The agency spells out its proposal to require retailers to wall off sections of stores to limit access, a move opposed by many convenience stores.… Read the rest
Through documentary as well as collaborative, interpretive portraiture, Matthieu Zellweger aims to capture the experiences of people with the condition.… Read the rest
In the final months of 2011, Brian White would occasionally hear a tap on his Stanford University office door. Waiting outside would be two younger mathematicians, Fernando Codá Marques and André Neves, always with the same rough question: Did White have a few minutes to help them understand some confusing part of an obscure, several-hundred-page doctoral dissertation written three decades earlier?
The dissertation, by Jon Pitts, presented powerful machinery for constructing minimal surfaces — structures akin to soap films and bubbles — within a wide variety of shapes. Minimal surfaces, when they can be constructed, offer a lens through which to study the geometry of the surrounding space, and they turn up in a range of scientific settings, from the study of black holes … Read the rest
No human, or team of humans, could possibly keep up with the avalanche of information produced by many of today’s physics and astronomy experiments. Some of them record terabytes of data every day — and the torrent is only increasing. The Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope slated to switch on in the mid-2020s, will generate about as much data traffic each year as the entire internet.
The deluge has many scientists turning to artificial intelligence for help. With minimal human input, AI systems such as artificial neural networks — computer-simulated networks of neurons that mimic the function of brains — can plow through mountains of data, highlighting anomalies and detecting patterns that humans could never have spotted.
Of course, the use of computers to aid … Read the rest
As far as anyone knows, we have always been alone. It’s just us on this pale blue dot, “home to everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of,” as Carl Sagan so memorably put it. No one has called or dropped by. And yet the universe is filled with stars, nearly all those stars have planets, and some of those planets are surely livable. So where is everybody?
The Italian physicist Enrico Fermi was purportedly the first to pose this question, in 1950, and scientists have offered a bounty of solutions for his eponymous paradox since. One of the most famous came from Sagan himself, with William Newman, who postulated in a 1981 paper that we just need patience. Nobody has visited because … Read the rest
Some problems in science are so hard, we don’t really know what meaningful questions to ask about them — or whether they are even truly solvable by science. Consciousness is one of those: Some researchers think it is an illusion; others say it pervades everything. Some hope to see it reduced to the underlying biology of neurons firing; others say that it is an irreducibly holistic phenomenon.
The question of what kinds of physical systems are conscious “is one of the deepest, most fascinating problems in all of science,” wrote the computer scientist Scott Aaronson of the University of Texas at Austin. “I don’t know of any philosophical reason why should be inherently unsolvable” — but “humans seem nowhere close to solving it.”
Now a new … Read the rest
One of the biggest and most basic questions in physics involves the number of ways to configure the matter in the universe. If you took all that matter and rearranged it, then rearranged it again, then rearranged it again, would you ever exhaust the possible configurations, or could you go on reconfiguring forever?
Physicists don’t know, but in the absence of certain knowledge, they make assumptions. And those assumptions differ depending on the area of physics they happen to be in. In one area they assume the number of configurations is finite. In another they assume it’s infinite. For now, at least, there’s no way to tell who’s right.
But over the last couple years, a select group of mathematicians and computer scientists has been busy … Read the rest
Staff are pulled out once again amid ongoing uncertainty surrounding the stability of nearby ice.… Read the rest
Australia agrees to discard of one million tonnes of waste in world’s largest coral reef.… Read the rest
60% of the world’s meteorites have been found in Antarctica. But what’s it like for those who have to look for them?… Read the rest