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Physical World

Physicists probe validity of Einstein’s gravity on cosmic scales

New tests could verify general theory of relativity, or find flaws

The iron ocean

Through dust, not rust, the metal plays a complex, controversial role in Earth’s climate

Space is the place for impossible molecules

Compounds with noble gases don’t form naturally on Earth. But in the interstellar medium, they are helping scientists probe the history of the universe.

The tricky task of tallying carbon

To slow or stop global warming, the world agrees it must cut carbon dioxide emissions. But monitoring each nation’s output of greenhouse gases is not always straightforward.

The future that graphene built

Move over, flat carbon. Meet borophene, phosphorene and the rest of the next generation of “atomically thin” super-materials.

What are California megafires? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Megafires, which burn over 100,000 acres, can cause catastrophic damage. Researchers are studying fire behavior in the lab and in the field in order to fight these flames more effectively.

What are fire whirls? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Researchers examine the behavior of these tornado-like fire columns

Fast facts about the Milky Way | Things to Know

VIDEO: Our galaxy may seem humble, but here are a few things to know about what makes it an exceptional place

Lessons from scorching hot weirdo-planets

Hot Jupiters were the first kind of exoplanet found. A quarter-century later, they still perplex and captivate — and their origins hold lessons about planet formation in general.

Hotter than the sun: The mysterious solar corona

Several new missions aim squarely at a long-standing astronomical conundrum, with the promise of improving space-weather predictions

The next omics? Tracking a lifetime of exposures to better understand disease

Of the millions of substances people encounter daily, health researchers have focused on only a few hundred. Those in the emerging field of exposomics want to change that.

How the moon landings changed our view of the solar system

Lunar samples hinted at a barrage of debris pummelling planets billions of years ago. Fifty years after Apollo 11, that story is still unfolding. 

The mighty Milky Way

Our galaxy is far bigger, brighter and more massive than most others

As climate changes, so does life in the planet’s soils

To understand what might be lost, ecologist Janet K. Jansson taps molecular methods to explore Earth’s underground microbes, from the permafrost to the grasslands

A quantum origin for spacetime

Physicists find hints that entanglement explains Einstein’s equations for gravity

The story of Snowball Earth

Ancient rocks suggest that ice entirely covered our planet on at least two occasions. This theory may help explain the rise of complex life that followed.

Firenadoes and drifting embers: The secrets of extreme wildfires

Researchers probe the weather-like physics of deadly infernos

A deeper understanding of the Grand Canyon

After 100 years as a national park and eons as a geological wonder, the American icon continues to reveal layers of its past and of the landscape ahead