Quanta Science Podcast

Quanta Science Podcast

www.quantamagazine.org
In-depth news about mathematics, physics, biology and computer science.


Cryptography That Is Provably Secure
Apr 2, 2019 • 11 min
Researchers have just released cryptographic code that’s less likely to be hacked. The programs have nearly the same level of invincibility as a mathematical proof. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Light Gazing” by Andrew Langdon.
The Math That Tells Cells What They Are
Mar 13, 2019 • 17 min
During development, cells seem to decode their fate through optimal information processing, which could hint at a more general principle of life. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Retro” by Wayne Jones.
How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Science
Mar 11, 2019 • 22 min
The latest AI algorithms are probing the evolution of galaxies, calculating quantum wave functions, discovering new chemical compounds and more. Is there anything that scientists do that can’t be automated? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A World Without Clouds
Feb 25, 2019 • 26 min
A state-of-the-art supercomputer simulation indicates that a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss can push Earth’s climate past a disastrous tipping point in as little as a century. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Clover 3” by…
How the Brain Creates a Timeline of the Past
Feb 12, 2019 • 15 min
The brain can’t directly encode the passage of time, but recent work hints at a workaround for putting timestamps on memories of events.
Foundations Built for a General Theory of Neural Networks
Jan 31, 2019 • 16 min
Neural networks can be as unpredictable as they are powerful. Now mathematicians are beginning to reveal how a neural network’s form will influence its function. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Telepathic Drive” by Unicorn Heads.
The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces
Jan 14, 2019 • 25 min
Emerging evidence suggests that the brain encodes abstract knowledge in the same way that it represents positions in space, which hints at a more universal theory of cognition. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Pulse” by Geographer. Special…
Milestone Experiment Proves Quantum Communication Really Is Faster
Dec 19, 2018 • 10 min
In a Paris lab, researchers have shown for the first time that quantum methods of transmitting information are superior to classical ones. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Telepathic Drive” by Unicorn Heads.
Mathematical Simplicity May Drive Evolution’s Speed
Nov 29, 2018 • 18 min
Computer scientists are looking to evolutionary biology for inspiration in the search for optimal solutions among astronomically huge sets of possibilities. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is ”Dark Toys” by SYBS.
A Universal Law for the ‘Blood of the Earth’
Nov 28, 2018 • 14 min
Simple physical principles can be used to describe how rivers grow everywhere from Florida to Mars. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Redwood Trail” by Audionautix.
Quanta Writers and Editors Discuss Trends in Science and Math
Nov 21, 2018 • 65 min
Join writers and editors from Quanta Magazine for a stimulating panel discussion on the biggest ideas in math and science presented in two new books: Alice and Bob Meet the Wall of Fire and The Prime Number Conspiracy. Panelists will discuss whether our…
Should Evolution Treat Our Microbes as Part of Us?
Nov 20, 2018 • 25 min
How does evolution select the fittest “individuals” when they are ecosystems made up of hosts and their microbiomes? Biologists debate the need to revise theories. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Chee Zee Jungle - Primal Drive” by Kevin MacLeod.
Amateur Mathematician Finds Smallest Universal Cover
Nov 15, 2018 • 11 min
Through exacting geometric calculations, Philip Gibbs has found the smallest known cover for any possible shape. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Valerie Plain” by Rondo Brothers.
In the Nucleus, Genes’ Activity Might Depend on Their Location
Nov 6, 2018 • 15 min
Using a new CRISPR-based technique, researchers are examining how the position of DNA within the nucleus affects gene expression and cell function. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Sugar Zone” by Silent Partner.
Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room
Sep 20, 2018 • 12 min
A visual prank exposes an Achilles’ heel of computer vision systems: Unlike humans, they can’t do a double take. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Quasi Motion” by Kevin MacLeod.
The New Science of Seeing Around Corners
Aug 30, 2018 • 19 min
Computer vision researchers have uncovered a world of visual signals hiding in our midst, including subtle motions that betray what’s being said and faint images of what’s around a corner. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Confusing Disco” by…
Major Quantum Computing Advance Made Obsolete by Teenager
Jul 31, 2018 • 14 min
Teenager Ewin Tang has proven that classical computers can solve the “recommendation problem” nearly as fast as quantum computers. The result eliminates one of the best examples of quantum speedup. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is “Retro” by…
A Math Theory for Why People Hallucinate
Jul 30, 2018 • 23 min
Psychedelic drugs can trigger characteristic hallucinations, which have long been thought to hold clues about the brain’s circuitry. After nearly a century of study, a possible explanation is crystallizing. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is…
Closed Loophole Confirms the Unreality of the Quantum World
Jul 25, 2018 • 18 min
A quickly closed loophole has proved that the “great smoky dragon” of quantum mechanics may forever elude capture.
To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget
Jul 24, 2018 • 19 min
Researchers find evidence that neural systems actively remove memories, which suggests that forgetting may be the default mode of the brain. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by The Green Orbs.
The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature
Jul 20, 2018 • 26 min
New findings are fueling an old suspicion that fundamental particles and forces spring from strange eight-part numbers called “octonions.” Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future
Jul 10, 2018 • 29 min
A controversial theory suggests that perception, motor control, memory and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modeled expectations. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Everet Almond.
Finally, a Problem That Only Quantum Computers Will Ever Be Able to Solve
Jun 21, 2018 • 11 min
Computer scientists have been searching for years for a type of problem that a quantum computer can solve but that any possible future classical computer cannot. Now they’ve found one. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Vibe Mountain.
Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life
Jun 7, 2018 • 26 min
Life needs more than water alone. Recent discoveries suggest that plate tectonics has played a critical role in nourishing life on Earth. The findings carry major consequences for the search for life elsewhere in the universe. Music by Audionautix.
Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync
Jun 6, 2018 • 13 min
Researchers find that when working memory gets overburdened, dialogue between three brain regions breaks down. The discovery provides new support for a broader theory about how the brain operates. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by SYBS.
A New World’s Extraordinary Orbit Points to Planet Nine
May 15, 2018 • 9 min
Astronomers argue that there’s an undiscovered giant planet far beyond the orbit of Neptune. A newly discovered rocky body has added evidence to the circumstantial case for it. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Thermodynamic Answer to Why Birds Migrate
May 7, 2018 • 17 min
New modeling studies suggest that birds migrate to strike a favorable balance between their input and output of energy. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos
Apr 18, 2018 • 20 min
In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
Apr 17, 2018 • 8 min
By making the first progress on the “chromatic number of the plane” problem in over 60 years, an anti-aging pundit has achieved mathematical immortality. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth
Mar 13, 2018 • 20 min
Researchers are building a case that long before the nervous system works, the brain sends crucial bioelectric signals to guide the growth of embryonic tissues. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by SYBS.
To Test Einstein’s Equations, Poke a Black Hole
Mar 8, 2018 • 16 min
Two teams of researchers have made significant progress toward proving the black hole stability conjecture, a critical mathematical test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Vibe Mountain.
Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals
Mar 7, 2018 • 16 min
An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex and diverse during the Cambrian explosion. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Doug Maxwell.
Physicists Find a Way to See the ‘Grin’ of Quantum Gravity
Mar 6, 2018 • 20 min
A recently proposed experiment would confirm that gravity is a quantum force. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Why Don’t Patients Get Sick in Sync? Modelers Find Statistical Clues
Mar 1, 2018 • 11 min
The long, variable times that some diseases incubate after infection defies simple explanation. An idealized model of tumor growth offers a statistical solution. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Audionautix.
Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World
Feb 21, 2018 • 20 min
The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Ethan…
Scant Evidence of Power Laws Found in Real-World Networks
Feb 15, 2018 • 21 min
A new study challenges one of the most celebrated and controversial ideas in network science. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by South London HiFi.
Smart Swarms Seek New Ways to Cooperate
Feb 14, 2018 • 16 min
New algorithms show how swarms of very simple robots can be made to work together as a group. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Doug Maxwell.
How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back
Jan 31, 2018 • 22 min
Cosmologists have shown that it’s theoretically possible for a contracting universe to bounce and expand. The new work resuscitates an old idea that directly challenges the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by…
A Domesticated Dingo? No, but Some Are Getting Less Wild
Jan 23, 2018 • 17 min
Near an Australian desert mining camp, wild dingoes are losing their fear of humans. Their genetic and behavioral changes may echo those from the domestication of dogs. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start
Jan 22, 2018 • 19 min
A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Mathematicians Find Wrinkle in Famed Fluid Equations
Dec 21, 2017 • 16 min
Two mathematicians prove that under certain extreme conditions, the Navier-Stokes equations output nonsense. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory
Dec 14, 2017 • 15 min
Nobel laureate Susumu Tonegawa’s lab is overturning old assumptions about how memories form, how recall works and whether lost memories might be restored from “silent engrams.” Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics
Dec 1, 2017 • 19 min
An eminent mathematician reveals that his advances in the study of millennia-old mathematical questions owe to concepts derived from physics. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org…
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Nov 30, 2017 • 8 min
Kidneys sniff out signals from gut bacteria for cues to moderate blood pressure after meals. Our understanding of how symbiotic microbes affect health is becoming much more molecular. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law
Nov 15, 2017 • 15 min
The oldest law of genetics says that gametes combine randomly, but experiments hint that sometimes eggs select sperm actively for their genetic assets. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
Nov 7, 2017 • 10 min
Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Best-Ever Algorithm Found for Huge Streams of Data
Oct 24, 2017 • 15 min
To efficiently analyze a firehose of data, scientists first have to break big numbers into bits. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes
Oct 23, 2017 • 16 min
Physicists theorize that a new “traversable” kind of wormhole could resolve a baffling paradox and rescue information that falls into black holes.Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning
Sep 21, 2017 • 15 min
A new idea called the “information bottleneck” is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious
Sep 19, 2017 • 19 min
Computer scientists are finding ways to code curiosity into intelligent machines. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution
Aug 24, 2017 • 17 min
Hybrids, once treated as biological misfits, have been the secret saviors of many animal species in trouble. Reconciling that truth with conservation policies poses a challenge for science. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Silent Partner.
Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Lighting Up Future of LEDs
Aug 22, 2017 • 14 min
Mathematicians have figured out how to predict the behavior of electrons. It’s a mathematical discovery that could have immediate practical effects. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Susan Valot with bells from Freesound.org, including…
What Made the Moon? New Ideas Try to Rescue a Troubled Theory
Aug 2, 2017 • 21 min
Textbooks will tell you the moon formed when a Mars-sized mass smashed into the Earth. But new research has scientists dreaming new ways our silvery sister could have formed. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by John Deley and the 41 Players.
In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium
Jul 18, 2017 • 15 min
John Nash’s ideas about equilibrium are widespread in economic theory, but a new study shows they’re not always realistic. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Pentagon Tiling Proof Solves Century-Old Math Problem
Jul 11, 2017 • 10 min
A French mathematician has completed the classification of all convex pentagons. Now mathematicians know all the convex polygons that can tile a plane. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Can Microbes Encourage Altruism?
Jun 29, 2017 • 15 min
Parasites skillfully manipulate their hosts, but could they be responsible for altruistic behaviors some animals show towards their own kind? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Dark Matter Recipe Calls for One Part Superfluid
Jun 13, 2017 • 14 min
Dark matter seems to act differently at different scales. Two physicists propose one possible explanation may be that dark matter sometimes condenses into a superfluid. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
A Puzzle of Clever Connections Nears a Happy End
May 30, 2017 • 11 min
Three young friends became some of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century — but they never solved their own puzzle. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by John Deley and the 41 Players.
The Thoughts of a Spiderweb
May 23, 2017 • 12 min
Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the head. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering
Apr 4, 2017 • 16 min
Tools developed by mathematicians and quantitative social scientists can help combat partisan gerrymandering. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Audionautix.
A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost
Mar 28, 2017 • 14 min
Thomas Royen, a retired German statistician, found a long-sought proof that links geometry, probability theory and statistics. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music is Redwood Trail by Jason Shaw.
A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold
Mar 23, 2017 • 12 min
Did space-rippling collisions of neutron stars create the universe’s supply of gold and other heavy metals? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Kevin MacLeod.
Why Did Life Move to Land? For the View
Mar 7, 2017 • 9 min
The ancient creatures who first crawled onto land may have been lured by the informational benefit that comes from seeing through air. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes
Mar 2, 2017 • 7 min
For centuries, mathematicians tried to solve problems by adding new values to the usual numbers. Now they’re investigating the unintended consequences of that tinkering. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain
Feb 14, 2017 • 8 min
Powerful new experiments have uncovered some of the molecular underpinnings of sleep. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness
Feb 7, 2017 • 9 min
Physicists are closing the door on an intriguing loophole around the quantum phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics
Feb 2, 2017 • 5 min
The ancient Greeks argued that the best life was filled with beauty, truth, justice, play and love. The mathematician Francis Su knows just where to find them. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Dividing Droplets Could Explain Life’s Origin
Jan 19, 2017 • 11 min
Researchers have discovered that simple “chemically active” droplets grow to the size of cells and spontaneously divide, suggesting they might have evolved into the first living cells. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built
Jan 10, 2017 • 11 min
Is the brain a blank slate, or is it wired from birth to understand the world? An ambitious new study put infants into an MRI machine to reveal a neural organization similar to that of adults. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
3-D Fractals Offer Clues to Complex Systems
Jan 3, 2017 • 12 min
By folding fractals into 3-D objects, a mathematical duo hopes to gain new insight into simple equations. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay
Dec 15, 2016 • 12 min
Physicists have failed to find disintegrating protons, throwing into limbo the beloved theory that the forces of nature were unified at the beginning of time. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Case Against Dark Matter
Nov 29, 2016 • 17 min
A proposed theory of gravity does away with dark matter, even as new astrophysical findings challenge the need for galaxies full of the invisible mystery particles. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
What Sonic Black Holes Say About Real Ones
Nov 8, 2016 • 12 min
Can a fluid analogue of a black hole point physicists toward the theory of quantum gravity, or is it a red herring? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Giant Genetic Map Shows Life’s Hidden Links
Oct 25, 2016 • 9 min
In a monumental set of experiments, spread out over nearly two decades, biologists removed genes two at a time to uncover the secret workings of the cell. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Art of Teaching Math and Science
Oct 11, 2016 • 23 min
The impasse in math and science instruction runs deeper than test scores or the latest educational theory. What can we learn from the best teachers on the front lines? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too
Oct 6, 2016 • 9 min
Computer scientists have come up with an algorithm that can fairly divide a cake among any number of people. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles Astrophysicists
Sep 27, 2016 • 16 min
The surprising discovery of a massive, Milky Way-size galaxy that is made of 99.99 percent dark matter has astronomers dreaming up new ideas about how galaxies form. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed
Sep 20, 2016 • 15 min
Computer scientists can prove certain programs to be error-free with the same certainty that mathematicians prove theorems. The advances are being used to secure everything from unmanned drones to the internet. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars
Sep 6, 2016 • 13 min
Just months after their discovery, gravitational waves coming from the mergers of black holes are shaking up astrophysics. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Neuroscience Behind Bad Decisions
Aug 23, 2016 • 13 min
Irrationality may be a consequence of the brain’s ravenous energy needs. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
What No New Particles Means for Physics
Aug 9, 2016 • 13 min
Physicists are confronting their “nightmare scenario.” What does the absence of new particles suggest about how nature works? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Neutrinos Hint of Matter-Antimatter Rift
Jul 28, 2016 • 11 min
An early sign that neutrinos behave differently than antineutrinos suggests an answer to one of the biggest questions in physics. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Biologists Search for New Model Organisms
Jul 26, 2016 • 15 min
The bulk of biological research is centered on a handful of species. Are we missing a huge chunk of life’s secrets? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Debate Over the Physics of Time
Jul 19, 2016 • 20 min
According to our best theories of physics, the universe is a fixed block where time only appears to pass. Yet a number of physicists hope to replace this “block universe” with a physical theory of time. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
Jul 12, 2016 • 14 min
Scientists are exploring a mysterious pattern, found in birds’ eyes, boxes of marbles and other surprising places, that is neither regular nor random. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space
Jul 5, 2016 • 12 min
Richard Feynman’s famous diagrams embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Oracle of Arithmetic
Jun 28, 2016 • 13 min
At 28, Peter Scholze is uncovering deep connections between number theory and geometry. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity
Jun 21, 2016 • 10 min
Scientists have figured out how microbes can suck energy from rocks. Such life-forms might be more widespread than anyone anticipated. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Computing’s Search for Quantum Questions
Jun 2, 2016 • 11 min
Tests show that a certain type of quantum computer can solve some problems faster than classical computers. But are we asking them the right questions? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org. Music by Chris Zabriskie.
Simple Set Game Proof Stuns Mathematicians
May 31, 2016 • 15 min
A new series of papers has settled a long-standing question related to the popular game in which players seek patterned sets of three cards. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How Neanderthal DNA Helps Humanity
May 26, 2016 • 10 min
Neanderthals and Denisovans may have supplied modern humans with genetic variants that let them thrive in new environments. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Support for Alternative Quantum View
May 16, 2016 • 13 min
An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the most baffling features of the subatomic universe. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Evidence for the Necessity of Loneliness
May 10, 2016 • 13 min
A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Tiny Tests Seek the Universe’s Big Mysteries
May 3, 2016 • 10 min
The search for exotic new physical phenomena is being led by huge experiments like the Large Hadron Collider. But at the other end of the spectrum lie tabletop experiments — small-scale probes of hidden dimensions, dark matter and dark energy. Read more…
A Secret Flexibility Found in Life’s Blueprints
Apr 26, 2016 • 11 min
A new study reveals that individual genes can create many different versions of the molecular machinery that powers the cell. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Physicists Hunt for the Big Bang’s Triangles
Apr 19, 2016 • 25 min
The story of the universe’s birth — and evidence for string theory — could be found in triangles and myriad other shapes in the sky. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Debate Intensifies Over Dark Disk Theory
Apr 12, 2016 • 13 min
In the new, free-for-all era of dark matter research, the controversial idea that dark matter is concentrated in thin disks is being rescued from scientific oblivion. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Mapping the Brain to Build Better Machines
Apr 6, 2016 • 25 min
A race to decipher the brain’s algorithms could revolutionize machine learning. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Sphere Packing Solved in Higher Dimensions
Mar 30, 2016 • 22 min
A Ukrainian mathematician has solved the centuries-old sphere-packing problem in dimensions eight and 24. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Beasts That Keep the Beat
Mar 22, 2016 • 21 min
New insights from neuroscience — aided by a small zoo’s worth of dancing animals — are revealing the biological origins of rhythm. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Mathematicians Discover Prime Conspiracy
Mar 13, 2016 • 26 min
A previously unnoticed property of prime numbers seems to violate a long-standing assumption about how they behave. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
After Black Holes Collide, a Puzzling Flash
Mar 2, 2016 • 22 min
A satellite spotted a burst of light just as gravitational waves rolled in from the collision of two black holes. Was the flash a cosmic coincidence, or do astrophysicists need to rethink what black holes can do? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Quantum Secret to Superconductivity
Feb 22, 2016 • 24 min
In a virtuoso experiment, physicists have revealed details of a “quantum critical point” that underlies high-temperature superconductivity. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How to Build Life in a Pre-Darwinian World
Feb 16, 2016 • 28 min
Perhaps chemistry played a more instrumental role in the origin of life than scientists thought. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Gravitational Waves Discovered at Long Last
Feb 11, 2016 • 34 min
This week on the podcast, ripples in space-time have been detected a century after Einstein predicted them, launching a new era in astronomy. Then, in our second segment, researchers think they can avoid some knotty paradoxes at the edge of physics by…
Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life
Feb 2, 2016 • 25 min
Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Clues to How the Brain Maps Time
Jan 26, 2016 • 26 min
The same brain cells that track location in space appear to also count beats in time. The research suggests that our thoughts may take place on a mental space-time canvas. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Quantum Weirdness Now a Matter of Time
Jan 19, 2016 • 33 min
Bizarre quantum bonds connect distinct moments in time, suggesting that quantum links — not space-time — constitute the fundamental structure of the universe. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
String Theory Meets Loop Quantum Gravity
Jan 12, 2016 • 35 min
Two leading candidates for a “theory of everything,” long thought incompatible, may be two sides of the same coin. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Landmark Algorithm Breaks 30-Year Impasse
Dec 14, 2015 • 30 min
Computer scientists are abuzz over a fast new algorithm for solving one of the central problems in the field. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Math Quartet Joins Forces on Unified Theory
Dec 8, 2015 • 30 min
A new breakthrough that bridges number theory and geometry is just the latest triumph for a close-knit group of mathematicians. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Incredible Shrinking Sex Chromosome
Dec 1, 2015 • 30 min
Nature offers species a panoply of ways to determine an organism’s sex. That flexibility suggests we need not be concerned about losing sex chromosomes, but it raises the question of why such a fundamental property is so variable. Read more at…
Nature’s Critical Warning System
Nov 18, 2015 • 33 min
Scientists are homing in on a warning signal that arises in complex systems like ecological food webs, the brain and the Earth’s climate. Could it help prevent future catastrophes? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains
Nov 10, 2015 • 36 min
Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life
Oct 29, 2015 • 30 min
A newly discovered class of microbe could help to resolve one of the biggest and most controversial mysteries in evolution — how simple microbes transformed into the complex cells that produced animals, plants and fungi. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring
Oct 20, 2015 • 19 min
A theorem for coloring a large class of “perfect” mathematical networks could ease the way for a long-sought general coloring proof. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction
Oct 13, 2015 • 31 min
Complex natural systems defy standard mathematical analysis, so one ecologist is throwing out the equations. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death
Oct 6, 2015 • 26 min
Only a few genetic changes were enough to turn an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A New Map Traces the Limits of Computation
Sep 29, 2015 • 27 min
A major advance in computational complexity reveals deep connections between the classes of problems that computers can — and can’t — possibly do. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Visions of Future Physics
Sep 22, 2015 • 33 min
Nima Arkani-Hamed is championing a campaign to build the world’s largest particle collider, even as he pursues a new vision of the laws of nature. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How the Body’s Trillions of Clocks Keep Time
Sep 15, 2015 • 30 min
Cellular clocks are almost everywhere. Clues to how they work are coming from the places that they’re not. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
Einstein’s Parable of Quantum Insanity
Sep 10, 2015 • 23 min
Einstein refused to believe in the inherent unpredictability of the world. Is the subatomic world insane, or just subtle? Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A New Design for Cryptography’s Black Box
Sep 2, 2015 • 24 min
A two-year-old cryptographic breakthrough has proven difficult to put into practice. But new advances show how near-perfect computer security might be surprisingly close at hand. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Life in Games
Aug 28, 2015 • 33 min
John Horton Conway claims to have never worked a day in his life. This adaptation from the biography Genius at Play shows how serious advances such as the surreal numbers can spring out of fun and games. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How Mutant Viral Swarms Spread Disease
Aug 25, 2015 • 28 min
Viruses exist as “mutant clouds” of closely-related individuals. A new understanding of these swarms is helping researchers predict how viruses will evolve and where disease is likely to spread. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
A Surprise Source of Life’s Code
Aug 18, 2015 • 34 min
Emerging data suggests that mysterious new genes arise from so-called “junk” DNA. And, all life on Earth is made of molecules that twist in the same direction, but new research reveals that this may not always be the case. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
How Life and Luck Changed Earth’s Minerals
Aug 11, 2015 • 34 min
Is geology predictable or due to chance events? And, a museum rock, traced back to its origins, reveals mysteries about the early solar system. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
At Tiny Scales, a Giant Burst on Tree of Life
Jul 28, 2015 • 19 min
A new technique for identifying microbes is revealing a hidden world. And, can computers make deep conceptual insights into the way the world works?Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
The New Laws of Explosive Networks
Jul 14, 2015 • 21 min
An unexpected answer in the effort to bridge the particle and fluid descriptions of nature. And, the hidden laws that reveal how explosive networks form. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.
New Letters Added to the Genetic Alphabet
Jul 10, 2015 • 23 min
Scientists hope that new genetic letters, created in the lab, will endow DNA with new powers. Read more at QuantaMagazine.org.