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… Continue reading High-Temperature Superconductivity Understood at Last
Mike Cassidy was there in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull, a volcano-covering ice cap in Iceland, erupted. It shut down European air space for weeks, costing the economy billions. Cassidy, a Ph.D. student at the time, had been invited on a research cruise to the country by scientists studying the ocean. From the research vessel, he got… Continue reading Are We Ready for the Next Massive Volcano?
Imagine the perfect ocean wave: a wall of water swells and curls in on itself before breaking dramatically near the shore. Catching such a wave would be any surfer’s dream—and the physics underneath its churning surface is just as mind-blowing as the ride. As an ocean wave coils, it creates a hollow tube made of… Continue reading See Delicate Rib Vortices Encircle Breaking Ocean Waves
Breaking more than seven months of calm, the peninsula of Reykjanes in western Iceland has once again burst into volcanic flames. After a swarm of earthquakes in late July and early August rocked the area,lava burst forth from the Fagradalsfjall volcano into the valley of Meradalir—not far from the barely cooled lava from the same… Continue reading See Iceland Aglow in Volcanic Eruptions
Along the murky bottom of the Amazon River, serpentine fish called electric eels scour the gloom for unwary frogs or other small prey. When one swims by, the fish unleash two 600-volt pulses of electricity to stun or kill it. This high-voltage hunting tactic is distinctive, but a handful of other fish species also use… Continue reading Electric Fish Genomes Reveal How Evolution Repeats Itself
Anthony Fauci, who has been the top infectious-diseases adviser in the United States for almost 40 years, announced on 22 August that he would resign from his leadership roles in December. Although many scientists are saddened to be losing his guidance, they understand his desire to step down. No other federal scientist has held a… Continue reading Scientists Reflect on Anthony Fauci’s Impact
To Martin Rees, the United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal, AGN feedback offered a natural way to connect the relatively tiny black hole to the galaxy at large. Two decades earlier, in the 1970s, Rees correctly hypothesized that supermassive black holes power the luminous jets observed in some far-off, brightly glowing galaxies called quasars. He even proposed,… Continue reading What Drives Galaxies? The Milky Way’s Black Hole May Be the Key.
In the summer of 1996 a small group of people met in northern California to share their experiences with intersex variations. One participant, Heidi Walcutt, said that doctors surgically reduced her clitoris as a young child “to more closely approximate a normal female appearance.” This resulted in nerve damage that would blunt sexual sensation later… Continue reading How Medicine’s Fixation on the Sex Binary Harms Intersex People
Say two parties, Alice and Bob, want to exchange a message in secret, even under the watchful gaze of a potential attacker. They begin with a collection of points connected by edges called a graph. Each point represents a different elliptic curve. If you can transform one curve into another in a particular way (via… Continue reading ‘Post-Quantum’ Cryptography Scheme Is Cracked on a Laptop
Explore Look down at the Pacific Ocean from outer space and it appears to take up most of the globe. That’s how vast it is. Come back down and onto a sailboat, this time in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Weeks from any shore, you could still be closer to the International Space Station… Continue reading It’s High Time to Protect Our High Seas