The High-Temperature Superconductivity Mystery Is Finally Solved

When electrons couple up, further quantum trickery makes superconductivity unavoidable. Normally, electrons can’t overlap, but Cooper pairs follow a different quantum mechanical rule; they act like particles of light, any number of which can pile onto the head of a pin. Many Cooper pairs come together and merge into a single quantum mechanical state, a “superfluid,” that becomes oblivious to the atoms it passes between.

BCS theory also explained why mercury and most other metallic elements superconduct when cooled close to absolute zero but stop doing so above a few kelvins. Atomic ripples make for the feeblest of glues. Turn up the heat, and it jiggles atoms and washes out the lattice vibrations.

Then in 1986, IBM researchers Georg Bednorz and Alex Müller stumbled onto a stronger electron glue in cuprates: crystals consisting of sheets of copper and oxygen interspersed between layers of other elements. After they observed a cuprate

‘Gold Hydrogen’ Is an Untapped Resource in Depleted Oil Wells

Capturing or otherwise neutralizing the CO2 must be done safely, says Stephen Wallace, who runs a microbiology lab at the University of Edinburgh. But he adds that Cemvita Factory’s idea of harnessing microbes for hydrogen production is “indicative of a lot of the really interesting work going on in biotechnology right now.” Wallace and his colleagues are themselves experimenting with bioreactors and have had some success in getting microbes to yield hydrogen from things like moldy bread or the lignin in paper industry waste.

But while some microbes help produce hydrogen, others are the scourge of these projects, as they can eat up stored hydrogen or consume the gas in natural wells, says Jon Gluyas, a geologist at Durham University. “We’re trying to keep bacteria away from our hydrogen because they love feasting on it,” he explains.

And he has another quibble. He argues that “gold hydrogen” is different

The Quest to Save the Most Precious Voices on Earth

“My whole world is the human voice,” says Harry Yeff. And he isn’t just referring to his previous life as a champion beatboxer (alias Reeps One). Yeff is also a digital artist, and he has traveled the world meeting experts and artists who share his obsession. He’s spent the past five years collecting, he explains, the most precious voices on Earth.

The motivation for his project is a simple fact: Every day, voices that could be preserved go extinct—whether that be the call of a critically endangered bird or a digital voice note lost in a phone update. That’s why Yeff and his collaborator Trung Bao created Voice Gems: a project that uses AI to shape iconic and endangered voices into digital gemstones and physical sculptures. These AI-generated gems are not just a random visualization: A voice with a lower resonance will take on a deep blueish quality; a

America’s Billion-Dollar Tree Problem Is Spreading

Fast-growing, drought-tolerant trees are slowly spreading across grasslands on every continent except Antarctica. Given how desperate we are to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, millions of new saplings sprouting each year might seem like a good thing. But in reality, their spread across vulnerable grasslands and shrublands is upending ecosystems and livelihoods. As these areas transform into woodland, wildlife disappears, water supplies dwindle, and soil health suffers. The risk of catastrophic wildfire also skyrockets.

In a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, researchers have shown how woodland expansion also takes an economic toll. American ranchers often depend on tree-free rangelands to raise their livestock. Between 1990 and 2019, landowners in the Western US lost out on nearly $5 billion worth of forage—the plants that cattle or sheep eat—because of the growth of new trees. The amount of forage lost over those three decades equates to 332

Air Quality Mirrors the Racial Segregation of US Neighborhoods

Racial inequity biases algorithms, skews Covid-19 death rates, and exacerbates the digital divide. Your race is even a good predictor of what’s in the air you breathe—and now, a new study shows that those pollution concentrations are also tied to how segregated your community is.

Using five years’ worth of data, a team led by scientists at Colorado State University confirmed a long-suspected link between ambient air quality and racial residential segregation. In a recent paper published in Nature Communications, they show that people in highly segregated counties in the United States are exposed to more fine particulate matter, airborne particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (or PM 2.5 for short). What’s more, the makeup of that pollution contains higher toxic metal concentrations than what is found in well-integrated areas. The results are congruent with a growing number of studies showing that people of color are