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Exploring the Physical World

Science for the Future of the Physical World

From the earth beneath our feet to the stars we wish upon, the physical world around us is still a mystery – and the Weizmann Institute’s curiosity-driven scientists are working to understand it. In a world’s first, our archaeologists discovered a way to precisely identify and analyze prehistoric ashes, and found a highly pure, well-preserved source of DNA in fossilized bone. Our materials scientists and structural biologists found that bone and shell actually form in similar ways. Our astrophysicists actually watched – for the first time – as a massive star, later estimated at a mass of perhaps 200 suns, went supernova and became a black hole. Our hydrologists created a model of groundwater movement that can aid development of sound environmental policy, such as after an oil spill. From learning about the past to shaping the future, the Weizmann Institute of Science is exploring new frontiers to reveal how the world works.

Weizmann by the Numbers

  • Our scientists identified a potentially habitable planet just four light years away 
  • We found that more than 50% of the dust fertilizing the Amazon rainforest comes from one African valley
  • Over 800 simulations revealed that Earth՚s one moon may be made from many smaller moons 

Selected Achievements

Imagine science that writes a new origin story for the moon.

Our astrophysicists developed a new theory of how the moon was formed: after running 800 simulations, they showed that it most likely grew from multiple small impacts that produced “moonlets,” which coalesced over time into our single satellite.

Imagine science that explains the vibrant ecology of the Amazon rainforest.

Using NASA satellites, a Weizmann scientist found that over half of the mineral dust carried by air currents each year from Africa to the Amazon comes from a single small valley in the Sahara. This dust provides the nutrients necessary for the rich biology of the rainforest.

Imagine science that can explain the creation of a black hole.

In a first for astrophysics, a Weizmann scientist and colleagues observed as a star estimated at a mass of 200 suns exploded. The team was ultimately able to confirm that the colossal star turned into a black hole after the largest supernova ever observed.

Imagine science that brings our past to life.

Known as the father of the new field of microarchaeology, Prof. Steve Weiner works at sites like Tel Megiddo to analyze the miniscule remains of ancient plants, ashes, and even soil, revealing unprecedented detail about our ancestors’ daily lives.

Imagine science that witnesses how the universe was formed.

A Weizmann astrophysicist is on an international team that made history by observing the collision of two massive neutron stars. The crash helps reveal how heavy elements such as uranium and gold were formed–and sheds light on our universe’s past.

Imagine science that answers the biggest questions in the universe.

Our scientists were on the history-making team that identified the Higgs boson–the “God particle”–at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the strongest particle accelerator ever built. Institute physicists are leading ongoing LHC projects that examine some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Imagine science that spans the solar system.

A member of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, a Weizmann scientist is mapping the planet’s gravity and studying its weather, and has shown that Jupiter’s colorful bands are actually massive storms. The mission will help reveal how our solar system was formed.

Imagine science that shows what our universe is made of.

Scientists believe that most of the universe is made of dark matter, yet it has never been detected. Part of a global cohort at Italy’s Gran Sasso lab, a Weizmann team is leading investigations at the XENON experiment–the world’s most sensitive search for dark matter–in order to quantify the missing material.