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A Classic(al) Story of the Creation of the Universe

In his 1980 book Cosmos, Carl Sagan famously wrote, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

 If you follow their threads back in time, the ingredients for a deliciously satisfying apple pie - apples, flour, cinnamon, heat, etc. - wind their way back to before the observable universe. Existence was contained in a vacuum then, a void empty except for quantum fluctuations. 
 According to leading cosmological models, the vacuum was fairly stable and may have existed in this state for a very long time, but it had a weakness. When quantum fluctuations caused a region of space to spontaneously become more stable (to have lower energy) than its surroundings, a “bubble” of greater stability formed. According to cosmological models, this “bubble” of stability rapidly expanded at nearly the speed of light. Multiple bubbles may have occurred at the same time, coalescing and bringing the entire vacuum into a more stable existence. An existence in wh…
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The New Playground of an Unexpected Bose-Einstein Condensate

Most playgrounds feature slides, swings, and other structures that encourage visitors to explore cause-and-effect, test their physical limits, and try new things. Scientists like to engage in these activities too, although their playgrounds don’t look quite the same...

In new research published in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters, a team of researchers from the US and Canada have discovered what looks like a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) in an unexpected place—a magnet based on the rare-earth element ytterbium.
 “This discovery provides a new playground for understanding Bose-Einstein condensation in magnetic systems, as well as how ytterbium breaks our expectations at low-temperatures in condensed matter systems,” says Gavin Hester, a graduate student working with Kate Ross at Colorado State University and one of the project leaders. 
 BECs are often called the fifth state of matter. It’s a state that can only be reached when a very dilute gas is coo…

Snow in the Western U.S. is Rapidly Disappearing, Here’s Why that’s a Huge Problem

“The snow is melting into music” -John Muir’s Unpublished Journal (1938)

The ethereal melody of melting snow is certainly peaceful, but if the famed naturalist were alive to hear it right now, that music might sound faster than he remembered. Listening to that sound today, it doesn’t exactly give me the same chill vibes.

How has nuclear power changed since Chernobyl?

Poignant and bleak, the critically acclaimed HBO series Chernobyl revisits a difficult chapter in history to tell an important story about the role of science in society. While portions of the plot and characters have been embellished for TV, its an exceptional portrayal of what can happen when a community ignores the signs of an impending disaster (i.e. climate change) and includes surprisingly accurate and accessible explanations of nuclear physics. 

On twitter, the show has also reignited an important discussion on nuclear power and its associated hazards. It is necessary to acknowledge that while some risks will always be there, nuclear power is actually safer than ever, and importantly, it could help curb our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels.

To learn more about this funky world of radioactive physics, we’re going to answer some questions about how our nuclear landscape has changed since 1986 (I’d say spoiler alert, but that’s not really applicable to historical events that hap…

Clarity from Chaos: How Climate Models Could Be Better than We Think

Chaos theory encompasses large swathes of mathematics and physics, but it was Edward Lorenz who immortalized it in popular culture. His now-famous 1972 presentation, which summarized his decade-long work in the field, focused on a single provocative question: Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? Although he declined to definitively answer the question, his “butterfly effect” changed the way climatologists and meteorologists view causality in atmospheric science.

Researchers Image Current Flowing through DNA

“What’s it like to see something that no one has seen before?” I asked Tatiana Latychevskaia, a physicist at the University of Zurich.

“You’re always puzzled, trying to look for something similar,” she says. She explains that you talk to colleagues, search the literature, and think back to conference presentations… Usually, you don’t know in the moment that what you’re seeing is new. “Only later do you think that maybe this is something really being seen for the first time,” she tells me.

10 Science Podcasts You Should Listen to Right Now

It seems like there's a podcast for everything these days, and everyone (and their dog) is making a podcast. Whether you’re into beekeeping or bigfoot, there’s a pod out there for you. In the U.S., 33% of people report listening to a podcast in the past month; and 16 million Americans would call themselves an “avid podcast fan”.

With all these shows and listening platforms around, it can be difficult to know where to turn. To help you find the best science podcasts for whatever you're into, we’ve collected a list of our staff picks. While the PhysicsCentral podcast is our personal, unbiased favorite (you can listen to all 110 episodes on SoundCloud), these programs are nice too.