Archivo: Quanta

In 1978, the mathematician John McKay noticed what seemed like an odd coincidence. He had been studying the different ways of representing the structure of a mysterious entity called the monster group, a gargantuan algebraic object that, mathematicians believed, captured a new kind of symmetry. Mathematicians weren’t sure that the monster group actually existed, but they knew that if it did exist, it acted in special ways in particular dimensions, the first two of which were 1 and 196,883.

An infection sweeping through Australia’s koala population is revealing how retroviruses insert themselves into the genome

Inside the cell’s nucleus, the double helix folds up in myriad loops and twists. The quest to unravel this structure is revealing the subtle genetic orchestration of all life on Earth.

Researchers are demonstrating that, in certain contexts, string theory is the only consistent theory of quantum gravity. Might this make it true?

A recent solution to the prisoner’s dilemma, a classic game theory scenario, has created new puzzles in evolutionary biology.

Interest in a powerful DNA editing tool called CRISPR has revealed that bacteria are far more sophisticated than anyone imagined.

Enormous databases of medical records have begun to reveal the hidden biological missteps that make us sick.

A quantum computing pioneer explains why analog simulators may beat out general-purpose digital quantum machines — for now.

The question is deceptively simple: Given a geometric space — a sphere, perhaps, or a doughnut-like torus — is it possible to divide it into smaller pieces? In the case of the two-dimensional surface of a sphere, the answer is clearly yes. Anyone can tile a mosaic of triangles over any two-dimensional surface. Likewise, any three-dimensional space can be cut up into an arbitrary number of pyramids.

But what about spaces in higher dimensions?

Try gift-wrapping a soccer ball, and you will quickly encounter the geometric abyss between paper’s inherent flatness and a sphere’s natural curves.