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The internet is changing, including how much we pay for content and the ads and brands we see. That’s because Apple and Google, two hugely influential tech companies, are rolling out privacy protections that hinder marketers from gaining access...

When 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968, it didn’t feel like a stretch to dream of lounging in a space hotel, sipping a martini while watching Earth drift by. This vision got a boost in the early...

Australia’s decision to rip up its $90bn agreement with France for 12 diesel-powered submarines, and opt instead to build nuclear-powered vessels with Britain and the US, is a landmark moment for Asia-Pacific geopolitics and the global defence industry. The...

On 11 September 2001, the collapse of the twin towers at New York’s World Trade Center cast a long shadow over the future of high rise construction and led to changes in engineering design. On the day, now known...

Twenty-three thousand. According to computer scientist Katie Bouman, that is how many people were involved in creating the first ever image of a black hole, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) in 2019. Not all of these contributors...

In September 2011, a group of neuroscientists and nanoscientists gathered at a picturesque estate in the English countryside for a symposium meant to bring their two fields together. At the meeting, Columbia University neurobiologist Rafael Yuste and Harvard geneticist...

Imagine if you could power your kettle using the energy generated from the vegetable cuttings quietly breaking down in your kitchen’s compost bin. That reality might not be so far off with the growth of biogas technology. Biogas is...

Graph theory isn’t enough. The mathematical language for talking about connections, which usually depends on networks — vertices (dots) and edges (lines connecting them) — has been an invaluable way to model real-world phenomena since at least the 18th...

In one video, a Taliban official reassured female health workers that they could keep their jobs. In another, militants told Sikhs, a minority religious group, that they were free and protected. Still others suggested a new lawfulness in Kabul,...

“Nowhere is safe.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in a recent report that climate change and its consequences are here to stay, is there still an opportunity to mitigate some of the dangers and to...

Last week, NASA’s Perseverance rover shot for a new milestone in the search for extraterrestrial life: Drilling into Mars to extract a plug of rock, which will eventually get fired back to Earth for scientists to study. Data sent...

Many aspects of our lives today are possible thanks to machine learning – where a machine is trained to do a specific, yet complex, job. We no longer think twice about speaking to our digital devices, clicking on recommended...

Through job-matching platforms and AI-powered games and interviews, companies are relying more and more on artificial intelligence to streamline the hiring process. But some job seekers feel frustrated and misunderstood by these technologies. Malika Devaux is a student at...

Before being mortally wounded in a duel at age 20, Évariste Galois discovered the hidden structure of polynomial equations. By studying the relationships between their solutions — rather than the solutions on their own — he created new concepts...

In an International Space Station major milestone more than fifteen years in the making, a long-delayed Russian science laboratory named Nauka automatically docked to the station on 29 July, prompting sighs of relief in the Mission Control Centers in...

Nearly a decade ago, the United States began naming and shaming China for an onslaught of online espionage, the bulk of it conducted using low-level phishing emails against American companies for intellectual property theft. On Monday, the United States...

Most people associate artificial intelligence with robots as an inseparable pair. In fact, the term “artificial intelligence” is rarely used in research labs. Terminology specific to certain kinds of AI and other smart technologies are more relevant. Whenever I’m...

We take for granted that an event in one part of the world cannot instantly affect what happens far away. This principle, which physicists call locality, was long regarded as a bedrock assumption about the laws of physics. So...

Quantum technology is approaching the mainstream. Goldman Sachs recently announced that they could introduce quantum algorithms to price financial instruments in as soon as five years. Honeywell anticipates that quantum will form a $1 trillion industry in the decades...

A decade ago, IBM’s public confidence was unmistakable. Its Watson supercomputer had just trounced Ken Jennings, the best human “Jeopardy!” player ever, showcasing the power of artificial intelligence. This was only the beginning of a technological revolution about to...

Orgies are back. Or at least that’s what advertisers want you to believe. One commercial for chewing gum—whose sales tanked during 2020 because who cares what your breath smells like when you’re wearing a mask—depicts the end of the...

Recently, Quanta has explored the collaboration between physics and mathematics on one of the most important ideas in science: quantum field theory. The basic objects of a quantum field theory are quantum fields, which spread across the universe and,...

When trying to build an artificial intelligence, it seems a good idea to try and mimic the human brain. The basic building blocks of our brains are neurons: these are nerve cells that can communicate with other nerve cells...

In 2009, I gave a presentation on the state of 3D printing and, out of 18 slides, I’d only have to change one for that talk to be accurate today. Imagine how much computers have changed in that time...

As a child living in the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus in the early 1970s, I had a nightly routine. After dinner, I would get ready for bed and then climb onto the sofa next to my father. Inevitably,...

Astronomy is all about data. The universe is getting bigger and so too is the amount of information we have about it. But some of the biggest challenges of the next generation of astronomy lie in just how we’re...

On May 8th, the Columbia Generating Station, the only nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest, disconnected from the grid in order to carry out its biannual refueling. It refueled and connected back to the grid last Saturday, only...

The first episode of Sesame Street in 1969 included a segment called “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.” Viewers were asked to consider a poster that displayed three 2s and one W, and to decide —...

Ever since a new class of ­materials called topological insulators was first created—a discovery that helped win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016—researchers have been intrigued by the possibilities for electronics applications such as ultralow-energy transistors, cancer-scanning lasers­,...

The electric vehicle (EV) has become one of the great modern symbols of a world awakened to the profound challenges of unsustainability and climate change. So much so that we may well imagine that Deep Thought’s answer today to...

Peacocks, panther chameleons, scarlet macaws, clown fish, toucans, blue-ringed octopuses and so many more: The animal kingdom has countless denizens with extraordinarily colorful beauty. But in many cases, scientists know much more about how the animals use their colors...

If you have the peculiar feeling you’ve read this before, don’t be alarmed. It’s probably just déjà vu. Déjà vu is the peculiar feeling that you’ve experienced something before, while at the same time knowing that you haven’t. You...

Quantum computers, you might have heard, are magical uber-machines that will soon cure cancer and global warming by trying all possible answers in different parallel universes. For 15 years, on my blog and elsewhere, I’ve railed against this cartoonish...

Off-setting our carbon footprint is a way for many of us to feel we are doing our bit to save the planet from the ongoing climate emergency. Tree planting schemes have become a popular way to do this. At...

It’s topology, naturally

Ask a solid-state physicist to name the biggest discovery in the field over the past 50 years, and chances are the answer – if not high-temperature superconductivity – will be topological materials. These are materials in which bulk properties...

Sarah Cavey, a real estate agent in Denver, was thrilled last fall when Colorado introduced an app to warn people of possible coronavirus exposures. Based on software from Apple and Google, the state’s smartphone app uses Bluetooth signals to...

It’s a certain kind of itch that drives people to voluntarily build their own CPU. We start thinking about the papered-over gap in our understanding, the one that lurks between how logic gates and flip-flops work individually and how...

Twenty-one years ago this week, mathematicians released a list of the top seven unsolved problems in the field. Answering them would offer major new insights in fundamental mathematics and might even have real-world consequences for technologies such as cryptography....

At first, topology can seem like an unusually imprecise branch of mathematics. It’s the study of squishy play-dough shapes capable of bending, stretching and compressing without limit. But topologists do have some restrictions: They cannot create or destroy holes...

A former colleague who was a researcher and promoter of local food systems once argued that local meat markets connect children with reality. “If young people do not have a direct experience with food”, he told me, “they might...

Uploading personal photos to the internet can feel like letting go. Who else will have access to them, what will they do with them—and which machine-learning algorithms will they help train? The company Clearview has already supplied US law...

So it’s goodbye climate deniers, hello – and you’ll pardon me for being blunt here – climate bullshitters. The impacts of the climate emergency are now so obvious, only the truly deluded still deny them. Instead, we are at...

Imagine operating a computer by moving your hands in the air as Tony Stark does in “Iron Man.” Or using a smartphone to magnify an object as does the device that Harrison Ford’s character uses in “Blade Runner.” Or...

It is the latest status symbol. Flash it at the people, and you can get access to concerts, sports arenas or long-forbidden restaurant tables. Some day, it may even help you cross a border without having to quarantine. The...

Not particularly because there is, and always will be, such a small volume of nuclear waste, no matter what designs are built or how many of them we build. However, with the advent of new nuclear reactor designs, the...

In the 1930s, the French physicist Pierre Auger placed Geiger counters along a ridge in the Alps and observed that they would sometimes spontaneously click at the same time, even when they were up to 300 meters apart. He...

One morning in 2009, I sat on a creaky bus winding its way up a mountainside in central Costa Rica, light-headed from diesel fumes as I clutched my many suitcases. They contained thousands of test tubes and sample vials,...

The universe bets on disorder. Imagine, for example, dropping a thimbleful of red dye into a swimming pool. All of those dye molecules are going to slowly spread throughout the water. Physicists quantify this tendency to spread by counting...

Can Tech Make the Roads Safer?

When the pandemic kept people at home more in 2020, Americans drove far fewer miles than usual. But more people died on the roads. Our roads are dangerous, particularly for pedestrians. I have been curious whether having more technology...

If you ask an astronomer to choose the single most exciting picture in all of astronomy, many of us will point to a familiar orange ring. At a glance it may not look like much — a fuzzy glowing...