View All Physics in Pictures

Thin films can create

Soap Up Close

Thin films can create "destructive" magic

A rainbow isn't the only amazing thing that can happen when light bounces around inside water droplets!

Tiny Drops Create Rings of Color

A rainbow isn't the only amazing thing that can happen when light bounces around inside water droplets!

Using cutting-edge machine-learning technology, scientists are pushing the envelope of quantum computing.

Neural Nets Help Design Stable Quantum Computers

Using cutting-edge machine-learning technology, scientists are pushing the envelope of quantum computing.

The Swallow Tanager gets its brilliant blue and turquoise hues by harnessing the wave properties of light.

What Color is this Bird?

The swallow tanager gets its brilliant blue and turquoise hues by harnessing the wavelike properties of light.

The interior of a neutron star plays host to strange phases of matter unlike anything seen here on Earth.

Don't Eat This! A Recipe for "Nuclear Pasta"

The interior of a neutron star plays host to strange phases of matter unlike anything seen here on Earth.

The birth of a star produces spectacularly fast-moving bursts of particles.

An Astronomically Powerful Debut: Herbig-Haro Objects

The birth of a star produces spectacularly fast-moving bursts of particles.

The incredible energy of the Z Pulsed Power Facility makes for an impressive sight.

Meet the Z-Machine

The incredible energy of the Z Pulsed Power Facility makes for an impressive sight.

Finding the best way to pack objects into a container of a certain shape is harder than you might think.

Polyhedral Peg, Round Hole

Finding the best way to pack objects into a container of a certain shape is harder than you might think.

The non-Newtonian properties of liquid soap and shampoo fluid let them

Bouncing a Stream: The Kaye Effect

The non-Newtonian properties of liquid soap and shampoo fluid let them "bounce" as a stream. Try it at home!

A unique blend of nanoscale structures might let us create frost-proof surfaces

Nanostructures Promise Iceproof Surfaces

A unique blend of nanoscale structures might let us create frost-proof surfaces

The interplay of surface tension and evaporation leads to some spectacular fluid dynamics!

Bursting a Different Kind of Bubble

The interplay of surface tension and evaporation leads to some spectacular fluid dynamics!

Charged particles, imaged with a bubble chamber, spiral and curl in a magnetic field.

Bubble Tracks: A Window on the Subatomic

How do we photograph something too small to be seen with the naked eye?

Belousov-Zhabotinsky (or BZ) patterns arise when molecules repeatedly gain and lose electrons in waves.

Color Charge: BZ Patterns

Belousov-Zhabotinsky (or BZ) patterns arise when molecules repeatedly gain and lose electrons in waves.

Stars are powered by nuclear fusion, but the early universe may have played host to quasi-stars, astronomical behemoths with black holes at the center.

Black Hole Sun: Quasi-Stars

Stars are powered by nuclear fusion, but the early universe may have played host to quasi-stars, astronomical behemoths with black holes at the center.

Developing and testing the most destructive weapons in history was a process fraught with danger—and discovery.

Nuclear Mysteries: the Rope Trick Effect

Developing and testing the most destructive weapons in history was a process fraught with danger—and discovery.

Learn about plastics and polymers with the newest page from our upcoming all-ages coloring book!

Color Charge: Plastics, Polymers, and Voronoi Diagrams

Learn about plastics and polymers with the newest page from our upcoming all-ages coloring book!

We're thrilled to release the first page from our new all-ages coloring book project, Color Charge!

Color Charge: Hearing and Hair Bundles

We're thrilled to release the first page from our new all-ages coloring book project, Color Charge!

The winners of this year's

Making Art from Materials Science

Check out the winners of the Materials Research Society's 2016 "Science as Art" competition!

Light refracts through an empty glass to produce a rainbow of color

Dispersion Reveals Coffee at the End of the Rainbow

Dispersion through a glass splits light into its component colors.

There's something amiss about this prismatic rainbow—can you spot it?


There's something amiss about this prismatic rainbow—can you spot it?

Well beyond the density of anything we’ve observed, hypothetical types of matter exhibit bizarre and beautiful optics.

Too Big to Cast a Shadow

How can something be too big to cast a shadow?

Electron beam-induced etching (EBIE) conquers nature's hardest surface with ease.

Diamonds are for Etching

Electron beam-induced etching (EBIE) conquers nature's hardest surface with ease.

Water droplets on the strands of a spider's web act as tiny prisms, creating a metallic rainbow of colors.

Spiderweb Diffraction HD

The dewy strands of a spiderweb can form a natural diffraction grating


Hoag's Object

The "Eye" in the Sky

Coronal Loops

Coronal Loops

Plasma arcs from the surface of the sun, guided back down by powerful magnetic field lines.

The bizarre brilliance of bismuth

Metallurgical Magic

The bizarre brilliance of bismuth

Schlieren flow visualization reveals the structure of a sonic boom

Seeing a Sonic Boom

Schlieren flow visualization reveals the structure of a sonic boom

Alternating vortices spawn over an island on the ocean.

Vortex Streets

Clouds form enormous eddies over the Juan Fernandez islands.

A layer of meltwater keeps ice moving through fluid with minimal turbulence

Ice Slips Through Water

A layer of meltwater keeps ice moving through fluid with minimal turbulence.

Low-pressure helium gas glows an eerie, soft pink color

Metastable Helium

Low-pressure helium gas glows an eerie, soft pink.


Watching Paint Dry

Microscopic patterns form with surprising regularity as colloids dry.


The "Sunset Egg": Tyndall Scattering

The Tyndall Effect is responsible for the strange optical properties of this physics toy.


Ice Spikes

Why do ice cubes sometimes have points on their surfaces?


Diffraction Through a Spiderweb

Dew on a spiderweb's strands splits sunlight into a prismatic rainbow of colors.


Space Dust Impact

A close look at the dangers of space dust.


Dark Matter Simulation

Simulations help bring the mysterious, invisible matter to light.


Lunar Charge Protection

Can magnetic anomalies on the moon protect future explorers?


American Cells

Epithelial cells grown in the shape of the United States


Quantum Cyberattack

Future quantum cryptography could be foiled by a laser attack


Double Slit X-Rays

A modern-day take on the classic double-slit experiment



Cobalt-60 a medical radiation source, was recently stolen in Mexico


Mars vs. Earth Infographic

Comparing Earth vs. Mars in this NASA-created infographic


Fluid Flags

Tiny filament "flags" leave beautiful fluid wakes


Skull Galaxies

The Perseus Cluster of galaxies forms a spooky, skull-like x-ray image


Optimal Biological Branching

Veins in leaves and animals may branch this way for optimal transport


Superfast Spacecraft: Juno

Juno recently sling-shotted around Earth on its way to Jupiter


Vortex Electron Beam

A twist on electron beams may make them shoot more accurately


LADEE Spacecraft

NASA's LADEE mission will study the lunar atmosphere and moon dust


Topological Insulator

A close-up of a promising material you may find in future electronics


Comic-Con 2013 Swag

We handed out tons of physics gear at this year's Comic-Con


Titan and Saturn

The ringed planet and its famous moon


Metallic Flow

Solids can flow like fluids, given the right circumstances


Supermoon in Washington, DC

A supermoon sneaks behind the Washington Monument


Levitating in a Fluid

Using magnets, scientists re-create a space environment


The Eye of the Sahara

Easily visible from space, this huge structure still puzzles scientists


Mysteries of the Glass Transition

Why do certain liquids transition into glass? There's no easy answer.


Cracked Windshield Physics

The number of cracks in glass reveal the strength of projectile impacts


Physics of the Bed of Nails

How do people lie on a bed of nails without leaving a mark?


Paris Through a Water Drop

A water drop magnifies a view of Paris, shedding new light on the city


Fluorescent Mice

Fluorescent proteins can help scientists detect cancer behavior in mice.


Martian Wind

See the Curiosity rover's parachute flapping in the wind on Mars


Battle for Star Birth

Nascent stars and gigantic dust pillars collide


Palladium Films Up Close

A colorful mosaic of nano-scale grains on a super thin film


New York City Language Map

A Twitter analysis reveals New York's ethnic neighborhoods


Pluto's Moons

Pluto's known family of moons may have just increased


Radioactive Uranium Marbles

These marbles glow neon under blacklight, but they're safe


Dark Energy Camera Galaxy Close-up

One of the Dark Energy Camera's first images


Dragon Launch 2

A glimpse at the SpaceX spacecraft before a mission


Backlit Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft captured this beautiful image of Saturn


Inside a Plasma Physics Lab

A glimpse into plasma physics and fusion research at MIT


Chocolate Physics

Take a closer look at chocolatey treats


Jupiter's Little Red Spot

On its way to Pluto, New Horizons caught a glimpse of Jupiter's smaller blemish


Hornet X-Ray

Special x-rays give detailed images of small biological samples


Mars at Night

Curiosity snaps some nighttime pictures from the red planet


Niobium Caterpillar

A tiny crystal structure mimics a neon caterpillar


Ocean Current Cyclones

Simulation of ocean currents reveals cyclone dynamics


Underground Neutrino Detector

A detector once searched for exotic physics 6,800 feet underground


Perihelion and Eccentricity

Learn about the Earth's farthest point from the sun with a lesson in eccentricity


New Year's Eve Ball Drop

The physics behind the iconic celebration


Solstice Lunar Eclipse

In 2010, a lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice


Ultrasound Gas Bubbles

Ultrasound energizes gas bubbles, causing intense pressure and heat


Mayan Ruins Seen From Space

Satellites uncovered ancient Mayan ruins with remote sensing


STAR Collision

What happens when two gold ions collide


Star Gravity Waves

Vibrating water reveals beautiful shapes


Etched Nano Canyons

Canyon-like structures form lenses used for a high-intensity light source.


Cathedral Stars

Massive dust pillars surround a cathedral of bright stars


Ignition Target Chamber

Inside the National Ignition Center — home to extremely energetic lasers


Watery Blue Sunset

An artistically adapted image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory reveals the sun in a new light

Symmetry Wake thumb

Symmetry Wake

This image reveals the intricate wake structure left behind two cylinders rotating in a fluid.


Spooky Nebula

The National Optical Astronomy Observatory snapped this photo of the haunting SH2 136 Nebula.


Cassini's View of Alpha Centauri

An image of our nearest star system neighbor, Alpha Centauri, taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.

Particle Quilt-001

Particle Quilt

One artist has captured the beauty of the LHC's particle detectors in a new form: quilts.

Turbulence Thumb

Fluid Turbulence

Simulations reveal a striking battle between two forces when lighter fluids flow above heavier ones.

Slime thumb

Slime Mold Evolution

A time lapse image of a developing slime mold network. By watching this growth, physicists hope to better understand the analogous development of transportation networks.

Droplet thumb

Droplet Time Lapse

A time lapse image of a dyed water droplet falling into electrically-charged oil and water.

AFM virus

Virus Microscopy

An atomic force microscopy (AFM) scan reveals several hundred tobacco mosaic virus particles.

Endeavour thumb

Endeavour's Flight Home

The retired Space Shuttle Endeavour stopped in Houston, Texas before heading to Los Angeles for permanent display.

dream thumb

Dream Chaser

The Dream Chaser spacecraft performs a test flight over Boulder, Colorado's flatiron rock formations.

DECam camera

Dark Energy Camera

A 570-megapixel camera attached to a telescope will help scientists uncover the mysteries of dark energy.

Rover Debris

Rover Debris

Before landing on Mars' surface, the Curiosity Rover images its parachute's crash site.

flowing beads

Flowing Beads

Mixing different beads delineates coherent structures, providing insight into how grains mix.

quantum simulation bonding

Quantum Simulation Bonding

Simulations indicate that hydrogen bond density is higher on the surface of titanium dioxide than on tin dioxide, but the hydrogen bonds are found to be stronger on tin dioxide than titanium dioxide.

order through chaos

Order Through Chaos

When researchers tried packing billiard-ball-like spheres in a number of ways, the most chaotic ones were consistently the most symmetrical.


Optical Resonators

Researchers hope to combine high quality optics and mechanical systems integrated into an extremely compact package.

More Efficient LEDs

More Efficient LEDs

Nitride alloys expand the applications of energy-saving LEDs.

chemical avalanches

Chemical Avalanches

Molecular diffusion and chemical reactions can result in a chemical wave front.

Nitrogen Tracers in Graphene

Nitrogen Tracers in Graphene

Altering graphene's electronic properties with Nitrogen tracers.

fractal globule

Fractal Globule

Experimental evidence suggests that the human genome may bundle into these unknotted fractal globules.

fluid fracture

Fluid Fracture

Pressing liquids as flat as possible yields unique designs.

superconducting nanowires

Superconducting Nanowires

A scanning electron microscope image of superconducting nanowires.

protecting privacy

Protecting Privacy with Quantum Computing

A schematic of a blind quantum computer that could protect user's privacy.

superconductor secrets

New Phase of Matter in Superconductor

High temperature superconductor spills secrets: a new phase of matter.


Devil’s Nano Postpile

Nanotubes mimic the Devil’s Postpile National Monument in eastern California.

stream network

Stream Network Branching

Ever wonder how streams form? Physicists are using models to better understand the branching of streams.

Scanning electron micrograph of iron-titanium nanowires.

Nanowire Hay Bales

Scanning electron micrograph of iron-titanium nanowires

Magnetic Christmas Tree

Magnetic Christmas Tree

A snapshot of magnetic flux at super cold temperatures.

soap memory

Soap Memory

A soap bubble trapped in a colorful configuration.

Glassy Energy Landscapes

Glassy Energy Landscapes

Glass artwork demonstrates a rugged energy landscape.

bouncing ball

Bouncing Ball

The simple act of bouncing a ball may not conjure up feelings of physics, but there is more physics going on than meets the eye. Tags: Force and Motion

X-treme Solar Flare

X-treme Solar Flare

X-class flare erupting from the sun

big circle

Patterns in the Sand

When a Chladni plate vibrates patterns emerge in the sand. It’s not magic, or the hand of an invisible artist, but the vibrations themselves that cause the lines and patterns to emerge

Haleakala Observatory

Haleakala Observatory

High on a mountaintop in Hawaii, scientists search the sky.


Liquid Art

These images captured the moment streams of liquid collide, bending the streams and forming beautiful images.


Aerogel: Fighting Fires

This photo illustrates the insulating properties of aerogel. The crayons on top of the aerogel are not melting, protected from the flame by a layer of aerogel.


Rayleigh Scattering Sunsets

What causes the orange hue in a sunset? Why is the sky blue? Rayleigh scattering can explains these natural wonders, leaving onlookers amazed.


Crystal Ball

This ball is cannot tell you your future and it doesn’t drop to signal the beginning of a new year. No, this ball illustrates the physics concept of refraction.


Quantum Reality

A thirty foot model of a buckyball is suspended in the tree tops, taking physics and making art.

Topographic Moon Map

Topographic Moon Map

This is the highest resolution topographic map of the moon to date taken from information gathered by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).


The Aurora Borealis

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake, Eielson Air Force Base. Find out about the physics behind this phenomenon.


Nano-Tagging Plants

Nanoparticles are being used as biological markers


Lighting Up Wall Street

High frequency trading computers can help make investors millions, but where in the world would be the best place for these computers to be located? Physics could help explain how to make your millions.


Striped Superconductors

This psychedelic image is a graphical summary of a theory describing striped superconductors.

solar color

Solar Color Conversion

Molecules that convert light from one color to another could improve the efficiency of solar cells, provided researchers can find better ways to handle them.

Tiny Antennas

Tiny Antennas

These antennas could be used in devices that use light in place of the electrical signals.

Molecular Transistor

Molecular Transistor

Physicists have made what they believe to be the first true single molecule transistor.


Crystal Ions in Space

An ion trap allows physicists to capture atoms and hold them in crystal–like configurations in free space.


Moon Tracks

This isn’t a new flavor of ice cream. No, this photo taken from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the marks left behind by Apollo 17.


AB Effect

In 1959 the Aharonov-Bohm effect took its place as a legitimate demonstration of unexpected physics in the quantum world.

Attractive Tangles

Attractive Tangles

Scientists model the scenario in which Earth's magnetic field switches poles.


Bundle of Tiny Carbon Nanotubes

Crystal-like carbon nanotubes could serve as wiring for future computers.


Spin Ice Monopoles

Spin ice is like magnetic ice and physicists have made analogies of magnetic monopoles in spin ice.

hollowa toms

Hollow Atoms

Physicists have removed the inner electrons from neon with a high energy X-ray laser, leaving behind a hollow atom shell.

graphene quilt

Graphene Quilt

This quilt won't just keep you warm; it can teach you about the four electronic states central to understanding the properties of graphene.

human genome folded

Human Genome Folded

Inside cells there is a long code that holds all of an organism’s hereditary information, but how does that long code fit in that tiny space?


Physics of Goo

Next time you put syrup on your pancakes remember that there is physics behind how the syrup flows.


Surface Folds

What do brains and bread have in common? Physicists looking for patterns explain.


Stalactite Meets Stalagmite

What might look like the top and bottom of a limestone cave, may actually revolutionize the world of tiny electronics.


A Coil for Colliders

Superconducting coil for future energy colliders

entangling qubits

Entangling Qubits

This small grey crystal of silicon inside a glass test tube contains 10 billion pairs of entangled spin qubits


Sea Urchin Teeth

This scanning electron microscope image shows the recently discovered calcite mineral bridges that connect the developing tooth plates in the sea urchin Eucidaris tribuloides, fascinating physicists with their strength.


Mussel Mucus

Mussels generate their own self healing sticky material and now scientists are able to make a synthetic version in the lab.

computer chip

Four Qubits, One Chip

This computer chip includes four superconducting qubits that make up a version of a computer microprocessor.


The First Superconducting Magnet

The world’s first superconducting magnet, consisting of a wire coil made of lead, was manufactured in the Leiden Physics Laboratory in 1912.


Less is More for E. Coli

New simulations show that reducing the number of spare DNA genes in the microbe E. coli can actually increase the bacteria’s chances of survival.

spin kaleidoscope

Spin Kaleidoscope

This image shows a map of the electrical characteristics of a topological insulator, providing information that is helping physicists to better understand how these new materials work.

atomic transistors

Atomic Transistors

If you could look deep inside an infrared LED and had microscopic vision, you might see the image above, showing the microscopic image of the surface of gallium arsenide (GaAs) and how the arrangement of atoms on the GaAs surface affect its electric field.



The Sun’s closest neighbor, Mercury, now has a spacecraft zooming around its orbit. NASA’s Messenger spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury on Thursday , March 17th, 2011 around 9 p.m. EDT. This is the first spacecraft to begin orbiting Mercury, a milestone for US space exploration.


Nano Sized Light Switch

Imagine having a switch the size of a molecule. It could control a tiny electric circuit built from single atoms and molecules.


Cloud Waves

When people think of waves they often look to the oceans, but waves can also be found high in the sky. In this picture Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean made waves in the clouds.

berliner helicopter

Berliner Helicopter

What looks like a unique airplane was actually the first helicopter to make a controlled flight.


Rocky Planet: Kepler 10b

The Kepler Spacecraft, after nearly 8 months of collecting data (May 2009 – January 2010), discovered an exoplanet, Kepler 10b, that orbits a star other than our sun.


It’s Raining Antimatter… Upward?

The electrons produce so many gamma rays that they shoot electrons and positrons out of the atmosphere and NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope intercepts these particles, showing evidence that thunderstorms may be producing antimatter.

light magic

Light Magic

While running a series of Monochromatic UV germicidal range finding experiments, Barry Ressler created a series of images that Pink Floyd would be proud of.


Happy Groundhog's Day

Will the groundhog see his shadow and promise 6 more weeks of winter? More importantly, what is a shadow and where in this folklore is the science?


Snowflake Science

The sky is falling! No, those are just snowflakes falling from the clouds. In this Physics in Pictures explore what conditions make snowflakes and what all snowflakes have in common.

happy new year

Happy New Year!  Laserfest Takes Over Times Square

When the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, 2010, it stood for more than the closing of a decade. It marked the end of Laserfest(, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser. In this picture, Laserfest says thank you and goodbye in Times Square


Smoke Rings in Water

A smoke-ring flow pattern - or vortex ring--can develop, pinch-off, and be regenerated, all without forces, when the flow is driven by chemical reactions.


LED Hula Hoopers and Fire Hoopers Show Physics in a Whole New Light

What does dancing have to do with physics? One photographer uses his understanding of light and technology to capture fire dancing and hula hooping, which inadvertently reveal different forces in physics and the nature of light.

shoot the moon

Shoot the Moon!

Lasers are used to track satellites. At the Goddard Space Flight Center lasers are used to track the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which is collecting data as it orbits the Moon.


The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics is…

In 2004, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were looking for a metallic substance that could be used as a semiconductor. With the use of adhesive tape, their method of making graphene led to receiving the 2010 Nobel prize.


USA Science and Engineering Festival

James Roche explains how LiDar and the squealing wall work at the Laser Haunted House at the 2010 USA Science and Engineering Festival.


Sputnik and Satellites

Sputnik I was the world's first artificial satellite. It marked a new era in political, military, technological and scientific developments, beginning the space age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race. Satellites use gravity to stay in orbit. Learn about the differences between Newton's and Einstein's explanations of gravity as it relates to satellites.


It’s Raining Gamma Rays

If you happen to step outside into a thunderstorm, I bet the last thing you are concerned about is getting hit by gamma rays. A team of scientists has been using satellite data to find out where gamma ray pulses are coming from with a great deal of accuracy in order to clarify if these pulses are related to lightening.


Gamma Ray All-Sky Map

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is our high energy eye in orbit keeping a look out for big events in the universe and creating an extensive detailed map in the process. A high energy map of our universe reveals many interesting objects such as pulsars, super-massive black holes and possibly clues to its beginning.


Perfect Spheres to Test Einstein

Einstein is looking at you through a near perfect glass sphere. In fact this is the most precise sphere that humans have ever created. The surface of this little marble is so smooth that any bumps or scratches are no higher than 40 atoms. Cool! But why?


Free Floating Plasma Orb or Squid Ghost

Ghost of discharged capacitor found haunting a glass of water! What could be more scary than that? Try a hot ball of electric plasma.


Laser-Plasma Creates Electro-Optic Shocks

High power laser pulses create shock-waves and bubbles in plasma.

Dust devils on Mars!

Dust devils on Mars!

What does this image look like to you? Could it be a close up of a tattoo or a lizard's back or even silly putty that was rubbed on a newspaper?


Red Dye Crowned in Milk

This crown is formed by the splash and droplets of a 2 mm drop of red dye impacting on a thin layer of milk.


Centrifugal Instability of an Oscillating Boundary Layer

A cylinder twisting back and forth in water, produces a "centrifugal instability," as shown by fluorescent dye. This fluid pattern will not only help scientists better understand ocean dynamics, but it is also aesthetically beautiful.


Magnetic Properties of Thin Films

This spectroscopic image shows what are called microwave-frequency magnetic resonances of an array of parallel, metallic thin film nanowire "stripes". The peak in the center reflects resonances occurring at the stripe edges. The strong horizontal bar of violet, black, and white, is due to resonances in the body of the stripes.


LaserFest Photons

Photons are the particles that make up light. Who knew that they were also soft and cuddly? Welcome to LaserFest 2010!



When you dry your hands after washing them they don’t typically warp and wrinkle. That’s not the same with paper.

Dwarf Star

Exploding White Dwarf Star

Astrophysicists are able to "explode a star" in a virtual computational laboratory by applying physics to calculate the mechanism and progression of the explosion.


MHDPD-Magneto Hydro Dynamic Propulsion Device: The Experiment/ The Attenuation

Red and green dye reveals the turbulent fluid flows from the magneto hydro dynamic propulsion device.


Relativity Train

This train has endured space and time to teach physics to those wandering through the Bolivian desert.


Cornstarch Dimples

A vibrating cornstarch solution appears to come alive and grow fingers. A dimple in the fluid created by a burst of air expands into a deep hole.


Bouncing Jets

Oil is slick but did you know it can also bounce?


My Cup Runneth Down

It might seem intuitively obvious that a layer of dense liquid resting on a less dense liquid is an unstable situation. What isn't as obvious is the complex way that liquids arranged in this manner and tend to move.


Cracking Up

If you dropped a wineglass, you'd expect it to shatter, not skitter across the floor like a silver goblet.


Supernovae Surprise

There's no avoiding the tragic end of a large star's life; it dies in a catastrophic explosion called a supernova.


Steady Drip of Progress

It flows in rivulets, puddles in depressions, falls from the sky; you can even buy it at Costco--three-dimensional, "bulk" water is everywhere.


Speed Trap

Like traffic cops with radar guns, physicists can now gauge the speed of electrons in a current.


A 'Soapy' Solution

Researchers have been frustrated in their attempts to confirm the long-standing theory that describes how dyes mix in turbulent liquids.



The erratic, swirling fluid motion known as turbulence increases wind resistance, and airplane manufacturers go to great lengths to eliminate rough surfaces that promote it.


Smashing Ions

Brookhaven National Laboratory's new Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) smashes two high-energy beams of gold nuclei together head-on, in an attempt to create a state of matter, called quark-gluon plasma, that last existed only ten millionths of a second after the Big Bang.


Simply Shocking

Sparks branch for the same reason that coral reefs and snowflakes do, according to new computer simulations.


Crystal Clear

When an all-electron Wigner crystal (top) is squeezed too tightly, the electron wave functions begin to overlap (middle), and then create a quantum liquid (bottom).


The Sharpest Focus

A team of researchers has announced a new technique that allows light to be focused to a smaller spot than ever before.


Red Rover, Red Rover

With dwindling hope, scientists at the European Space Agency have awaited a nine-note musical message, much like the sound I hear on my daughter's cellphone when it receives a call.


Random Acts of Light

Somewhere between a light bulb and a laser is an unusual and sometimes puzzling type of light source called a random laser.


Radioactive Hotdog?

A spark flying between a metal doorknob and your hand is an intricate chain of electrical events.


Thanks for the Memories

On September 21, 2003 the spacecraft Galileo ended a 14-year mission exploring Jupiter and its four largest moons.


Tiny Tubes

Entangled pairs of particles, in which measuring the state of one simultaneously determines the state of the other, are a central part of proposed schemes for quantum cryptography and teleportation.


Tracking Traveling Excitons

Researchers have tracked their first exciton. A team of researchers recently reported that they imaged the wave-like motion of the particle, which is essential to the operation of lasers in CD players and grocery scanners.


Structures of the Early Universe

Enormous structures in the early universe which are invisible to the unaided eye become apparent when observed using a telescope sensitive to mm-wave light.


Polymers to Polyhedrons

Nanoparticles covered in stringy polymers might someday form the building blocks for drug delivery systems or disease assays.


A New Twist

The frictionless flow of atoms within solid helium may be confined to the axis of a screw dislocation, a spiral defect like the one in this crystal of silicon carbide.


Nanotube Nests

Researchers have assembled carbon nanotubes into arrays of loops, lassos, and hooks.


Molecular Motion

The scanning tunneling microscope (STM) can make impressive images of single atoms and molecules on surfaces; now it has been used to measure a molecule's internal motion.



MiniBooNE (mini booster neutrino experiment), a new experiment at Fermilab, has just begun its search for neutrino oscillations.


Mesoscopic Mystery

Researchers continue to push rival interpretations of a vexing problem in mesoscopic physics, the size scale where quantum and classical worlds co-exist.


The Little Chill

Some lasers can burn through solids, but others, shined on the right materials, have a chilling effect.


The World's Largest Cyclotron

If you are asked how a watch works, one of the first things you might do is open one up and look at the parts inside.


In Synch

Electrons don't normally know one direction from another, so researchers were perplexed a few years ago when they found a cold plane of electrons suddenly choosing to conduct many times better in one direction than in the perpendicular one.


T-ray Vision

X-rays may be as familiar as your local dentist's office or airport security checkpoint, but it's unlikely that you've ever encountered a powerful T-ray, a beam of terahertz radiation.


Trilobite Molecules

Researchers predicted the existence of a giant two-atom rubidium molecule with an electron cloud resembling a trilobite, the ancient, hard-shelled creature which lived in the Earth's seas over 300 million years ago.


Turning Circles

Quantum communication schemes using light normally rely on the two types of photon polarization to encode information a bit at a time.


Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Tadpole

Against a stunning backdrop of thousands of galaxies, this odd-looking galaxy with the long streamer of stars appears to be racing through space, like a runaway pinwheel firework.


Optical Corral

If you want to keep a horse confined, put it in a corral. Now, it appears the same thing can be done with light.


Underwater Desert

Windblown dunes can engulf houses, roads, and airfields, but researchers have had a hard time studying them under controlled conditions.


Veins of Gold

Researchers dream of building crystals from the ground up to achieve tight control of their periodic structure.


The Incredible Shrinking Nucleus

Objects in nucleus may be smaller than they appear. At least, that's what current research suggests.


High-Speed Chase

Relativity theory insists that no matter what speed you choose for your spaceship--snail-like or close to light speed--the laws of physics always look the same.


Galaxies Galore

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind.


Flapping Flags

The symbolic beauty of a flag flying high in the wind is simple to understand.



From bonfires to match sticks, flames usually have simple, predictable shapes.


Plasma Jets

From the surface of the sun to the violent cores of quasars, many astrophysical objects shoot plasma in sharply defined streams, guided by magnetic fields.


Photonic Phocus

Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind.


Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

Puny tremors may be the real movers and shakers of the seismic world.


Ingenious Algae

Many of the oceans' algae have evolved natural "sunscreens" as protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays.


The Whole Picture

Biologists dream of a point-and-shoot camera that can reveal details smaller than a wavelength of light in living cells.


Wholly Ozone

According to recent research, cosmic rays may be enlarging the hole in the ozone layer.


Good Vibrations

Born of the marriage of two cutting edge techniques, a new method can image bundles of DNA strands by sensing vibrations within the molecules.


Doo-Wop Deuteron

The simplest nucleus in nature is that of the hydrogen isotope, deuterium.

Dripping Faucets

Dripping Faucets

When the faucet drips, most people call the plumber or get out their tools, but some physicists are content to study the phenomenon instead.


Crystal Cannibals

The crystallization process that turns a liquid to a solid is brutally competitive, according to an analysis of experiments performed on the Space Shuttle.


Cold Molecules

Physicists have cooled single atoms and molecules with two or three atoms to just a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, but it has proved hard to push larger molecules below about 10 degrees Kelvin.


Cold Atoms

This year's physics Nobel Prize went to three researchers who were the first to observe and study the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC), a new phase of matter.


The Circle Game

Like a planet orbiting the sun, some ideas keep coming around. In the 1920s, the inventors of quantum mechanics scuttled the notion that an atom behaves like a tiny solar system.


Crystal Clean

The chemical reactions that keep sulfur and other pollutants from leaving automobile tailpipes rely on catalysts in the form of microscopic particles dispersed within the large surface area of a porous material.


Corona... Gasp!

In late October 2002, the time that some parts of the world were observing autumn’s explosion of color, the Sun gave a colorful show of its own to solar physicists.


'Hole' Fiber Fights Cancer

A holey fiber may be able to plug the "holes" in the list of laser colors is affordable to most scientists.


Catching Neutrinos

The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Ontario, Canada has been designed to "catch" neutrinos from the sun.


Catch a Quasiperiodic Wave

Quasicrystals are unusual metallic alloys whose atoms are arranged in orderly patterns that are not quite crystalline.


Blinding Light

Light slows down when it enters a medium such as glass or water, and its new speed depends on the material.


All Mixed Up

If you fill a barrel part-way with red beads, add some green beads, and then roll it around the room a bit, will your beads blend?


Transparent Nuclei

A two-quark particle shot into a large nucleus is ordinarily absorbed, as its quarks interact with the nuclear quarks. But in some cases it can sail right through. Now a research team has reported that they have observed this so-called color transparency in the lower energy realm, where such quark-scale effects aren't normally seen. The results—which are somewhat controversial—could help theorists who hope to bring the clean calculations of high energy, particle physics down into the messy world of lower energy nuclear physics.


Goldilocks Proteins

Milky-white cataracts, the world's leading cause of blindness, can occur when proteins in the lens of the eye aggregate, or collect, forming clumps.