Symmetry features

How do the questions Galileo faced in the 17th century relate to those posed in our own era? What is our place in this vast realm of existence? How will spacetime come to an end?Symmetry writer Mike Perricone’s favorite physics books of 2020 cover an impressive span of time: from the very beginning of our universe until the very end.

Next week, scientists with connections to U.S. particle physics will make their morning coffee, boot up their computers and log in to a virtual community planning meeting with over 1,500 colleagues. The four-day gathering will set the stage for a process known as Snowmass, during which scientists will develop a collective vision for the next decade of U.S. particle physics research. The Snowmass process seeks to identify the most promising questions to explore in future research.

Handedness — and the related concept of chirality — are double-sided ways of understanding how matter breaks symmetries. Different-handed object pairs reveal some puzzling asymmetries in the way our universe works.

Particle physics is driven by surprise. Researchers in the 1960s studying tiny but ubiquitous particles called neutrinos found only a fraction of what they expected to be in their detector. That unexpected result eventually led to the discovery that neutrinos are shape-shifters, oscillating between three types as they travel. In this stop-motion video, Symmetry writer Zack Savitsky imagines a painter discovering a similar surprise among his art supplies.

Scientists know the Higgs boson interacts with extremely massive particles. Now, they’re starting to study how it interacts with lighter particles as well.