Physics


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A section of the Andromeda galaxy M31, from the largest and most detailed image ever taken with the Hubble telescope. The full image shows more than 100 million stars stretching across more than 40,000 light years. Photo courtesy NASA, ESA, J Dalcanton, B F Williams, L C Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team and R Gendler

Essay/
Astronomy
Does dark matter exist?

Dark matter is the most ubiquitous thing physicists have never found: it’s time to consider alternative explanations

Ramin Skibba

On a mountain road from Koya to Ryujin, Japan. 1998. Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum

Essay/
Physics
From chaos to free will

A crude understanding of physics sees determinism at work in the Universe. Luckily, molecular uncertainty ensures this isn’t so

George Ellis

At the European Southern Observatory, La Silla, Chile. Photo courtesy Alan Fitzsimmons/ESO

Essay/
Cosmology
Fate of the Universe

Are we part of a dying reality or a blip in eternity? The value of the Hubble Constant could tell us which terror awaits

Corey S Powell

Photo by Peter Marlow/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of science
What’s everything made of?

To answer whether the fundamental building blocks of reality are particles, fields or both means thinking beyond physics

Charles Sebens

Parallax (Candles) (1951). Courtesy the Estate of Berenice Abbott/Getty Images

Essay/
Philosophy of science
But is it science?

Theoretical physicists who say the multiverse exists set a dangerous precedent: science based on zero empirical evidence

Jim Baggott

Photo courtesy ESA/Hubble/NASA, Fillipenko, Jansen

Essay/
Quantum theory
Splitting the Universe

Hugh Everett blew up quantum mechanics with his Many-Worlds theory in the 1950s. Physics is only just catching up

Sean Carroll

‘Hume’s philosophy of time shows the fundamental relevance of the relation between an observer and a reference object.’ Photo by Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times/Getty

Essay/
History of science
No absolute time

Two centuries before Einstein, Hume recognised that universal time, independent of an observer’s viewpoint, doesn’t exist

Matias Slavov

Out of time; ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan at the practice table during the German Masters snooker tournament at the Tempodrom in Berlin. Photo by Stefan Boness/Ipon/Panos

Essay/
Physics
The ABC of time

In our Universe, time seems to go from past to future, not in reverse. But what if time doesn’t even have a direction?

Matt Farr

Spaceborne Imaging Radar photo of the autonomous republic of Tuva, the subject of Richard Feynmann’s intense interest during the latter part of his life and documented in Tuva or Bust! by Ralph Leighton. Photo taken from Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL

Idea/
Thinkers and theories
Richard Feynman was wrong about beauty and truth in science

Massimo Pigliucci

In the Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, in 2012. Photo by Olivia Arthur/Magnum

Essay/
Cosmology
The cosmic now

Are you here now? Impossible to say. The idea that any group of events can truly happen at once is just an illusion

Anthony Aguirre

A lightning storm over the Taravo Valley on the French island of Corsica, 15 August 2018. Photo by Pascal Pochard Casabianca/Afp/Getty

Essay/
Earth science and climate
Flash!

It ignited life on Earth, propelled evolution, and now signals climate change. Yet what sparks lightning remains a mystery

Sidney Perkowitz

A photograph of light generated by spontaneous parametric down-conversion. The camera is looking towards the crystal and the special nature of the light is that it is created two photons at a time and therefore unlike any other source you would typically encounter. Courtesy Alan Migdall/NIST

Essay/
Physics
Seeing the quantum

The human eye is a surprisingly good photon detector. What can it spy of the line between the quantum and classical worlds?

Rebecca Holmes

Prizes for the 2010 Nobel Prize winners are seen before the award ceremony at the Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden, 10 December 2010. Photo by Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters

Essay/
Physics
Time to update the Nobels

Science today is an intricate, collaborative, global enterprise. Nobel prizes for individual scientists are an anachronism

Brian Keating

The last remaining house on Holland Island in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, United States. Photo by Baldeaglebluff/Flickr

Essay/
Physics
In defence of disorder

Humans love laws and seek predictability. But like our Universe, which thrives on entropy, we need disorder to flourish

Alan Lightman