Innovations In |

The biggest questions in science

In recent centuries we have learned so much about the worlds around and within us that it may sometimes seem that no nook is left unexplored. The truth is, though, that every new discovery leads us to ever deeper questions. Innovations In: The Biggest Questions in Science is a special report on the state of inquiry into these questions—the latest research on the nature of spacetime, the identity of dark matter, the origins of life, the source of consciousness, and more.

This special report from Nature and Scientific American is editorially independent. It is produced with third-party financial support. About this content.

Features and comment

Physicists believe that at the tiniest scales, space emerges from quanta. What might these building blocks look like?

Innovations In | | Nature

An elusive substance that permeates the universe exerts many detectable gravitational influences yet eludes direct detection.

Innovations In | | Nature

Scientists are beginning to unravel a mystery that has long vexed philosophers.

Innovations In | | Nature

Untangling the origins of organisms will require experiments at the tiniest scales and observations at the vastest.

Innovations In | | Nature

The reach of the scientific method is constrained by the limitations of our tools and the intrinsic impenetrability of some of nature’s deepest questions.

Innovations In | | Nature

More from Nature Research

Current mineral-based theories do not fully address how enzymes emerged from prebiotic catalysts. Now, iron–sulfur clusters can be synthesized by UV-light-mediated photolysis of organic thiols and photooxidation of ferrous ions. Iron–sulfur peptides may have formed easily on early Earth, facilitating the emergence of iron–sulfur-cluster-dependent metabolism.

Article | | Nature Chemistry

Several brain regions and physiological processes have been proposed to constitute the neural correlates of consciousness. In this Review, Koch and colleagues discuss studies that distinguish the neural correlates of consciousness from other neural processes that precede, accompany or follow it, and suggest that the neural correlates of consciousness are localized to posterior cortical regions.

Review Article | | Nature Reviews Neuroscience

An experiment to estimate when stars began to form in the Universe suggests that gas temperatures just before stars appeared had fallen well below predicted limits, and that dark matter is not as shadowy as was thought.

News & Views | | Nature

Topology and collective phenomena give quantum materials emergent functions that provide a platform for developing next-generation quantum technologies, as surveyed in this Review.

Review Article | | Nature Physics

This Review surveys the electronic properties of quantum materials through the prism of the electron wavefunction, and examines how its entanglement and topology give rise to a rich variety of quantum states and phases.

Review Article | | Nature Physics

Interfacing spin quantum memories with photons requires the controlled creation of defect centre—nanocavity systems. Here the authors demonstrate direct, maskless creation of single silicon vacancy centres in diamond nanostructures, and report linewidths comparable to naturally occurring centres

Article | open | | Nature Communications

Quantum communications will be used to transmit entanglement and secure keys, but it is important to estimate their optimal transfer rates. Here the authors compute the fundamental limit of repeaterless quantum communications for the most relevant practical scenario.

Article | open | | Nature Communications