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Physical World

Why scientists are making transparent wood

Stronger than plastic and tougher than glass, the resin-filled material is being exploited for smartphone screens, insulated windows and more

The race to understand polar ice sheets

As glacial cliffs break off and destabilize frozen landscapes, glaciologist Richard Alley focuses on the fractures. The work could improve predictions about future sea-level rise.

Speedy downloads: Why NASA is turning to lasers for next-gen space comms

The first tests of optical communications far from Earth will take place aboard the asteroid-bound Psyche spacecraft

Pursuing fusion power

Scientists have been chasing the dream of harnessing the reactions that power the Sun since the dawn of the atomic era. Interest, and investment, in the carbon-free energy source is heating up.

The quest to understand tornadoes

Scientists are still grappling with how and why violent twisters form. Will new technology and computing power help?

The ‘least crazy’ idea: Early dark energy could solve a cosmological conundrum

Measurements of the acceleration of the universe don’t agree, stumping physicists working to understand the cosmic past and future. A new proposal seeks to better align these estimates — and is likely testable.

What would signal life on another planet?

Astronomers have long debated what kind of chemistry might serve as a bona fide alien biosignature. With the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, those ideas may be put to the test.

How optimizing indoor humidity can help stop the spread of Covid and flu

OPINION: Recent CDC guidelines for indoor air quality disregard the benefits of humidity. But research shows it can kill viruses and help thwart infections.

Quantum entanglement’s long journey from ‘spooky’ to law of nature

PODCAST: From Einstein’s initial disbelief and Bell’s test to the 2022 Nobel Prizes, quantum entanglement has matured into a pillar of physics. Physicist Nicolas Gisin explains why it took so many decades.

Probing the mysteries of neutron stars with a surprising earthly analog

Ultracold gases in the lab could help scientists to better understand the universe

Is this ‘age of the delta’ coming to an end?

The wet landmasses, though inherently impermanent, have been essential to both people and wildlife for thousands of years. But recent shifts have brought on some rapid losses that worry scientists.

Scientists warned about climate change in 1965. Nothing was done.

PODCAST: A report to the US president sounded an alarm — humankind was ‘conducting a vast geophysical experiment’ by burning fossil fuels and filling the atmosphere with an ‘invisible pollutant.’ But a slick campaign by Big Oil led to confusion, politicization and dire consequences for the planet. (Season 3, Episode 1)

The long-awaited mission that could transform our understanding of Mars

A next-generation instrument on a delayed Martian rover may be the key to answering the question of life on the Red Planet

As glaciers retreat, new streams for salmon

Ecologist Sandy Milner has traveled to Alaska for decades to study the development of streams flowing from melting glaciers. He’s seen insects move in, alders and willows spring up, and spawning fish arrive in thousands.

How animals follow their nose

It’s not easy to find the source of a swirling scent plume. Scientists are using experiments and simulations to uncover the varied strategies that animals employ.

Can cosmology untangle the universe’s most elusive mysteries?

From the Big Bang to dark energy, knowledge of the cosmos has sped up in the past century — but big questions linger

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