Physicists have been struggling for decades to unify quantum mechanics, which corrals the particle flock, with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which sculpts space and time. They’ve come at it with various approaches, including string theory, but it remains stubbornly intractable. Yet—taking a common tactic that physicists use to break apart complex challenges—what if we simplified the problem?
They’ve now come to a whole new understanding of quantum particles that enormously eases the task. A hypothetical particle, the “graviton,” shapes spacetime, bringing unity to the two theories at last. For a fascinating armchair journey through a different kind of spacetime, check out this issue’s cover story, “Loops, Trees and the Search for New Physics,” by Zvi Bern, Lance J. Dixon and David A. Kosower.
Among earthly concerns, maintaining health ranks high for most of us. Our special report, “Tomorrow’s Medicine,” will give you a view of what’s next. You will learn how nanoparticles could help detect cancer earlier, when it is easiest to eliminate; how smart implantable devices could warn of an imminent heart attack or help manage diabetes; how retinal chips and synthetic photoreceptors could restore sight; and how personalized medicine may finally arrive. As always, we welcome your feedback.
Meet the Scientific American Imprint
It’s been many years, of course, since Scientific American was “just” a magazine (and, for those who don’t know, it is the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S. at that). In addition to the monthly print glossy, you can get regular updates from our staff and bloggers online at www.ScientificAmerican.com on your mobile phone and, soon, in regular tablet apps. But this month I wanted to focus on the newest member of the Scientific American editorial family—a book imprint developed with our sister company Farrar, Straus and Giroux (FSG).
For many months I have been working closely with Amanda Moon of FSG, who is spearheading the effort to find the best, most authoritative voices for the imprint. She has attended our editorial board meetings, visited conferences and otherwise canvassed the research world for authors who can provide the kinds of in-depth, scientifically compelling books that you would expect from Scientific American. “What a Plant Smells,” by Daniel Chamovitz, is the first excerpt in a series that we will run as the books become available; more materials, including blogs by the authors, will appear on our site.
The books join the first imprint title, the acclaimed Journey to the Exoplanets iPad app created by former longtime Scientific American art director Edward Bell and Hugo Award–winning artist Ron Miller. Enjoy!
This article was published in print as "New Physics and Future Medicine."