clarified part of the picture, providing insight into what can be computed with these futuristic machines. “It’s a really nice result that has implications for quantum computation,” said John Watrous of the University...

Neural Noise Shows the Uncertainty of Our Memories

In the moment between reading a phone number and punching it into your phone, you may find that the digits have mysteriously gone astray — even if you’ve seared the first ones into your memory, the last ones may still blur unaccountably. Was the 6 before the 8 or after it? Are you sure? Maintaining such scraps of information long enough to act on them...

Mathematicians Clear Hurdle in Quest to Decode Primes

It’s been 162 years since Bernhard Riemann posed a seminal question about the distribution of prime numbers. Despite their best efforts, mathematicians have made very little progress on the Riemann hypothesis. But they have managed to make headway on simpler related problems. In a paper posted in September, Paul Nelson of the Institute for Advanced...

Symmetries Reveal Clues About the Holographic Universe

We’ve known about gravity since Newton’s apocryphal encounter with the apple, but we’re still struggling to make sense of it. While the other three forces of nature are all due to the activity of quantum fields, our best theory of gravity describes it as bent space-time. For decades, physicists have tried to use quantum field theories to describe gravity,...

Evolution ‘Landscapes’ Predict What’s Next for COVID Virus

In the fall of 2019, the world began one of the largest evolutionary biology experiments in modern history. Somewhere near the city of Wuhan in eastern China, a coronavirus acquired the ability to live inside humans rather than the bats and other mammals that had been its hosts. It adapted further to become efficient at spreading from one person to...

Euler’s 243-Year-Old ‘Impossible’ Puzzle Gets a Quantum Solution

In 1779, the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler posed a puzzle that has since become famous: Six army regiments each have six officers of six different ranks. Can the 36 officers be arranged in a 6-by-6 square so that no row or column repeats a rank or regiment? The puzzle is easily solved when there are five ranks and five regiments, or seven ranks...

Qubits Can Be as Safe as Bits, Researchers Show

Over the centuries, we have learned to put information into increasingly durable and useful form, from stone tablets to paper to digital media. Beginning in the 1980s, researchers began theorizing about how to store the information inside a quantum computer, where it is subject to all sorts of atomic-scale errors. By the 1990s they had found a few methods,...

Flying Fish and Aquarium Pets Yield Secrets of Evolution

To escape predators beneath the waves, a flying fish can shoot out of the water and glide long distances because its paired pectoral and pelvic fins, longer and more rigid than those of other fish, act as airfoils. In a quirky triumph of evolution, creatures that were once strictly aquatic transformed into temporarily airborne ones through a few modifications...

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