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“In his cluttered lab at the University of Toronto, Stephen Morris peers through the viewfinder of a camera pointed into a slot in an insulated plywood box the size of a beer fridge. Jutting wires and hoses connect the box to water tanks, drains, and power sources. Inside, a mixture of water and fluorescent dye dribbles from a hose onto a rotating wooden spike dangling in the chilled interior. Each drop of the liquid gradually freezes, layer upon layer. An object slowly takes shape: a delicate icicle. As the tapering column of ice lengthens and widens, something curious happens: the smooth surface develops ridges and valleys. From stem to tip, the entire icicle grows a new, textured skin.
Morris is a physicist who specializes in geomorphology—the study of why natural objects are shaped the way they are. At fifty-nine years old, he has been searching for an explanation for the ripples on icicles for more than a decade. If he can find an answer, he’ll be adding a small piece to one of the biggest scientific puzzles on the planet: Is there a unifying theory that can account for the structure of all things—animal, vegetable, and mineral?
Some physicists search for a “theory of everything” by smashing subatomic particles together or by imagining the inside of a black hole. Morris chose another path, focusing on “emergent properties”—natural behaviours that could reveal universal principles about how nature develops order and complexity from seeming chaos.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"After five years of war with the Islamic State, the biggest problem for the winners is coping with the losers. The aftermath has produced one of the world’s most perplexing postwar challenges..."
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"...the pendulum of history never stops moving. Indeed, one of the few constants of history is unceasing change. While we seem to be heading in one direction, we must remember that there will surely be pauses, turns, and reversals."
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"One particular myth that attached itself to Ledger was that his death was somehow a result of immersing himself in the character of the Joker."
"In 2018, for the second year in a row, American publishers released fewer translated titles: 609 books were published, down from 650 in 2017 and the industry high in 2016 of 666."
"Egg freezing had become so routine among my single peers that when I hit 35, I never thought twice. Here’s what I wish I had known."
"When it comes to Passover cuisine, most home cooks know to avoid wheat, oats, rye, and other forbidden ingredients. But what consumers might not realize is just how much cotton they eat during the holiday."
"A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see."
"Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jewish people escaping slavery in Egypt. It is often referred to as the “festival of freedom.” My Passover in prison was at a place called the Wallkill Correctional Facility..."