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The design could be adapted to refrigerators and freezers, although a lot of complexities must be mastered just to complete a successful prototype. Controlling how the water flows through the porous wedges is tricky; the disk spins 360 to 600 times per minute. Also, the magnet is made from an expensive neodymiumiron-boron alloy, so making it as small 28 Scientific American, May 2011 © 2011 Scientific American as possible while still providing a strong magnetic field will be a commercial necessity.

The big picture you should have in mind is that galaxy evolution is just a small component of the large-scale evolution of the intergalactic medium. The baryonic universe is predominately gaseous, not galactic. The intergalactic medium is a battleground of forces, and amid this maelstrom, galaxies form. Galaxies are just one processing stage in a cycle that is continuously shifting baryons from one phase to the next, and at any one time, most of the baryons in the universe are not inside galaxies.

Baez and John Huerta A s children, we all learn about numbers. We start with counting, followed by addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. But mathematicians know that the number system we study in school is but one of many possibilities. Other kinds of numbers are important for understanding ge- ometry and physics. Among the strangest alternatives is the octonions. Largely neglected since their discovery in 1843, in the past few decades they have assumed a curious importance in string theory.

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[Magazine] Scientific American. Vol. 304. No 5

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