Planet earth with fault lines and tectonic plates, computer artwork. (Getty Images)

On November 30, thousands of people on the East Coast got a surprising afternoon jolt when a 4.1 earthquake struck Dover, Delaware. People reported feeling the quake as far north as Connecticut and as far south as Virginia. It was a rare occurrence on that side of the U.S., and it sent the hashtag #earthquake trending for a few hours. But if a couple of geophysicists in Colorado and Montana are correct, we might be talking about #earthquakes a lot more in 2018.

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NASA.

Physicists are facing a matter/antimatter conundrum: they can’t find a good reason to explain why the universe actually exists.

It sounds like a classic episode of classic Star Trek when someone inexplicably shuts down the warp engines, some imminent threat looms, and — right on cue — Scotty says: “Captain, I canna’ change the laws of physics.”

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[DIGEST: IFL Science!, Daily Mail, Discover Magazine, HowStuffWorks]

For any child — or adult — who’s ever wanted to “dig a hole all the way to China,” we have some bad news.

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Humans have always been fascinated by time travel. Physicists have been trying to prove time travel possible for years, if only theoretically. Now, physicist Ben Tippett of the University of British Columbia, Canada, and astrophysicist David Tsang of the University of Maryland have come up with a model for a time machine that Tippett says is “mathematically possible.” They’ve nicknamed the model a Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Space-time, or TARDIS, as a nod to the time-traveling sci-fi hero, Dr. Who. The results are published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

In order to understand how such a machine would work, here’s a brief refresher on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Einstein posited that the three spatial dimensions we are most familiar with—left-right, up-down and forward-backward—cannot be separated from the fourth dimension of time. In essence, they comprise a four-dimensional surface, “across which the stars and planets and all the rest of the matter in the universe tumble,” write Tippet and Tsang in a paper titled “The Blue Box White Paper,” when they first started contemplating their time machine. In addition, another key law of physics, known as Classical Energy Conditions requires two conditions: matter must be gravitationally attractive, and can never move faster than the speed of light. Any matter that defies either of those criteria is considered “exotic” or “unphysical.” So far, no such exotic matter has ever been discovered, but more on that later. In our understanding of the universe through Einstein’s theory, the planets and stars might appear to move through space in straight lines; however, when they come close to each other, space-time curves, bending the trajectories of these nearby planets and stars into ellipses.

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[DIGEST: The Guardian, Technology Review, Wired, New Scientist, Autoworld, Phys.org, ScienceAlert, Independent]

While some people dream about the next iPhone, others dream bigger — much bigger. The first open-source blueprint for a practical quantum computer is now available. Of course, practical is relative: The plans could be used to build a quantum computer that is roughly the size of a soccer field.

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[DIGEST: Futurism, Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, OZY]

Harvard University believes the world’s next Einstein is among us — and she’s a millennial.

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[DIGEST: ScienceAlert, New Scientist, Forbes]

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have just created the coldest piece of machinery on record, bringing it to a temperature lower than previously thought possible. The results of this supercooling study were published in the January 2017 edition of Nature.

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