Physics in Pictures by Topic

Material Science

Finding the best way to pack objects into a container of a certain shape is harder than you might think.

Polyhedral Peg, Round Hole

Finding the best way to pack objects into a container of a certain shape is harder than you might think.

The non-Newtonian properties of liquid soap and shampoo fluid let them

Bouncing a Stream: The Kaye Effect

The non-Newtonian properties of liquid soap and shampoo fluid let them "bounce" as a stream. Try it at home!

A unique blend of nanoscale structures might let us create frost-proof surfaces

Nanostructures Promise Iceproof Surfaces

A unique blend of nanoscale structures might let us create frost-proof surfaces

Belousov-Zhabotinsky (or BZ) patterns arise when molecules repeatedly gain and lose electrons in waves.

Color Charge: BZ Patterns

Belousov-Zhabotinsky (or BZ) patterns arise when molecules repeatedly gain and lose electrons in waves.

Learn about plastics and polymers with the newest page from our upcoming all-ages coloring book!

Color Charge: Plastics, Polymers, and Voronoi Diagrams

Learn about plastics and polymers with the newest page from our upcoming all-ages coloring book!

The winners of this year's

Making Art from Materials Science

Check out the winners of the Materials Research Society's 2016 "Science as Art" competition!

There's something amiss about this prismatic rainbow—can you spot it?


There's something amiss about this prismatic rainbow—can you spot it?

Electron beam-induced etching (EBIE) conquers nature's hardest surface with ease.

Diamonds are for Etching

Electron beam-induced etching (EBIE) conquers nature's hardest surface with ease.

Alternating vortices spawn over an island on the ocean.

Vortex Streets

Clouds form enormous eddies over the Juan Fernandez islands.

A layer of meltwater keeps ice moving through fluid with minimal turbulence

Ice Slips Through Water

A layer of meltwater keeps ice moving through fluid with minimal turbulence.

Low-pressure helium gas glows an eerie, soft pink color

Metastable Helium

Low-pressure helium gas glows an eerie, soft pink.


Watching Paint Dry

Microscopic patterns form with surprising regularity as colloids dry.


American Cells

Epithelial cells grown in the shape of the United States


Optimal Biological Branching

Veins in leaves and animals may branch this way for optimal transport


Vortex Electron Beam

A twist on electron beams may make them shoot more accurately


Topological Insulator

A close-up of a promising material you may find in future electronics


Comic-Con 2013 Swag

We handed out tons of physics gear at this year's Comic-Con


Metallic Flow

Solids can flow like fluids, given the right circumstances


Mysteries of the Glass Transition

Why do certain liquids transition into glass? There's no easy answer.


Palladium Films Up Close

A colorful mosaic of nano-scale grains on a super thin film

More Efficient LEDs

More Efficient LEDs

Nitride alloys expand the applications of energy-saving LEDs.

Nitrogen Tracers in Graphene

Nitrogen Tracers in Graphene

Altering graphene's electronic properties with Nitrogen tracers.

superconductor secrets

New Phase of Matter in Superconductor

High temperature superconductor spills secrets: a new phase of matter.


Devil’s Nano Postpile

Nanotubes mimic the Devil’s Postpile National Monument in eastern California.

Scanning electron micrograph of iron-titanium nanowires.

Nanowire Hay Bales

Scanning electron micrograph of iron-titanium nanowires

soap memory

Soap Memory

A soap bubble trapped in a colorful configuration.


Liquid Art

These images captured the moment streams of liquid collide, bending the streams and forming beautiful images.


Aerogel: Fighting Fires

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.


Nano-Tagging Plants

Nanoparticles are being used as biological markers


Striped Superconductors

This psychedelic image is a graphical summary of a theory describing striped superconductors.

Tiny Antennas

Tiny Antennas

These antennas could be used in devices that use light in place of the electrical signals.

Molecular Transistor

Molecular Transistor

Physicists have made what they believe to be the first true single molecule transistor.


Bundle of Tiny Carbon Nanotubes

Crystal-like carbon nanotubes could serve as wiring for future computers.

hollowa toms

Hollow Atoms

Physicists have removed the inner electrons from neon with a high energy X-ray laser, leaving behind a hollow atom shell.

graphene quilt

Graphene Quilt

This quilt won't just keep you warm; it can teach you about the four electronic states central to understanding the properties of graphene.


Physics of Goo

Next time you put syrup on your pancakes remember that there is physics behind how the syrup flows.

entangling qubits

Entangling Qubits

This small grey crystal of silicon inside a glass test tube contains 10 billion pairs of entangled spin qubits


Sea Urchin Teeth

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.


Mussel Mucus

Mussels generate their own self healing sticky material and now scientists are able to make a synthetic version in the lab.

atomic transistors

Atomic Transistors

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.


Nano Sized Light Switch

Imagine having a switch the size of a molecule. It could control a tiny electric circuit built from single atoms and molecules.


Snowflake 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.


Smoke Rings in Water

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.


The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics is…

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.


Perfect Spheres to Test Einstein

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?


Laser-Plasma Creates Electro-Optic Shocks

High power laser pulses create shock-waves and bubbles in plasma.


Magnetic Properties of Thin Films

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.



When you dry your hands after washing them they don’t typically warp and wrinkle. That’s not the same with paper.


MHDPD-Magneto Hydro Dynamic Propulsion Device: The Experiment/ The Attenuation

Red and green dye reveals the turbulent fluid flows from the magneto hydro dynamic propulsion device.


Cornstarch Dimples

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.


Cracking Up

If you dropped a wineglass, you'd expect it to shatter, not skitter across the floor like a silver goblet.


Bouncing Jets

Oil is slick but did you know it can also bounce?


My Cup Runneth Down

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.


Steady Drip of Progress

It flows in rivulets, puddles in depressions, falls from the sky; you can even buy it at Costco--three-dimensional, "bulk" water is everywhere.


A 'Soapy' Solution

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.


Crystal Clear

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).


Radioactive Hotdog?

A spark flying between a metal doorknob and your hand is an intricate chain of electrical events.


Polymers to Polyhedrons

Nanoparticles covered in stringy polymers might someday form the building blocks for drug delivery systems or disease assays.


A New Twist

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.


Nanotube Nests

Researchers have assembled carbon nanotubes into arrays of loops, lassos, and hooks.


Molecular Motion

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.


The Little Chill

Some lasers can burn through solids, but others, shined on the right materials, have a chilling effect.


In Synch

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.


Trilobite Molecules

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.


Underwater Desert

Windblown dunes can engulf houses, roads, and airfields, but researchers have had a hard time studying them under controlled conditions.


Veins of Gold

Researchers dream of building crystals from the ground up to achieve tight control of their periodic structure.


Flapping Flags

The symbolic beauty of a flag flying high in the wind is simple to understand.


Ingenious Algae

Many of the oceans' algae have evolved natural "sunscreens" as protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays.


The Whole Picture

Biologists dream of a point-and-shoot camera that can reveal details smaller than a wavelength of light in living cells.


Good Vibrations

Born of the marriage of two cutting edge techniques, a new method can image bundles of DNA strands by sensing vibrations within the molecules.


Crystal Cannibals

The crystallization process that turns a liquid to a solid is brutally competitive, according to an analysis of experiments performed on the Space Shuttle.


Cold Molecules

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.


Cold Atoms

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.


Crystal Clean

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.


'Hole' Fiber Fights Cancer

A holey fiber may be able to plug the "holes" in the list of laser colors is affordable to most scientists.


Catch a Quasiperiodic Wave

Quasicrystals are unusual metallic alloys whose atoms are arranged in orderly patterns that are not quite crystalline.


Blinding Light

Light slows down when it enters a medium such as glass or water, and its new speed depends on the material.


Goldilocks Proteins

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.