Episodes

Reviews

Analytics

Clips

November 21, 2018
Quanta Writers and Editors Discuss Trends in Science and Math
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 universe is “natural,” the nature of time, the origin and evolution of life, the role of mathematics in science and society, and where all these questions are taking us.
More info...
65 min
July 24, 2018
To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget
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.
More info...
19 min
July 20, 2018
The Peculiar Math That Could Underlie the Laws of Nature
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.
More info...
26 min
July 10, 2018
To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future
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.
More info...
29 min
June 21, 2018
Finally, a Problem That Only Quantum Computers Will Ever Be Able to Solve
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.
More info...
11 min
June 7, 2018
Why Earth’s Cracked Crust May Be Essential for Life
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.
More info...
26 min
June 6, 2018
Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync
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.
More info...
13 min
May 16, 2018
A New World’s Extraordinary Orbit Points to Planet Nine
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.
More info...
9 min
May 7, 2018
A Thermodynamic Answer to Why Birds Migrate
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.
More info...
17 min
April 18, 2018
Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos
In new computer experiments, artificial-intelligence algorithms can tell the future of chaotic systems.
More info...
20 min
April 17, 2018
Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
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.
More info...
8 min
March 13, 2018
Brainless Embryos Suggest Bioelectricity Guides Growth
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.
More info...
20 min
March 8, 2018
To Test Einstein’s Equations, Poke a Black Hole
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.
More info...
16 min
March 7, 2018
Oxygen and Stem Cells May Have Reshaped Early Complex Animals
An unlikely team offers a controversial hypothesis about what enabled animal life to get more complex during the Cambrian explosion.
More info...
16 min
March 6, 2018
Physicists Find a Way to See the ‘Grin’ of Quantum Gravity
A recently proposed experiment would confirm that gravity is a quantum force.
More info...
20 min
March 1, 2018
Why Don’t Patients Get Sick in Sync? Modelers Find Statistical Clues
The long, variable times that some diseases incubate after infection defies simple explanation. An idealized model of tumor growth offers a statistical solution.
More info...
11 min
February 21, 2018
Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World
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.
More info...
20 min
February 15, 2018
Scant Evidence of Power Laws Found in Real-World Networks
A new study challenges one of the most celebrated and controversial ideas in network science.
More info...
21 min
February 14, 2018
Smart Swarms Seek New Ways to Cooperate
New algorithms show how swarms of very simple robots can be made to work together as a group.
More info...
16 min
January 31, 2018
How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back
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.
More info...
22 min
January 23, 2018
A Domesticated Dingo? No, but Some Are Getting Less Wild
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.
More info...
17 min
January 22, 2018
Fossil Discoveries Challenge Ideas About Earth’s Start
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.
More info...
19 min
December 21, 2017
Mathematicians Find Wrinkle in Famed Fluid Equations
Two mathematicians prove that under certain extreme conditions, the Navier-Stokes equations output nonsense.
More info...
16 min
December 14, 2017
Light-Triggered Genes Reveal the Hidden Workings of Memory
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."
More info...
15 min
December 1, 2017
Secret Link Uncovered Between Pure Math and Physics
An eminent mathematician reveals that his advances in the study of millennia-old mathematical questions owe to concepts derived from physics.
More info...
19 min
November 30, 2017
How Bacteria Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Kidneys sniff out signals from gut bacteria for cues to lower blood pressure after meals. Our understanding of how the symbiotic microbes affect health is becoming much more molecular.
More info...
8 min
November 15, 2017
Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law
The oldest law of genetics says that gametes combine randomly, but experiments hint that sometimes eggs select sperm actively for their genetic assets.
More info...
15 min
November 7, 2017
A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
Elephants did not evolve to become huge animals until after they turned a bit of genetic junk into a unique defense against inevitable tumors.
More info...
10 min
October 24, 2017
Best-Ever Algorithm Found for Huge Streams of Data
To efficiently analyze a firehose of data, scientists first have to break big numbers into bits.
More info...
15 min
October 23, 2017
Newfound Wormhole Allows Information to Escape Black Holes
Physicists theorize that a new “traversable” kind of wormhole could resolve a baffling paradox and rescue information that falls into black holes.
More info...
16 min
September 21, 2017
New Theory Cracks Open the Black Box of Deep Learning
A new idea is helping to explain the puzzling success of today’s artificial-intelligence algorithms — and might also explain how human brains learn.
More info...
15 min
September 19, 2017
Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious
Computer scientists are finding ways to code curiosity into intelligent machines.
More info...
19 min
August 24, 2017
Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution
Hybrids, once treated as biological misfits, play a vital role in the evolution of many animal species. Now conservationists are trying to reconcile that truth with policies.
More info...
17 min
August 22, 2017
Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Lighting Up Future of LEDs
The mathematician Svitlana Mayboroda and collaborators have figured out how to predict the behavior of electrons — a mathematical discovery that could have immediate practical effects.
More info...
14 min
August 2, 2017
What Made the Moon? New Ideas Try to Rescue a Troubled Theory
Textbooks say that the moon was formed after a Mars-size mass smashed the young Earth. But new evidence has cast doubt on that story, leaving researchers to dream up new ways to get a giant rock into orbit.
More info...
21 min
July 18, 2017
In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium
John Nash’s notion of equilibrium is ubiquitous in economic theory, but a new study shows that it is often impossible to reach efficiently.
More info...
15 min
July 11, 2017
Pentagon Tiling Proof Solves Century-Old Math Problem
A French mathematician has completed the classification of all convex pentagons, and therefore all convex polygons, that tile the plane.
More info...
10 min
June 29, 2017
Can Microbes Encourage Altruism?
If gut bacteria can sway their hosts to be selfless, it could answer a riddle that goes back to Darwin.
More info...
15 min
June 13, 2017
Dark Matter Recipe Calls for One Part Superfluid
A different kind of dark matter could help to resolve an old celestial conundrum.
More info...
14 min
May 30, 2017
A Puzzle of Clever Connections Nears a Happy End
The three young friends who devised the “happy ending” problem would become some of the most influential mathematicians of the 20th century, but were never able to solve their own puzzle. Now it receives its first big breakthrough.
More info...
11 min
May 23, 2017
The Thoughts of a Spiderweb
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.
More info...
12 min
April 4, 2017
How to Quantify (and Fight) Gerrymandering
Powerful new quantitative tools are now available to combat partisan bias in the drawing of voting districts.
More info...
16 min
March 28, 2017
A Long-Sought Proof, Found and Almost Lost
When a German retiree proved a famous long-standing mathematical conjecture, the response was underwhelming.
More info...
14 min
March 23, 2017
A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold
For decades, researchers believed that violent supernovas forged gold and other heavy elements. But many now argue for a different cosmic quarry.
More info...
12 min
March 7, 2017
Why Did Life Move to Land? For the View
The ancient creatures who first crawled onto land may have been lured by the informational benefit that comes from seeing through air.
More info...
March 2, 2017
New Number Systems Seek Their Lost Primes
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.
More info...
February 14, 2017
Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain
Powerful new experiments have uncovered some of the molecular underpinnings of sleep.
More info...
February 7, 2017
Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness
Physicists are closing the door on an intriguing loophole around the quantum phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.”
More info...
February 2, 2017
To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics
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.
More info...
January 19, 2017
Dividing Droplets Could Explain Life’s Origin
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.
More info...
January 10, 2017
Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built
Is the brain a blank slate, or is it wired from birth to understand the world?
More info...
January 3, 2017
3-D Fractals Offer Clues to Complex Systems
By folding fractals into 3-D objects, a mathematical duo hopes to gain new insight into simple equations.
More info...
December 15, 2016
Grand Unification Dream Kept at Bay
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.
More info...
November 29, 2016
The Case Against Dark Matter
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.
More info...
November 8, 2016
What Sonic Black Holes Say About Real Ones
Can a fluid analogue of a black hole point physicists toward the theory of quantum gravity, or is it a red herring?
More info...
October 25, 2016
Giant Genetic Map Shows Life’s Hidden Links
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.
More info...
October 11, 2016
The Art of Teaching Math and Science
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?
More info...
October 6, 2016
How to Cut Cake Fairly and Finally Eat It Too
Computer scientists have come up with a bounded algorithm that can fairly divide a cake among any number of people.
More info...
September 27, 2016
Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles Astrophysicists
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.
More info...
September 20, 2016
Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed
Computer scientists can prove certain programs to be error-free with the same certainty that mathematicians prove theorems.
More info...
September 6, 2016
Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars
Just months after their discovery, gravitational waves coming from the mergers of black holes are shaking up astrophysics.
More info...
August 23, 2016
The Neuroscience Behind Bad Decisions
Irrationality may be a consequence of the brain’s ravenous energy needs.
More info...
August 9, 2016
What No New Particles Means for Physics
Physicists are confronting their “nightmare scenario.” What does the absence of new particles suggest about how nature works?
More info...
July 28, 2016
Neutrinos Hint of Matter-Antimatter Rift
A hint that neutrinos behave differently than antineutrinos suggests an answer to one the biggest questions in physics.
More info...
July 26, 2016
Biologists Search for New Model Organisms
The bulk of biological research is centered on a handful of species. Are we missing a huge chunk of interesting biology?
More info...
July 19, 2016
A Debate Over the Physics of Time
According to our best theories of physics, the universe is a fixed block where time only appears to pass.
More info...
July 12, 2016
A Bird’s-Eye View of Nature’s Hidden Order
Scientists are exploring a mysterious pattern, found in birds’ eyes, boxes of marbles and other surprising places, that is neither regular nor random.
More info...
July 5, 2016
How Feynman Diagrams Almost Saved Space
Richard Feynman's famous diagrams weren’t just a way to do calculations. They represented a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together.
More info...
June 28, 2016
The Oracle of Arithmetic
At 28, Peter Scholze is uncovering deep connections between number theory and geometry.
More info...
June 21, 2016
New Life Found That Lives Off Electricity
Scientists have figured out how microbes can suck energy from rocks. Such lifeforms might be more widespread than anyone anticipated.
More info...
June 2, 2016
Computing’s Search for Quantum Questions
Recent tests show that quantum computers made by D-Wave systems should solve some problems faster than ordinary computers. Researchers have begun to map out exactly which queries might benefit from these quantum machines.
More info...
11 min
May 31, 2016
Simple Set Game Proof Stuns Mathematicians
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.
More info...
May 26, 2016
How Neanderthal DNA Helps Humanity
Neanderthals and Denisovans may have endowed modern humans with genetic variants that helped them thrive in new environments.
More info...
May 16, 2016
New Support for Alternative Quantum View
An experiment claims to have invalidated a decades-old criticism against pilot-wave theory, an alternative formulation of quantum mechanics that eliminates the most baffling features of the subatomic universe.
More info...
May 10, 2016
New Evidence for the Necessity of Loneliness
A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together.
More info...
May 3, 2016
Tiny Tests Seek the Universe’s Big Mysteries
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.
More info...
April 26, 2016
A Secret Flexibility Found in Life’s Blueprints
A new study reveals that individual genes can create many different versions of the molecular machinery that powers the cell.
More info...
April 19, 2016
Physicists Hunt for the Big Bang’s Triangles
The story of the universe’s birth — and evidence for string theory — could be found in triangles and myriad other shapes in the sky.
More info...
April 12, 2016
Debate Intensifies Over Dark Disk Theory
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.
More info...
April 6, 2016
Mapping the Brain to Build Better Machines
A project to decipher the brain’s learning rules could revolutionize machine learning.
More info...
March 30, 2016
Sphere Packing Solved in Higher Dimensions
The Ukrainian mathematician Maryna Viazovska has solved the centuries-old sphere-packing problem in dimensions eight and 24.
More info...
March 22, 2016
The Beasts That Keep the Beat
New insights from neuroscience — aided by a small zoo’s worth of dancing animals — are revealing the biological origins of rhythm.
More info...
March 14, 2016
Mathematicians Discover Prime Conspiracy
A previously unnoticed property of prime numbers seems to violate a long-standing assumption about how they behave.
More info...
March 2, 2016
After Black Holes Collide, a Puzzling Flash
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?
More info...
February 22, 2016
The Quantum Secret to Superconductivity
In a virtuoso experiment, physicists have revealed details of a “quantum critical point” that underlies high-temperature superconductivity.
More info...
February 16, 2016
How to Build Life in a Pre-Darwinian World
Perhaps chemistry played a more instrumental role in the origin of life than scientists thought.
More info...
February 11, 2016
Gravitational Waves Discovered at Long Last
Ripples in space-time have been detected a century after Einstein predicted them, launching a new era in astronomy.
More info...
34 min
February 2, 2016
Scientists Debate Signatures of Alien Life
Searching for signs of life on faraway planets, astrobiologists must decide which telltale biosignature gases to target.
More info...
January 26, 2016
New Clues to How the Brain Maps Time
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.
More info...
January 19, 2016
Quantum Weirdness Now a Matter of Time
Bizarre quantum bonds connect distinct moments in time, suggesting that quantum links — not space-time — constitute the fundamental structure of the universe.
More info...
January 12, 2016
String Theory Meets Loop Quantum Gravity
Two leading candidates for a “theory of everything,” long thought to be incompatible, may be two sides of the same coin.
More info...
December 14, 2015
Landmark Algorithm Breaks 30-Year Impasse
Computer scientists are abuzz over a fast new algorithm for solving one of the central problems in the field.
More info...
December 8, 2015
Math Quartet Joins Forces on Unified Theory
A new breakthrough that bridges number theory and geometry is just the latest triumph for a close-knit group of mathematicians.
More info...
December 1, 2015
The Incredible Shrinking Sex Chromosome
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.
More info...
November 18, 2015
Nature’s Critical Warning System
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?
More info...
November 10, 2015
How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains
Scientists have begun to identify the symphony of biological triggers that powered the extraordinary expansion of the human brain.
More info...
October 29, 2015
Mongrel Microbe Tests Story of Complex Life
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.
More info...
October 20, 2015
Theorists Draw Closer to Perfect Coloring
A theorem for coloring a large class of “perfect” mathematical networks could ease the way for a long-sought general coloring proof.
More info...
October 13, 2015
A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction
Complex natural systems defy analysis using a standard mathematical toolkit, so one ecologist is throwing out the equations.
More info...
October 6, 2015
The Mutant Genes Behind the Black Death
Only a few genetic changes were enough to change an ordinary stomach bug into the bacteria responsible for the plague.
More info...
Feedback on the new Podbay?
    1x
    15
    15
    00:00:00
      00:00:00