How do superconductors work? A physicist explains what it means to have resistance-free electricity

The modern world runs on electricity, and wires are what carry that electricity to every light, television, heating system, cellphone and computer on the planet. Unfortunately, on average, about 5% of the power generated at a coal or solar power plant is lost as the electricity is transmitted from the plant to its final destination. This amounts to a US$6 billion loss annually in the U.S. alone.

For decades, scientists have been developing materials called superconductors that transmit electricity with nearly 100% efficiency. I am a physicist who investigates how superconductors work at the atomic level, how current flows at very low temperatures, and how applications such as levitation can be realized. Recently, researchers have made significant progress toward developing superconductors that can function at relatively normal temperatures and pressures.

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Marsupials and other mammals separately evolved flight many times, and we are finally learning how

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land on the next tree. Many groups of mammals seem to have taken this evolutionary advice to heart. According to our newly published paper in Science Advances, unrelated animals may even have used the same blueprints for building their “wings”.

While birds are the undisputed champions of the sky, having mastered flight during the Jurassic, mammals have actually evolved flight more often than birds. In fact, as many as seven different groups of mammals living today have taken to the air independently of each other.

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Entire towns evacuated as climate-fueled wildfires start 'very early' in Spain

A large wildfire raging in Spain's eastern Valencia region forced more than 1,500 people to flee their homes on Friday, providing further evidence of life-threatening consequences of the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis and bolstering the case for meaningful mitigation efforts.

Since it broke out in the municipality of Villanueva de Viver on Thursday, Spain's first major wildfire of the year has destroyed more than 7,400 acres of forest, prompting evacuation orders in eight communities across the Castellón province.

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Large asteroid to zoom between Earth and Moon

A large asteroid will safely zoom between Earth and the Moon on Saturday, a once-in-a-decade event that will be used as a training exercise for planetary defense efforts, according to the European Space Agency.

The asteroid, named 2023 DZ2, is estimated to be 40 to 70 meters (130 to 230 feet) wide, roughly the size of the Parthenon, and big enough to wipe out a large city if it hit our planet.

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Himalayas: The climate time bomb threatening India

In the world's highest mountain range, global warming threatens thousands of glaciers, resulting in increasingly frequent natural disasters: landslides, avalanches and glacier collapses. Our reporters Alban Alvarez and Navodita Kumari travelled to the small northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where these disasters are compounded by a rush to develop infrastructure such as hydroelectric dams.

Up in the foothills of the Himalayas, the region of Uttarakhand is getting the Indian government’s attention. The state of 10 million inhabitants, bordering both China and Nepal, has become a vast open-air building site. The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi fully intends to take advantage of the region’s geographical position to make it a hub for renewable energy.

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Robots are performing Hindu rituals – and some devotees fear they’ll replace worshippers

It isn’t just artists and teachers who are losing sleep over advances in automation and artificial intelligence. Robots are being brought into Hinduism’s holiest rituals – and not all worshippers are happy about it.

In 2017, a technology firm in India introduced a robotic arm to perform “aarti,” a ritual in which a devotee offers an oil lamp to the deity to symbolize the removal of darkness. This particular robot was unveiled at the Ganpati festival, a yearly gathering of millions of people in which an icon of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, is taken out in a procession and immersed in the Mula-Mutha river in Pune in central India.

Ever since, that robotic aarti arm has inspired several prototypes, a few of which continue to regularly perform the ritual across India today, along with a variety of other religious robots throughout East Asia and South Asia. Robotic rituals even now include an animatronic temple elephant in Kerala on India’s southern coast.

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Why thousands of volunteers are transcribing the notebooks of the scientist who inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) is usually remembered as the inventor of a revolutionary miner’s safety lamp. But his wild popularity came as much from his influence on popular culture as it did from his contributions to chemistry and applied science.

In the first few years of the 19th century, there was no hotter spectacle in London than Davy’s lectures at the Royal Institution. The carriage traffic jams caused by his keen audience led to the introduction of London’s first one-way street.

Hundreds of members of the public, many of them women, crowded into the lecture theatre to hear the charismatic Davy speak about his cutting edge research. They would watch demonstrations of his work, which often included elaborate explosions and other breathtaking displays.

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Researchers turned superglue into a recyclable, cheap, oil-free plastic alternative

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Our team used superglue as a starting material to develop a low-cost, recyclable and easily produced transparent plastic called polyethyl cyanoacrylate that has properties similar to those of plastics used for single-use products like cutlery, cups and packaging. Unlike most traditional plastics, this new plastic can be easily converted back to its starting materials, even when combined with unwashed municipal plastic waste.

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Lauren Boebert brings photos of human fetuses to hearing on endangered species

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) on Thursday presented photos of human fetuses at a hearing on endangered species.

During Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee hearing, Boebert was recognized to present her bill to remove the Gray Wolf from the list of endangered species.

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New 'glass-like' orchid species discovered in Japan

A new species of orchid with delicate, glass-like blooms has been discovered by Japanese scientists, who found the pink and white plant hiding in plain sight.

Despite its presence in Japan's parks and gardens, it took researchers at Kobe University a decade to confirm that the plant -- dubbed the "Spiranthes hachijoensis" -- was a previously unknown species.

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Fears of Monarch butterfly extinction as numbers plummet 22% in annual count

Wildlife conservationists sounded the alarm Wednesday as an annual count of monarch butterflies revealed a sharp decline in the number of the iconic insects hibernating in Mexican forests, stoking renewed fears of their extinction.

The annual survey—led by Mexico's National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the Mexican branch of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)—showed a 22% drop in the hibernating monarch population amid accelerating habitat loss driven primarily by deforestation.

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First 3D-printed rocket lifts off but fails to reach orbit

The world's first 3D-printed rocket launched successfully on Wednesday, marking a step forward for the California company behind the innovative spacecraft, though it failed to reach orbit.

Billed as less costly to produce and fly, the unmanned Terran 1 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:25 pm (0325 GMT Thursday) but suffered an "anomaly" during second-stage separation as it streamed towards low Earth orbit, according to a livestream broadcast by aerospace startup Relativity Space.

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5 planets will parade across the sky in rare astronomical event, while skyscraper-sized asteroid flies by Earth

More than half the solar system’s planets will align Monday in a rarely seen spectacle, arcing across a corner of the night sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus will parade across the sky, accompanied by the moon and a possible star cluster. While the scenario will be visible to the naked eye, astronomers recommend breaking out the binoculars or a telescope for a more detailed view. The planets will be arrayed across the western horizon in an arc about 20 to 25 minutes after Monday’s sunset, according to, starting with Mercury and Jupiter. However, twilight’s brightness coul...