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Extremes are often the best place to look for new physics

High-pressure science can produce surprises—as demonstrated by two recent discoveries

By Philip Ball  

The first ever "diamond anvil cell," displayed here in the NIST museum of Gaithersburg ©Gasper J. Piermarini, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Normality is notoriously subjective, but from a cosmic perspective it looks nothing like our own experience. Most of the observable matter in our universe is either much more tenuous or dense than our surroundings, and much colder or hotter. This leaves us more parochial in our preconceptions than the most insular of Little Englanders (however difficult that might be to imagine).

The past several weeks have…

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