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Nigel Goldenfeld

Chancellor, Provost offer reflections on 1 million COVID-19 tests

December 15, 2020

It sometimes seems a million doesn’t command quite the same attention that it used to. It isn’t mathematically special. And in today’s society, it isn’t even unusually large. We now live in a world where the population is measured in billions, economies are scaled in trillions and computer calculations are counted by the quadrillion.

But it takes on a very special significance when you’re talking about looking after the well-being of your community in the middle of a globally devastating pandemic.


December 15, 2020


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Unexpected similarity between honey bee and human social life

December 1, 2020

Bees and humans are about as different organisms as one can imagine. Yet despite their many differences, surprising similarities in the ways that they interact socially have begun to be recognized in the last few years. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, building on their earlier studies, have experimentally measured the social networks of honey bees and how they develop over time.


December 1, 2020


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Pattern analysis of phylogenetic trees could reveal connections between evolution, ecology

June 26, 2020

In biology, phylogenetic trees represent the evolutionary history and diversification of species – the “family tree” of Life. Phylogenetic trees not only describe the evolution of a group of organisms but can also be constructed from the organisms within a particular environment or ecosystem, such as the human microbiome. In this way, they can describe how this ecosystem evolved and what its functional capabilities might be.


June 26, 2020


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Goldenfeld co-leads initiative tackling 'last great problem of classical physics'

October 11, 2019

The rich complexity of turbulence—with its wide range of length and time scales—poses a major challenge to the development of predictive models based on fluid dynamics. Now, four leading physicists will co-lead an international effort to develop a statistical theory of turbulence. If successful, a statistical theory of turbulence would have broad applications, including in aeronautics, geophysics and astrophysics, medicine, and in the efficient transport of fluids through pipelines.


October 11, 2019


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Unraveling the stripe order mystery

August 20, 2019

One of the greatest mysteries in condensed matter physics is the exact relationship between charge order and superconductivity in cuprate superconductors. In superconductors, electrons move freely through the material—there is zero resistance when it’s cooled below its critical temperature. However, the cuprates simultaneously exhibit superconductivity and charge order in patterns of alternating stripes. This is paradoxical in that charge order describes areas of confined electrons. How can superconductivity and charge order coexist?  


August 20, 2019


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Jumping genes shed light on how advanced life may have emerged

November 19, 2018

A previously unappreciated interaction in the genome turns out to have possibly been one of the driving forces in the emergence of advanced life, billions of years ago.

This discovery began with a curiosity for retrotransposons, known as “jumping genes,” which are DNA sequences that copy and paste themselves within the genome, multiplying rapidly. Nearly half of the human genome is made up of retrotransposons, but bacteria hardly have them at all.


November 19, 2018


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Researchers engineer bacteria to exhibit stochastic Turing patterns

June 27, 2018

How did the zebra get its stripes, or the leopard its spots? Mankind has been trying to answer such questions since our earliest recorded days, and they resonate throughout the extant mythologies and folklores of an earlier world. In modern times, we've looked to mathematical models and most recently to genomic science to uncover the explanation of how patterns form in living tissues, but a full answer has proven particularly hard to get at.


June 27, 2018


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Reach out and feed someone: Automated system finds rapid honey bee networks

January 29, 2018

“Only connect”—E. M. Forster’s pithy quotation captures an essential feature of any society, human or animal: the patterns of interactions among individuals out of which collective behaviors arise. By developing a system that allows automated, in-depth monitoring of the social interactions of honey bees, researchers have now uncovered an unexpected property of the bee social network that may someday help us design more effective human and machine communication systems.


January 29, 2018


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