View All Physics in Pictures
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.
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!
We're thrilled to release the first page from our new all-ages coloring book project, Color Charge!
Check out the winners of the Materials Research Society's 2016 "Science as Art" competition!
Dispersion through a glass splits light into its component colors.
There's something amiss about this prismatic rainbow—can you spot it?
How can something be too big to cast a shadow?
Electron beam-induced etching (EBIE) conquers nature's hardest surface with ease.
The dewy strands of a spiderweb can form a natural diffraction grating
The "Eye" in the Sky
Plasma arcs from the surface of the sun, guided back down by powerful magnetic field lines.
The bizarre brilliance of bismuth
Schlieren flow visualization reveals the structure of a sonic boom
Clouds form enormous eddies over the Juan Fernandez islands.
A layer of meltwater keeps ice moving through fluid with minimal turbulence.
Low-pressure helium gas glows an eerie, soft pink.
Microscopic patterns form with surprising regularity as colloids dry.
The Tyndall Effect is responsible for the strange optical properties of this physics toy.
Why do ice cubes sometimes have points on their surfaces?
Dew on a spiderweb's strands splits sunlight into a prismatic rainbow of colors.
A close look at the dangers of space dust.
Simulations help bring the mysterious, invisible matter to light.
Can magnetic anomalies on the moon protect future explorers?
Epithelial cells grown in the shape of the United States
Future quantum cryptography could be foiled by a laser attack
A modern-day take on the classic double-slit experiment
Cobalt-60 a medical radiation source, was recently stolen in Mexico
Comparing Earth vs. Mars in this NASA-created infographic
Tiny filament "flags" leave beautiful fluid wakes
The Perseus Cluster of galaxies forms a spooky, skull-like x-ray image
Veins in leaves and animals may branch this way for optimal transport
Juno recently sling-shotted around Earth on its way to Jupiter
A twist on electron beams may make them shoot more accurately
NASA's LADEE mission will study the lunar atmosphere and moon dust
A close-up of a promising material you may find in future electronics
We handed out tons of physics gear at this year's Comic-Con
The ringed planet and its famous moon
Solids can flow like fluids, given the right circumstances
A supermoon sneaks behind the Washington Monument
Using magnets, scientists re-create a space environment
Easily visible from space, this huge structure still puzzles scientists
Why do certain liquids transition into glass? There's no easy answer.
The number of cracks in glass reveal the strength of projectile impacts
How do people lie on a bed of nails without leaving a mark?
A water drop magnifies a view of Paris, shedding new light on the city
Fluorescent proteins can help scientists detect cancer behavior in mice.
See the Curiosity rover's parachute flapping in the wind on Mars
Nascent stars and gigantic dust pillars collide
A colorful mosaic of nano-scale grains on a super thin film
A Twitter analysis reveals New York's ethnic neighborhoods
Pluto's known family of moons may have just increased
These marbles glow neon under blacklight, but they're safe
One of the Dark Energy Camera's first images
A glimpse at the SpaceX spacecraft before a mission
The Cassini spacecraft captured this beautiful image of Saturn
A glimpse into plasma physics and fusion research at MIT
Take a closer look at chocolatey treats
On its way to Pluto, New Horizons caught a glimpse of Jupiter's smaller blemish
Special x-rays give detailed images of small biological samples
Curiosity snaps some nighttime pictures from the red planet
A tiny crystal structure mimics a neon caterpillar
Simulation of ocean currents reveals cyclone dynamics
A detector once searched for exotic physics 6,800 feet underground
Learn about the Earth's farthest point from the sun with a lesson in eccentricity
The physics behind the iconic celebration
In 2010, a lunar eclipse coincided with the winter solstice
Ultrasound energizes gas bubbles, causing intense pressure and heat
Satellites uncovered ancient Mayan ruins with remote sensing
What happens when two gold ions collide
Vibrating water reveals beautiful shapes
Canyon-like structures form lenses used for a high-intensity light source.
Massive dust pillars surround a cathedral of bright stars
Inside the National Ignition Center — home to extremely energetic lasers
An artistically adapted image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory reveals the sun in a new light
This image reveals the intricate wake structure left behind two cylinders rotating in a fluid.
The National Optical Astronomy Observatory snapped this photo of the haunting SH2 136 Nebula.
An image of our nearest star system neighbor, Alpha Centauri, taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.
One artist has captured the beauty of the LHC's particle detectors in a new form: quilts.
Simulations reveal a striking battle between two forces when lighter fluids flow above heavier ones.
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.
A time lapse image of a dyed water droplet falling into electrically-charged oil and water.
An atomic force microscopy (AFM) scan reveals several hundred tobacco mosaic virus particles.
The retired Space Shuttle Endeavour stopped in Houston, Texas before heading to Los Angeles for permanent display.
The Dream Chaser spacecraft performs a test flight over Boulder, Colorado's flatiron rock formations.
A 570-megapixel camera attached to a telescope will help scientists uncover the mysteries of dark energy.
Before landing on Mars' surface, the Curiosity Rover images its parachute's crash site.
Mixing different beads delineates coherent structures, providing insight into how grains mix.
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.
When researchers tried packing billiard-ball-like spheres in a number of ways, the most chaotic ones were consistently the most symmetrical.
Researchers hope to combine high quality optics and mechanical systems integrated into an extremely compact package.
Nitride alloys expand the applications of energy-saving LEDs.
Molecular diffusion and chemical reactions can result in a chemical wave front.
Altering graphene's electronic properties with Nitrogen tracers.
Experimental evidence suggests that the human genome may bundle into these unknotted fractal globules.
Pressing liquids as flat as possible yields unique designs.
A scanning electron microscope image of superconducting nanowires.
A schematic of a blind quantum computer that could protect user's privacy.
High temperature superconductor spills secrets: a new phase of matter.
Nanotubes mimic the Devil’s Postpile National Monument in eastern California.
Ever wonder how streams form? Physicists are using models to better understand the branching of streams.
Scanning electron micrograph of iron-titanium nanowires
A snapshot of magnetic flux at super cold temperatures.
A soap bubble trapped in a colorful configuration.
Glass artwork demonstrates a rugged energy landscape.
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-class flare erupting from the sun
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
High on a mountaintop in Hawaii, scientists search the sky.
These images captured the moment streams of liquid collide, bending the streams and forming beautiful images.
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.
What causes the orange hue in a sunset? Why is the sky blue? Rayleigh scattering can explains these natural wonders, leaving onlookers amazed.
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.
A thirty foot model of a buckyball is suspended in the tree tops, taking physics and making art.
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, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake, Eielson Air Force Base. Find out about the physics behind this phenomenon.
Nanoparticles are being used as biological markers
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.
This psychedelic image is a graphical summary of a theory describing striped superconductors.
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.
These antennas could be used in devices that use light in place of the electrical signals.
Physicists have made what they believe to be the first true single molecule transistor.
An ion trap allows physicists to capture atoms and hold them in crystal–like configurations in free space.
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.
In 1959 the Aharonov-Bohm effect took its place as a legitimate demonstration of unexpected physics in the quantum world.
Scientists model the scenario in which Earth's magnetic field switches poles.
Crystal-like carbon nanotubes could serve as wiring for future computers.
Spin ice is like magnetic ice and physicists have made analogies of magnetic monopoles in spin ice.
Physicists have removed the inner electrons from neon with a high energy X-ray laser, leaving behind a hollow atom shell.
This quilt won't just keep you warm; it can teach you about the four electronic states central to understanding the properties of graphene.
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?
Next time you put syrup on your pancakes remember that there is physics behind how the syrup flows.
What do brains and bread have in common? Physicists looking for patterns explain.
What might look like the top and bottom of a limestone cave, may actually revolutionize the world of tiny electronics.
Superconducting coil for future energy colliders
This small grey crystal of silicon inside a glass test tube contains 10 billion pairs of entangled spin qubits
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.
Mussels generate their own self healing sticky material and now scientists are able to make a synthetic version in the lab.
This computer chip includes four superconducting qubits that make up a version of a computer microprocessor.
The world’s first superconducting magnet, consisting of a wire coil made of lead, was manufactured in the Leiden Physics Laboratory in 1912.
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.
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.
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.
Imagine having a switch the size of a molecule. It could control a tiny electric circuit built from single atoms and molecules.
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.
What looks like a unique airplane was actually the first helicopter to make a controlled flight.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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(www.laserfest.org), celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser. In this picture, Laserfest says thank you and goodbye in Times Square
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.
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.
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.
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.
James Roche explains how LiDar and the squealing wall work at the Laser Haunted House at the 2010 USA Science and Engineering Festival.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Ghost of discharged capacitor found haunting a glass of water! What could be more scary than that? Try a hot ball of electric plasma.
High power laser pulses create shock-waves and bubbles in plasma.
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?
This crown is formed by the splash and droplets of a 2 mm drop of red dye impacting on a thin layer of milk.
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.
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.
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.
Astrophysicists are able to "explode a star" in a virtual computational laboratory by applying physics to calculate the mechanism and progression of the explosion.
Red and green dye reveals the turbulent fluid flows from the magneto hydro dynamic propulsion device.
This train has endured space and time to teach physics to those wandering through the Bolivian desert.
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.
Oil is slick but did you know it can also bounce?
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.
If you dropped a wineglass, you'd expect it to shatter, not skitter across the floor like a silver goblet.
There's no avoiding the tragic end of a large star's life; it dies in a catastrophic explosion called a supernova.
It flows in rivulets, puddles in depressions, falls from the sky; you can even buy it at Costco--three-dimensional, "bulk" water is everywhere.
Like traffic cops with radar guns, physicists can now gauge the speed of electrons in a current.
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.
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.
Sparks branch for the same reason that coral reefs and snowflakes do, according to new computer simulations.
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).
A team of researchers has announced a new technique that allows light to be focused to a smaller spot than ever before.
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.
Somewhere between a light bulb and a laser is an unusual and sometimes puzzling type of light source called a random laser.
A spark flying between a metal doorknob and your hand is an intricate chain of electrical events.
On September 21, 2003 the spacecraft Galileo ended a 14-year mission exploring Jupiter and its four largest moons.
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.
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.
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.
Nanoparticles covered in stringy polymers might someday form the building blocks for drug delivery systems or disease assays.
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.
Researchers have assembled carbon nanotubes into arrays of loops, lassos, and hooks.
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.
Researchers continue to push rival interpretations of a vexing problem in mesoscopic physics, the size scale where quantum and classical worlds co-exist.
Some lasers can burn through solids, but others, shined on the right materials, have a chilling effect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quantum communication schemes using light normally rely on the two types of photon polarization to encode information a bit at a time.
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.
If you want to keep a horse confined, put it in a corral. Now, it appears the same thing can be done with light.
Windblown dunes can engulf houses, roads, and airfields, but researchers have had a hard time studying them under controlled conditions.
Researchers dream of building crystals from the ground up to achieve tight control of their periodic structure.
Objects in nucleus may be smaller than they appear. At least, that's what current research suggests.
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.
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind.
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.
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.
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute today unveiled the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever achieved by humankind.
Puny tremors may be the real movers and shakers of the seismic world.
Many of the oceans' algae have evolved natural "sunscreens" as protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Biologists dream of a point-and-shoot camera that can reveal details smaller than a wavelength of light in living cells.
According to recent research, cosmic rays may be enlarging the hole in the ozone layer.
Born of the marriage of two cutting edge techniques, a new method can image bundles of DNA strands by sensing vibrations within the molecules.
The simplest nucleus in nature is that of the hydrogen isotope, deuterium.
When the faucet drips, most people call the plumber or get out their tools, but some physicists are content to study the phenomenon instead.
The crystallization process that turns a liquid to a solid is brutally competitive, according to an analysis of experiments performed on the Space Shuttle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A holey fiber may be able to plug the "holes" in the list of laser colors is affordable to most scientists.
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Ontario, Canada has been designed to "catch" neutrinos from the sun.
Quasicrystals are unusual metallic alloys whose atoms are arranged in orderly patterns that are not quite crystalline.
Light slows down when it enters a medium such as glass or water, and its new speed depends on the material.
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?
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.
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.