Physical Science

Physical science is the study of the physical world around you. Learn about everything from electricity to magnetism in this section.

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Mathematics achieves the sublime. Sometimes, as with tessellations, it rises to art. In their simplest form, tessellations consist of a single shape that repeats over a two-dimensional plane without any gaps. Why was M.C. Escher so fixated on them?

By Nicholas Gerbis

Fractals have been around forever but were only defined in the last quarter of the 20th century. Think you can wrap your brain around how fractals work?

By Craig Haggit & Yara Simón

A world without math is unimaginable. It's a part of who we are. It's the analytical juice of our left brain. In the words of physicist Richard Feynman, even a fool can use it. So why do so many of us turn our backs on numbers?

By Robert Lamb

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We're all exposed to tiny levels of radiation, but a blast of it can leave you in agony — that is, if it doesn't kill you outright. What is it, what causes it and how can we treat it?

By Ed Grabianowski

For many of us, a number is just a number, a bit of information that tells you, say, what time it is. But mathematicians look at that same number and divine relationships that underlie nature itself. Ready to enter the trippy world of number theory?

By Robert Lamb

Kaleidoscopes have been fascinating people since the early 19th century. Whether you think of kaleidoscopes as toys or as works of art, no matter how often you look inside, you'll never see the same thing twice.

By Melanie F. F. Gibbs

Who wants to reduce our complicated universe down to its simplest building blocks? A bunch of particle physicists, that's who. Why is the Higgs boson critical to that goal?

By Jonathan Atteberry & Sascha Bos

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That's one seriously big number, and technically Amedeo Avogadro didn't even come up with it. So how did the Italian chemist make such an indelible (numerical) mark on the wonderful world of chemistry?

By Jonathan Atteberry

Thanks to our voracious appetite for energy, the element long linked with nuclear weapons is taking on a new role. Where does the hunt begin for uranium?

By Marianne Spoon

Light travels pretty rapidly, but when it comes to faraway galaxies, that light takes a while to reach our telescopes. In fact, the light you see might actually be from billions of years ago.

By Kate Kershner

In 1999, Hisashi Ouchi, a Japanese nuclear fuel plant worker was exposed to critical levels of radiation. He suffered the worst radiation burns in history. He lived for 83 agonizing days afterward as his body all but disintegrated.

By Patrick J. Kiger

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It's an odorless gas that's present in a variety of home products, cosmetics, car exhaust and even humans. But is it bad for us?

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Two mathematicians have solved a decades-old math problem by harnessing the power of a virtual supercomputer.

By Patrick J. Kiger

Protons and neutrons, the particles that form the nuclei of atoms, are themselves made up of even smaller particles known as quarks.

By Patrick J. Kiger

The Pythagorean theorem, which explains how to calculate the longest side of a right-angled triangle, is an ancient mathematical statement that still buttresses modern-day construction, aviation and even how we navigate through traffic.

By Patrick J. Kiger

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Bismuth is a naturally occurring element with many applications in our daily lives, but even more than that, it looks amazing when it cools!

By Jesslyn Shields

Denatured alcohol is useful for lots of things, but drinking definitely isn't one of them.

By Jesslyn Shields

Diatomic elements are molecules composed of only two atoms, every time, always. There are only seven of them on the entire periodic table.

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

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How do you calculate absurdly high numbers without writing them out in numerals? You use scientific notation. We'll give you examples and show you how.

By Mark Mancini & Yara Simón

Electrons are attracted to some atoms more than others. If two atoms are of equal strength, the electrons will be equally shared. If one atom is stronger, the electrons will be pulled in that atom's direction.

By Jesslyn Shields

The two different types of alcohol are commonly used in hand sanitizer today. But does one work better than the other?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

A dodecahedron has 12 flat faces, all shaped like pentagons. Here are 12 cool things you just may not know about them.

By Mark Mancini

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Corresponding angles are what you get when two parallel lines are crossed by a third line, creating angles that have the same relative position at each intersection. They're easy to find once you know what to look for.

By Nathan Chandler & Austin Henderson

Boyle's Law describes the relationship between pressure and the volume of a container with gas in it. As the volume of the container decreases, the pressure inside the container increases.

By Jesslyn Shields