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Superconductivity at Room Temperature?

Superconductivity is a virtually miraculous condition, where all electrical resistance in a material ceases to exist, and wondrous things happen. If it were easy to achieve, many dreams of science—super efficient electric power transmission systems, vastly greater power storage devices, exponentially more powerful electric motors, magnetic levitation devices, superconducting magnetic refrigeration, and much more—would soon be reality. Until now, though, it has not been easy. Conductors must be cooled to almost absolute zero (−273.15 °C; -459.67 °F) to make it happen, so, unsurprisingly, the quest for superconductivity at temperatures any warmer has been very hard indeed; and ‘room-temperature’ superconductivity is simply out of the question. Nevertheless, in July two respected chemical physicists, Dev Thapa and Anshu Pandey, working in Bangalore, India, posted, with the online journal arXiv, a paper announcing that they had just achieved the long-sought miracle—‘room temperature superconductivity’. Moreover, they claimed, they did it using a matrix of gold and silver particles, two materials that have never been shown to exhibit superconductivity, even at extremely cold temperatures.

Needless to say, the announcement was greeted with skepticism, if not outright shock. ‘It cannot be,’ seemed to be on every scientist’s lips. Some pointed to what they said were flaws in the data. Brian Skinner, a postdoctoral physicist at MIT argued that a “strange” yet precise correlation between two data streams that should represent random noise, was very suspicious and suggested that there had to be some kind of error. Thapa and Pandey have, nevertheless, stuck by their story. Later, Pratap Raychaudhuri, a physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, pointed out that the questionable data might not be noise at all but, instead, a signal arising from the particle fields. The Indian physicists say, however, that experts are now validating their work and, before commenting further, they will wait for the results. So, for now the world must wait. To be continued…


When Color Vision Becomes a Super Power

Seeing what other people cannot, is sometimes called ‘second sight.’ It is also called Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP). Those who don’t have ESP, question its existence; and, if they agree that it exists, they often find it threatening. The same is true of those who are color-blind. If you can’t see color, it may be hard to understand what it is that others are seeing, but since most of us can see color we don’t consider it a super power. But what about the few who can see many more colors than even the normally color-sighted?

A rare condition, which appears in some women born with hypersensitive eyes, is called ‘tetrachromancy.’ Concetta Antico, a British woman who has the condition, told the BBC in 2014, that even the dullest pebbles on the road shimmer like a kaleidoscope. “The little stones jump out at me with oranges, yellows, greens, blues, and pinks.” She was shocked, she said, when she realized that other people could not see what she saw. The condition is caused by a genetic mutation. Whereas the colors available within the eyes of most people are based on a combination of three primary colors that create the rainbow, the rods and cones in the eyes of tetrachromats provide four primary colors, vastly increasing the possible combinations.

Fortunately for tetrachromats, those with normal color sight have not made it illegal, nor burned anyone at the stake for such strange abilities—so far as we know, anyway. Unfortunately, that cannot be said for many saints and other uniquely gifted individuals, who paid a heavy price for their gifts


Can Science Reverse Aging?

Now a new study with the journal Aging claims to have successfully reversed the aging process, at least in a limited way.

A key driver of aging, say the researchers, is ‘cellular senescence.’ (‘Senescent’ comes from the same root as ‘senile.’) Researchers at the university of Exeter in the United Kingdom discovered that if certain old, human cells receive a particular molecule in their mitochondria, they cease to become senescent. According to the study, hydrogen sulfide, the compound that gives rotten eggs their smell, manages to allow cells to regain their youthful abilities.

For those who think getting old stinks, the fact that reversing the process could also smell, provides small consolation. The fountain of youth it is not, but it might help. In the meantime keep the retirement plan.