Physics

An artist's concept showing a "naked-eye" view of a GRB up close. Observations suggest that material is shot outward in a two-component jet (white and green beams). Credit: NASA/Swift/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith and John Jones

Astronomers Detect Record-Breaking Gamma Ray Bursts From Colossal Explosion in Space

A powerful outburst in a distant galaxy produced photons with high enough energies to be detected by ground-based telescopes for the first time

The Ancient Greeks Used Machines to Lift Stones 150 Years Earlier Than Previously Believed

An examination of grooves on blocks of stone from early temples suggest they were lifted and then levered into place using a frame

Samples of trinitite from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

A Chunk of Trinitite Reminds Us of the Sheer, Devastating Power of the Atomic Bomb

Within the Smithsonian's collections exists a telltale trace of the weapon that would change the world forever

The rotation and convection of molten iron at the center of the planet creates a dynamo effect, generating Earth's magnetic field.

Earth's Magnetic Field Could Take Longer to Flip Than Previously Thought

New research suggests a polarity reversal of the planet takes about 22,000 years, significantly longer than former estimates

An artist's visualization of the star S0-2 as it passes by the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. As the star gets closer to the supermassive black hole, it experiences a gravitational redshift that is predicted by Einstein's general relativity. By observing this redshift, we can test Einstein's
theory of gravity.

A Star Orbiting in the Extreme Gravity of a Black Hole Validates General Relativity

The star S0-2 gets so close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy that it can be used to test our fundamental understanding of gravity

How a Toaster-Sized Atomic Clock Could Pave the Way for Deep Space Exploration

NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock is now orbiting Earth for a year-long test run

The Future of Helium Is Up in the Air

The world is experiencing a shortage of the gas, a byproduct of natural gas production, threatening MRIs, scientific research and birthday parties

A Nanoscale Light Trick Is the Key to Peacock Spiders' Super-Black Spots

A new study shows how patches of bumpy microlenses capture 99.5 of the light that hits them

Uhlenbeck's work on minimal surfaces was instrumental to the foundation of the mathematical field of geometric analysis

Karen Uhlenbeck Is the First Woman to Win Math’s Top Prize

The Abel Prize honoree was recognized for "the fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics"

The Holy Fire at Lake Elsinore, California, when only about five percent of the fire was contained, August 9, 2018.

Untangling the Physics Behind Drifting Embers, 'Firenadoes' and Other Wildfire Phenomena

Fires can leap rapidly from building to building and even cause extreme weather events such as pyrocumulonimbus storm clouds

An ultraviolet image of the Andromeda galaxy, the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way, taken by NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer space telescope. Like our own galaxy, Andromeda is a spiral galaxy with a flat rotating disk of stars and gas and a concentrated bulge of stars at the center.

Streams of Stars Snaking Through the Galaxy Could Help Shine a Light on Dark Matter

When the Milky Way consumes another galaxy, tendrils of stellar streams survive the merger, containing clues about the universe's mysterious unseen matter

Georges Seurat's Pointillist "Study for 'A Sunday on La Grande Jatte'" exhibits high levels of entropy but low levels of complexity

Physicists Come Up With Intriguing Way to Measure Art's Evolution

By mapping the complexity and entropy of 140,000 paintings created between 1031 and 2016, the researchers demonstrated the interaction of art movements

The researchers found that an electromagnetic "hotspot" is responsible for producing the burst of plasma

Why Do Grapes Send Sparks Flying in the Microwave?

The effect can be replicated with just about any grape-sized, water-based sphere, from large blackberries to gooseberries, quail eggs and hydrogel beads

Magnetic North Is Cruising Toward Siberia, Puzzling Scientists

It has drifted so far that scientists made an emergency revision to the World Magnetic Model

Enrico Fermi at the blackboard.

How Scientific Chance and a Little Luck Helped Usher in the Nuclear Age

Accidental experiments and chance encounters helped Enrico Fermi produce the first nuclear reactor

Scientists Predict Sun Will One Day Turn Into Giant Crystal Ball

New observations of white dwarfs confirm theory that the star remnants transition into solid structures as they cool

An artist's conception of the view from Farout.

Meet Farout, the Solar System's Most Distant Minor Planet

Observations suggest the object is 300 miles in diameter, pinkish-red and 3.5 times as far away from the sun as Pluto

The Ten Best Science Books of 2018

These titles explore the wide-ranging implications of new discoveries and experiments, while grounding them in historical context

Smithsonian.com's Chief Digital Officer Shares His Favorite Books of the Year

Our own William Allman describes the 2018 titles he found to be the most enjoyable and eye-opening reads

One of NIST’s ytterbium optical lattice clocks.

Scientists Measure the Second With Record-Breaking Precision

A new generation of optical clocks are becoming ever more reliable as physicists work to redefine time

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