Essays

Dark horses in the cosmos

How primordial black holes might explain dark matter | Aeon Essays

The Universe began as a strange sort of soup. Large galaxies hadn’t yet formed, and flying particles were hotter than the centres of stars in the Universe today. Of these, tiny particles known as quarks clumped together to form the building blocks of atoms: neutrons, protons and electrons. Later, through a process called cosmic inflation, …

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Imaginary numbers are real

How imaginary numbers describe the fundamental shape of nature | Aeon Essays

Many science students may imagine a ball rolling down a hill or a car skidding because of friction as prototypical examples of the systems physicists care about. But much of modern physics consists of searching for objects and phenomena that are virtually invisible: the tiny electrons of quantum physics and the particles hidden within strange …

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Out of the forest

We are creatures of tropical jungles as much as the savannah | Aeon Essays

In a sweltering tropical rainforest on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, I started to appreciate why archaeologists and anthropologists had long ignored ‘jungles’ in their search for humanity’s origins. The mosquitoes, leeches, harsh terrain and difficult footing were bad enough, but now a summer monsoon downpour was rapidly approaching. As we …

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Connected-up-brains

How the brains of social animals synchronise and expand one another | Aeon Essays

Humans are not the only creatures that show a refined grasp of social norms. If a group of adult male rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) find themselves sitting around a turning table set with food, they will display an ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ ethos of reciprocity. One monkey will offer another one a …

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