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The first room-temperature superconductor has finally been found

It’s here: Scientists have reported the discovery of the first room-temperature superconductor, after more than a century of waiting.

The discovery evokes daydreams of futuristic technologies that could reshape electronics and transportation. Superconductors transmit electricity without resistance, allowing current to flow without any energy loss. But all superconductors previously discovered must be cooled, many of them to very low temperatures, making them impractical for most uses.

Now, scientists have found the first superconductor that operates at room temperature — at least given a fairly chilly room. The material is superconducting below temperatures of about 15° Celsius (59° Fahrenheit), physicist Ranga Dias of the University of Rochester in New York and colleagues report October 14 in Nature.

The team’s results “are nothing short of beautiful,” says materials chemist Russell Hemley of the University of Illinois Chicago, who was not involved with the research.

However, the new material’s superconducting superpowers appear only at extremely high pressures, limiting its practical usefulness.

Dias and colleagues formed the superconductor by squeezing carbon, hydrogen and sulfur between the tips of two diamonds and hitting the material with laser light to induce chemical reactions. At a pressure about 2.6 million times that of Earth’s atmosphere, and temperatures below about 15° C, the electrical resistance vanished.

That alone wasn’t enough to convince Dias. “I didn’t believe it the first time,” he says. So the team studied additional samples of the material and investigated its magnetic properties.

Superconductors and magnetic fields are known to clash — strong magnetic fields inhibit superconductivity. Sure enough, when the material was placed in a magnetic field, lower temperatures were needed to make it superconducting. The team also applied an oscillating magnetic field to the material, and showed that, when the material became a superconductor, it expelled that magnetic field from its interior, another sign of superconductivity.

The scientists were not able to determine the exact composition of the material or how its atoms are arranged, making it difficult to explain how it can be superconducting at such relatively high temperatures. Future work will focus on describing the material more completely, Dias says.

When superconductivity was discovered in 1911, it was found only at temperatures close to absolute zero (−273.15° C). But since then, researchers have steadily uncovered materials that superconduct at higher temperatures. In recent years, scientists have accelerated that progress by focusing on hydrogen-rich materials at high pressure.

In 2015, physicist Mikhail Eremets of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, and colleagues squeezed hydrogen and sulfur to create a superconductor at temperatures up to −70° C (SN: 12/15/15). A few years later, two groups, one led by Eremets and another involving Hemley and physicist Maddury Somayazulu, studied a high-pressure compound of lanthanum and hydrogen. The two teams found evidence of superconductivity at even higher temperatures of −23° C and −13° C, respectively, and in some

After a six month hiatus, Boston College men’s basketball is finally returning to the court

The Boston College’s men’s basketball team will return to the court on Wednesday after six months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coach Jim Christian said the hiatus solidified how important it is to live in the moment.



Jim Christian standing in front of a crowd: BC men's basketball coach Jim Christian believes his team's depth will be especially important this season.


© Charles Krupa
BC men’s basketball coach Jim Christian believes his team’s depth will be especially important this season.

“Try to get your team better today, make sure that they keep making the right decisions off the court, and you know, take care of themselves as best they can and just keep moving forward,” Christian said.

The players have been on campus since students returned in September. Much of the work they were able to do during that time consisted of individual workouts, limited to four hours per week then increased to eight hours. Now, teams will be able to be on the floor for 20 hours per week.

“It’s just so great to see after not having them for six months,” Christian said. “Just to see them come back and have fun and be normal, have fun, play basketball, be normal. Just enjoy the game, enjoy each other.”

The season is set to open Nov. 25, but the Eagles’ schedule is still being finalized. As it stands, they will open with the Empire Classic at Mohegan Sun Casino, along with Baylor, Villanova, and Arizona State. The event originally was supposed to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York, with Michigan as one of the headliners. But the Wolverines backed out and were replaced by Arizona State.

“We’re finishing all that up,” Christian said of the schedule. “We waited on the ACC because we can’t do anything. So, there are days we have to hold for the ACC, and they’re still doing their thing. I think we have a pretty good thumbnail of who we’re playing. I think we’re still looking to add one more game. But we’re just waiting on the ACC now.”

Before the pandemic, Christian was optimistic about the season. Although the Eagles finished last season with a losing record for the fifth time in his six years on the bench, Christian was brought back for a seventh year by former athletic director Martin Jarmond, who saw a need for stability as BC navigated uncertainty.

Guard Wynston Tabbs spent the offseason on campus rehabbing a knee injury and has been cleared for contact in practice, giving the Eagles another threat in the backcourt alongside top returning scorer Jay Heath. Worcester native and Brewster Academy alum DeMarr Langford is creating a buzz, but Christian believes the Eagles’ greatest asset will be their depth, something injuries have robbed them of during the coach’s tenure.

“It’s competitive as hell over here,” Christian said. “This is the most competitive group we’ve had from top to bottom. We have a lot of depth, especially on the guard spot, especially on the perimeter. It’s really good.

“And you’re going to need it. This is going to be a year where depth is going to

SpaceX Starman dummy finally makes it to Mars in Elon Musk’s red Tesla

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Starman abides.


SpaceX

Starman has finally made it to the red planet — sort of. 

It’s been over two and a half years since SpaceX successfully demonstrated its Falcon Heavy launch system. Rather than using a hunk of concrete or some other sort of ballast for a test payload, Elon Musk offered up his cherry red Tesla piloted by a dummy in a spacesuit named Starman.

Starman was set on a trajectory toward Mars, the planet Musk hopes to help transform into a new destination for humans in the coming decades. 

Just over 32 months later, the Tesla finally made its first close pass by Mars on Wednesday, according to a tweet from SpaceX.

Early calculations of the Tesla’s path through the cosmos show it has assumed an orbit around the sun that has it meandering back and forth between the orbits of Earth and Mars, roughly. 

This is Starman’s first close pass by Mars, but it’s not particularly close at just under 5 million miles (8 million kilometers). According to Ben Pearson, who developed the unofficial Where Is Roadster online tracker, the Tesla will be making a significantly closer pass of the red planet on April 22, 2035 at 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers).

We’ll have to wait a lot longer for Starman to make a swing by Earth. His next close pass won’t be until 2047, when the warranty on his Tesla will be long expired. 

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