Illuminating science
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Mathematicians Marvel at ‘Crazy’ Cuts Through Four Dimensions

The central objects of study in topology are spaces called manifolds, which look flat when you zoom in on them. The surface of a sphere, for instance, is a two-dimensional manifold. Topologists understand such two-dimensional manifolds very well. And they have developed tools that let them make sense of three-dimensional manifolds and those with five...

Mon Apr 22, 2024 18:39
Insects and Other Animals Have Consciousness, Experts Declare

In 2022, researchers at the Bee Sensory and Behavioral Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London observed bumblebees doing something remarkable: The diminutive, fuzzy creatures were engaging in activity that could only be described as play. Given small wooden balls, the bees pushed them around and rotated them. The behavior had no obvious connection...

Fri Apr 19, 2024 17:20
Cryptography Tricks Make a Hard Problem a Little Easier

What’s the best way to solve hard problems? That’s the question at the heart of a subfield of computer science called computational complexity theory. It’s a hard question to answer, but flip it around and it becomes easier. The worst approach is almost always trial and error, which involves plugging in possible solutions until one works. But for some...

Thu Apr 18, 2024 17:57
Hopes of Big Bang Discoveries Ride on a Future Spacecraft

At a conference in Japan a few years ago, David Dunsky attended a talk about gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time created when massive objects like stars and black holes accelerate. Dunsky was a graduate student in particle physics at the time, and his interests seemingly lay elsewhere. Particle physicists seek the more fundamental...

Wed Apr 17, 2024 18:01
Pleasure or Pain? He Maps the Neural Circuits That Decide.

Ishmail Abdus-Saboor has been fascinated by the variety of the natural world since he was a boy growing up in Philadelphia. The nature walks he took under the tutelage of his third grade teacher, Mr. Moore, entranced him. “We got to interact and engage with wildlife and see animals in their native environment,” he recalled. Abdus-Saboor also brought...

Tue Apr 16, 2024 17:11
Geometers Engineer New Tools to Wrangle Spacecraft Orbits

In October, a Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, carrying NASA’s Europa Clipper mission. The $5 billion mission is designed to find out if Europa, Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, can support life. But because Europa is constantly bombarded by intense radiation created by Jupiter’s magnetic field, the Clipper spacecraft...

Mon Apr 15, 2024 17:27

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