back to article Drama as boffins claim to reach the Holy Grail of superconductivity

A pair of physicists have claimed to reach the holy grail in physics: room temperature superconductivity. Unsurprisingly, the results have raised several eyebrows and the fear of another cold fusion fiasco. It has also led to a series of strange events involving the impersonation of a famous physicist using an encrypted email …

  1. Spaller

    It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

    Ok, room temperature superconducting, off to the sulking corner with your pals cold and hot fusion.

    Oh, do you see quantum computing and string theory there with you?

    1. Kernel

      Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

      "Ok, room temperature superconducting, off to the sulking corner with your pals cold and hot fusion."

      I always thought that hot fusion worked well - or at least it appeared to be doing ok this morning before it clouded over.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I always thought that hot fusion worked well - or at least it appeared to be doing ok this morning before it clouded over.

        Cold fusion works 100% of the time. Not well, most certainly not gainfully!

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_generator#/media/File:Neutristor_in_its_simplest_form.JPG

        Aka, a neutron generator. Generated neutrons, generates a large electric bill, heat, not so much.

        So, fusion does occur and indeed, at room temperature. Poorly, with massive losses. Tweaks lower the loss, increase neutron creation, at a cost of additional energy input at room temperature and ambient pressure.

        What gets done now is high pressure, insanely high pressure and hence, temperature isn't extremely relevant there, save if one is conducting quantum level calculations.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Spaller

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I don't think my extension cord reaches the sun's plasma. Sigh, a windmill may have to do instead of plasma.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

          "Sigh, a windmill may have to do instead of plasma."

          Apparently they work better when tilted.

      3. itzman

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        And string theory is just a theory.

        Not a process

      4. ibmalone Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I always thought that hot fusion worked well - or at least it appeared to be doing ok this morning before it clouded over.

        I think skin-cancer campaigns would be much more successful if weather presenters used appropriate terminology.

        "The vast nuclear furnace in the sky will be visible between five forty seven a.m. and eight twenty two p.m. Viewers are advised to take necessary steps to shield themselves from its carcinogenic rays."

        1. Mark Wallace

          Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

          "The vast nuclear furnace in the sky will be visible between five forty seven a.m. and eight twenty two p.m. Viewers are advised to take necessary steps to shield themselves from its carcinogenic rays."

          Be fair: the Sun is only the world's second biggest cause of cancer -- oxygen beats it by a mile.

          But that's probably our fault, for letting Frenchmen into recording studios.

      5. macjules Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I find that hot fusion works well for me, especially with Lavazza Rosso first thing in the morning.

      6. phuzz Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I always thought that hot fusion worked well - or at least it appeared to be doing ok this morning before it clouded over.

        And before some smartarse points out that they were talking about fusion on Earth, we do have working fusion devices on the Earth.

        It's just they only work for less than a second and tend to make very big holes, and are known by names like "Mk/B53" or 'bucket of instant sunshine'...

        Oh look, a picture of one >>>>>>

      7. naive

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        Hot fusion technically works, since it costs more energy to initiate and sustain any type of real existing fusion reactor, it voids the reason to start it in the first place.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

      Oh, do you see quantum computing and string theory there with you?

      Nope, as string theory still is circulating, as modified and quantum computing, well, I've reviewed classified communications about such a computer that is indeed in usage. Then, the chatter ceased and it went all M32 encrypted.

      So, there's something, nowhere ready for prime time and when it's released, I'll not be permitted to speak of it.

      Which leads me to say, I can neither confirm nor deny whether I exist or not...

      1. Spaller

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        String theory is full of the swamp and no landscape.

        I help build quantum computers and don't need classified communications. They're still useless.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

      I have a string theory for when people ask me "How long is a piece of string?"

      The answer is half it's length times by two.

      Also, quantum computing will never work because you can't turn it off and on again as it's not on or off.

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        When someone throws out the "how long is a piece of string?" line, I respond -"the cumulative sum of the vectors perpendicular to the short axes".

        It generally shuts them up, but I suspect there is a more precise answer available

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        "The answer is half it's length times by two."

        Or alternatively, twice as long from the middle to the end.

      3. Jedit
        Boffin

        "quantum computing will never work because..."

        "... you can't turn it off and on again as it's not on or off."

        You're not performing the procedure correctly. You need to turn it off and on again *at the same time*.

        Of course, that's for quantum software problems. If it's a hardware problem you can resolve it by opening the box and taking a look inside.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "quantum computing will never work because..."

          I don't mind opening the box as long as there isn't a cat involved.

          1. onefang Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: "quantum computing will never work because..."

            "I don't mind opening the box as long as there isn't a cat involved."

            If it's a networked quantum computer, there may be some cat6 involved. So that's six cats, one alive, one dead, one half alive, one half dead, one that doesn't give a fuck, and one that is very pissed off.

            1. M7S

              Re: "quantum computing will never work because..."

              Cat6?

              Mine usually does after he's had a rather rank mouse.

            2. Stevie Silver badge

              Re: So that's six cats

              I think you'll find that each cat is in fact in a superposed state involving thirds of death and life.

              According to string theory, you can introduce a spin vector to those cats more alive than dead by twirling the string.

            3. Woodnag

              Cats

              Actually cats have a negative time generator, because they spend 100% of the time asleep, yet still manage to serve the input and output functions as well.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "quantum computing will never work because..."

              If you subscribe to the multiverse theory, they're all the same cat

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: "quantum computing will never work because..."

          The problem, Jedit, is that every time I go to turn it on and off at the same time I can never find the bloody thing.

      4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        >Also, quantum computing will never work because you can't turn it off and on again as it's not on or off.

        Quantum computer works precisely because everytime you look at it - it turns itself off OR on again

        1. sisk Silver badge

          Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

          Quantum computer works precisely because everytime you look at it - it turns itself to some combination of off and on again

          FTFY

      5. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        I have a string theory for when people ask me "How long is a piece of string?"

        I prefer the existentialism answer: "How long do you want it to be?"

      6. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        The answer is half it's length times by two.

        More simply, "About that long."

      7. Jaybus

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        "I have a string theory for when people ask me "How long is a piece of string?"

        The answer is half it's length times by two."

        I have a different theory that is better supported by the available observations.

        It is just short of the length it needs to be.

        1. HelpfulJohn

          Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

          "It is just short of the length it needs to be."

          It could be that this is just about the long and the short of it.

          A string is not "twice as long as the distance from the middle to one end", not always. Strings, according to the theories, vibrate in multiple axes. This makes their lengths at any instant in time indeterminate which leads to the knowledge that should one measure half of its length, the other half will have changed in all but the most unlikely points of the probability spaces. Technically, this would mean that you have the wrong "middle" but *any* middle on a loop of moving, morphing, multi-axially vibrating "stuff" would only be ephemeral anyway if it could be defined at all. Topologically, a string has no "middle" and, as it isn't often perfectly circular, spherical or other multi-dimensional analogue, most likely no "centre", either.

          On the subject of quantum computing: on the only occasion when the experiment was actually tried, the cat was neither living nor dead. It was simply missing. It had decided that it was pissed off with being killed and not-killed all the time so it slipped away and left in its place a very confused dog.

          1. onefang Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

            "This makes their lengths at any instant in time indeterminate which leads to the knowledge that should one measure half of its length, the other half will have changed in all but the most unlikely points of the probability spaces."

            I think you have the wrong end of the problem.

            I'll get my coat, it's the one made of string.

      8. Mark Wallace

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        "you can't turn it off and on again as it's not on or off"

        But have you tried?

    4. el kabong

      String theory is not even wrong

      as someone said.

      And quantum computing... oh my God!!! Those people trying to make it work would do far better working on the fundamentals first, huge disappointment lies ahead. Quantum is not what they think, there is no way it will ever work the way they want, quantum has a charm of its own.

    5. streaky Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

      Temps superconductors work at has NOTHING to do with things like plasma temps. It's the holy grail because one doesn't have to use extreme cryogenics to make superconducting magnets for things like plasma confinement. They're only sideways related. It just makes things a little easier though your actual plasma pressure is the key issue not what temp the magnets work at - it's how strong they are.

      Why must people say silly things whenever the serious issue of fusion reactors comes up. While people make snarky comments other people are getting it done.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

        "Why must people say silly things whenever the serious issue of fusion reactors comes up."

        Because a lot of designs for fusion reactors use superconductors, so there's somewhat of a link there.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

          "Why must people say silly things whenever the serious issue of fusion reactors comes up."

          Because a lot of designs for fusion reactors use superconductors, so there's somewhat of a link there.

          Though to be honest, plasma only entered the discussion as a joke about getting an extension lead to the sun... not related to superconductors until that comment. (Though I suppose, if you're going to connect a power cord to the sun, it'd be better to have it superconducting. Or really high voltage. Actually, thanks to Maxwell, I think it might be really high voltage anyway, calculations on a postcard please.)

    6. Robbo987

      Re: It's dead, Jim, but not as we know it

      HOT fusion exists and works 100%, 1% of the time with no net gain. (Currently)

      Cold fusion however does not exist. Cold Fusion was a term invented by the press in an attempt to understand a reported discovery by two electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons in the late 80s. They claimed to have observed excess heat created by an electrochemical reaction between poladium and Heavy water using small amounts of electricity at room temperature this in turn generated no nuclear reaction at all with no nuclear by products produced just heat. I dont think they even claimed to have discovered a revolutionary new form of power generation i believe that was adlib courtesy of the press. To this day no one can explain why they were getting their results as it appears to be behavior that goes against known physics.

      Unfortunately, their experiment proved difficult to reproduce in the lab and was subsequently debunked. Though from what i remember and maybe worth noting a lot of the debunkers were sponsored by the fossil fuel industry.

      Currently e-Cat are the only tech firm pursuing this technology as far as i am aware. They themselves face stiff debunking, though they continue to stand by their tech. Meh...

      Also, Quantum computing does work. Understanding the science involved will make your head explode though. Do you believe in the multiverse or alternate realities? Eh, whaaaaa... Ok, mind blown. Thanks for that Mr Cox...

  2. Michael Maxwell

    "claim that silver particles embedded in samples of gold can become superconductive at 236 Kelvin or -37.15 degrees Celsius" If that's room temperature, somebody really has their AC cranked up. (It would of course be considerably warmer than previous "high temperature" superconductors, but temperatures like that are found in the Arctic... in winter. Or maybe Minnesota.)

    1. Grikath Silver badge
      Meh

      Well... wouldn't call it room temperature as well, but superconductivity at that temperature range would mean you could keep things cold with dry ice, which is dead cheap and quite easy to handle...

      Mind... with all the funny business this doesn't look good... ah well...

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      The other suspicious claim

      They also claimed a sample was still super conductive at 77°C but they could not find the critical temperature because it was higher than the limit of their equipment. The equipment mentioned in the paper works up to 400K (127°C).

      1. Mark Wallace

        Re: The other suspicious claim

        "They also claimed a sample was still super conductive at 77°C but they could not find the critical temperature because it was higher than the limit of their equipment. The equipment mentioned in the paper works up to 400K (127°C)."

        Sure, but that's not the weakest link in their equipment.

        ipads don't do well above 70°.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      -37.15°C. That's time to put on a second t-shirt weather in Newcastle.

      If you include for wind chill, it's a heatwave in Skegness.

    4. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

      Context, context, context

      Like astronomy & "metal" or "low frequency", "room temperature" has a very different meaning for superconductor physics than for general usage. When I complained to my physicist friend about twenty five years ago, he responded, "liquid nitrogen is cheaper than milk."

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Context, context, context

        Liquid nitrogen may very well be cheaper than milk. But it makes shit tea...

      2. cray74

        Re: Context, context, context

        When I complained to my physicist friend about twenty five years ago, he responded, "liquid nitrogen is cheaper than milk."

        Cheaper than milk, soda, and unleaded. In the 1990s, the lab I worked at was purchasing liquid nitrogen at about $0.06 per liter. It led to some interesting economic design decisions in experimental equipment. Electricity for sample heating was expensive, but nitrogen for cooling was cheap.

  3. Kaltern

    Interesting how the immediate response without seeing any supporting evidence at all was 'this is clearly bullshit'.

    Yes, this would be one of the scientific breakthroughs of all time, and naturally something as huge as this needs peer review and replication. However, while it is likely to be incorrect as the odd emails seem to point out, I find it sad that the initial reaction seems to be from other people claiming they're just 'in it for the money' and 'Let their colleagues convince them that it is in their best interest to do so instead of hiding behind technicalities.”' - they wouldn't be saying this if THEY had discovered the secret...

    I hope it IS true. Perhaps then the whole concept of peer review and scientific method should be slightly revised as to not immediately pour scorn on those who claim to have discovered something before THEY did...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Pouring scorn is precisely why science works. It's like software testing or security audits, going in with an attitude of "they seem like nice chaps, we don't want to cause any trouble" isn't terribly effective at finding flaws

      1. Dr Scrum Master

        going in with an attitude of "they seem like nice chaps, we don't want to cause any trouble" isn't terribly effective at finding flaws

        But isn't that approach one of the hallmarks of the highly renowned and effective British Civil Service?

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          @Dr Scrum Master

          >>But isn't that approach one of the hallmarks of the highly renowned and effective British Civil Service?<<

          Yes indeed and in the civil service, facts are selected to align with policy.

        2. Rob Willett

          Not the part of the civil service I work in

          Am just doing a piece of work to exit a project within HO.

          I can assure you that the team reviewing my project do not buy into "they seem like nice chaps, we don't want to cause any trouble"...

          I will be grilled on budgets, timescales, resources, contracts, process maps, business usage, business change. Any slip up and I get to stand on the naughty step and start again. Most of the management are women and they appear to have no problem ripping into me and giving me a good kicking.

          Though to be honest, I should be held to account, that's my job, deliver a project on time and to budget. Rather reckless of me, but not everything in the civil service is late or over budget.

          1. Mark Wallace

            Re: Not the part of the civil service I work in

            "not everything in the civil service is late or over budget"

            Wow, this really is turning into a discussion about theories with no supporing evidence!

    2. A.P. Veening

      Supporting evidence

      "Interesting how the immediate response without seeing any supporting evidence at all was 'this is clearly bullshit'."

      One look at the supporting evidence (a graph) was all it took to ring all alarm bells, just read the article.

    3. veti Silver badge

      You don't remember cold fusion, then? That was claimed by two researchers with way bigger reputations than these guys, citing way better evidence, and after a long, long wild goose chase it turned out to be bunk.

      If a find like this is for real, it's huge. It's strange in itself that they didn't discuss it with some of India's leading physicists. Faking the email - is way beyond implausible.

    4. Crypto Monad

      Interesting how the immediate response without seeing any supporting evidence at all was 'this is clearly bullshit'.

      Not exactly. The immediate response upon seeing that the supporting evidence is obviously faked is "this is clearly bullshit".

    5. tfb Silver badge

      They didn't 'immediately pour scorn': they found something extremely odd-looking in the data, and then started doubting.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        That graph is highly suspicious. If a student presented results like that to me in a report, I would certainly give them a thorough grilling, and probably report them to the board of examiners. It certainly looks like data were "massaged" (ineptly at that). Just from the graph I cannot be sure, but I would be highly suspicious. As I teach students in our scientific ethics lessons: the two worst things in science are plagiarism and manipulating data. Plagiarism is usually quite easy to detect nowadays, so it is just stupid to do it. Fabricating, or otherwise altering data is inexcusable, as it can be near impossible to detect. Both plagiarism and data manipulation are reasons for dismissal.

    6. ibmalone Silver badge

      Interesting how the immediate response without seeing any supporting evidence at all was 'this is clearly bullshit'.

      It's on arxiv, so not reviewed yet, peer review as Skinner has done is absolutely expected there, and it's based on supporting evidence in the paper itself. The rest is just noise.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "It's on arxiv, so not reviewed yet, peer review as Skinner has done is absolutely expected there, and it's based on supporting evidence in the paper itself. The rest is just noise."

        I thought the article said the noise was the problem? :-)

    7. sisk Silver badge

      While I agree that usually the correct response is to look closely at the evidence before coming to any conclusions and that immediately assuming a fantastic claim is BS is wrong, this case is is a matter of the former, not the latter.

      There are lots of red flags raised here. The first of which is an identical noise profile. The whole reason it's called "noise" is because its random. For it to be identical like that would be so statistically unlikely that we wouldn't expect it to have ever happened once even if they'd been repeatedly running the experiment ever since the Big Bang. So that's red flag number one. Red flag number two is the faked emails. Even if they had good evidence that would - and SHOULD - raise some eyebrows.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More red flags

    Than "Dress like Mao day" in Beijing.

  5. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    said it before I'll say it again

    in other news, email is garbage and should be nuked from orbit.

    1. sisk Silver badge

      Re: said it before I'll say it again

      Nah. Email itself is fine. Its the idiots who insist on treating it like a secure channel for confidential communications that are the problem.

  6. Mike 137

    Sources (yet again el Reg)

    Both links to arXiv point to the same comment by Skinner but there's no link to the original paper. Surely we have the right to read the original ourselves?

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Sources (yet again el Reg)

      The title of the comment contains the reference - arXiv:1807.08572,

      ... so just go to https://arxiv.org/abs/1807.08572

      Papers published on arxiv are not ordinarily ever removed, only updated, with previous revisions still being present.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Sources (yet again el Reg)

      Also small nit...

      Did I read correctly -37C? Where is that 'room temperature'?

      I mean if their stuff works out... nice. Closer to hitting the mark.

      If not... sucks to be them.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who outsourced room temperature superconductivity? Reminds me of the time one of my old workplaces outsourced the reporting, it was all working perfectly till they had to actually do it.

  9. AceRimmer1980
    Pint

    Re:Boffins claim to reach the Holy Grail of superconductivity

    If the data plots are the same..she's made of silver/gold..and therefore..superconductive.

    It is a silly place.

  10. Milton Silver badge

    Extraordinary claims—

    Extraordinary claims ... require extraordinary evidence. That's almost an immutable scientific law by itself.

    Some earlier posters' incautious statements aside†¹, superconductivity at anywhere near room temperature, especially if practically achievable (i.e. outside specialised lab conditions) would be an epochal discovery. It's impossible to overtstate the effect of such a thing. Multiplying the efficiency of national power grids; delivery of vast power from far away, e.g. from solar concentrators in the Sahara to Europe, something of a Holy Grail for an entire continent; cheaper and more compact MRI and almost everything else that uses superconducting systems, from medicine through industrial imaging to directed energy weapons; manufacturing industry revolutionised; huge improvements in vehicular electric power systems ... the pattern of energy generation, distribution and use would be upended, and the speed and effects of the changes in our world would make even a world war look tame. There would be secondary benefits to science also, as it would become much easier and cheaper to create very high energy particle experiments; and it hardly needs be said that it would also be a big step forward toward steady hot-fusion generation (even if it ultimately shows us that that approach isn't the best one: but that's merely a personal inkling, no more).

    A company exercising a patent on practically achievable, economically useful room temperature superconductivity would conquer the world. Apple would look like a minnow by comparison.

    Regarding the more or less instant expressions of doubt, though, it isn't solely because of the extraordinariness of the claim: the article clearly shows that the noise data points attracted immediate suspicion. That's a red flag the size of, say, Trump's tongue. Consider: if your student were to graph current in the microamps scale versus varying millivoltages across a range of room-temperature resistive substances, you'd expect to see very consistent data points in a predictable relationship, because V = IxR. But if said student were also minutely recording and graphing Johnson noise from those devices (essentially random low-level racket) and when marking the work you observed a series of matching data points in the noise—even if scaled differently—you would be extremely surprised, if not incredulous. The average or overall trend of such noise might vary, but to see discretely identical inflections would simply make no sense. Short of imputing some heretofore overlooked and yet radical property of the physics of resistive materials—which would, I think, overturn a lot of what we know about quantum mechanics—there is not even a theoretical basis for such a thing. You would, in short, know straight away that the student had sloppily copied the noise data from one experiment to the others. (Of course, the student might have done this because it's "just noise" and therefore not relevant to V=IxR ... but by doing so, even without intending dishonesty, calls into question everything.)

    All of which aside, the answer in science is the same one it's always been: can these results be replicated?

    †¹ Hot fusion works, as any sunbather can tell you (or the designer of multi-stage nuclear warheads); cold fusion occurs frequently—it's a common tabletop practice for enthusiastic amateurs—but it never gets close to break-even; string theory and its "descendants" such as M-theory are arguably the best there is right now, notwithstanding that gravity remains stubbornly intractable; and quantum computers are functional, though in fairness it remains to be seen whether they will, or even can meet their theoretical promise.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Extraordinary claims—

      "delivery of vast power from far away, e.g. from solar concentrators in the Sahara to Europe"

      Which would make all those barren stretches of Sahara desert suddenly extremely valuable. Which would promptly provoke robust discussions as to who owned them. (Hint: Not the people who actually live there.)

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Extraordinary claims—

        Which would make all those barren stretches of Sahara desert suddenly extremely valuable.

        Only during the day. The Bedouin can have them after dark.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Extraordinary claims—

          Only during the day. The Bedouin can have them after dark.

          Or they could be hired to go around get the sand dust off the solar cells.

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Extraordinary claims—

          Which would make all those barren stretches of Sahara desert suddenly extremely valuable.

          Italy will occupy them and then the Brits will have to declare WAR!

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Holmes

        @Christoph Re: Extraordinary claims—

        Re: Extraordinary claims—

        "delivery of vast power from far away, e.g. from solar concentrators in the Sahara to Europe"

        Which would make all those barren stretches of Sahara desert suddenly extremely valuable. Which would promptly provoke robust discussions as to who owned them. (Hint: Not the people who actually live there.)

        -=-

        Not really.

        They are using gold and silver.

        How much do you think it would cost to manufacture a 1km length of cable capable of carrying the power generated from such a plant? And how much electricity is lost via transmission and what's its cost?

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: @Christoph Extraordinary claims—

          "How much do you think it would cost to manufacture a 1km length of cable capable of carrying the power generated from such a plant? And how much electricity is lost via transmission and what's its cost?"

          Also, how much electricity would it take to cool this cable down to -37°C in the Sahara Desert, and how would this compare to the losses from a standard grid cable?

    2. seven of five

      Re: Extraordinary claims—

      > A company exercising a patent on practically achievable, economically useful room temperature superconductivity would

      become extinct, terminated, outlawed and ignored quicker than a New York taxi behind you would start to honk if the traffic light turns green.

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Extraordinary claims—

      It needs to be more than just superconducting, "details" like critical current, flux pinning, quench resistance and engineering practicalities of forming it into wires can still make it useless.

      That's why HTC has almost no practical applications compared to traditional low temperature metal superconductors

    4. aks Bronze badge

      Re: Extraordinary claims—

      If there is any validity in these claims, even to the point where superconductivity was present at 77K (liquid nitrogen), the usefulness is still heavily constrained by the maximum current density achievable.

    5. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @Milton ... Re: Extraordinary claims—

      Suppose their work pans out... is true...

      Considering the materials used (gold and silver), you may find that the cost required to use super conducting material in place of what is used today far exceeds the cost of the energy lost.

      So... for a lot of your examples... it doesn't help.

      Where it does help is in mag lev transportation. Now the hyper tube could make sense as well as other forms of public transportation.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: @Milton ... Extraordinary claims—

        "Considering the materials used (gold and silver), you may find that the cost required to use super conducting material in place of what is used today far exceeds the cost of the energy lost."

        Don't be silly. If you have reasonably economic superconductor you just a build a cold fusion reactor and use it to turn lead into gold or silver, problem solved!

        Anyway, all those naysayers are probably in the pay of "Big Oiltm"

        Icon for the hard of thinking---------------------->

      2. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: @Milton ... Extraordinary claims—

        I think the cost of putting up the wires once would be paid back by the savings eventually.

        It's the cost of guarding them that is ongoing. After all, people are already tearing down wires just to steal the valuable copper in them.

  11. Mage Silver badge
    Boffin

    Mysterious materials.

    There is a good reason why very low temperatures are needed for superconducting that doesn't collapse as you increase the current or magnetic field, or for it to work at all.

    Any material that works near room temperature and a useful current density is likely to be unusual. Simply an alloy of gold and silver isn't going to work.

    (Gold, Silver and Copper alloy is actually Electrum and gold is poorer alone than silver, poorer than copper).

    It will be great if this can be replicated and is real. Not looking good right now.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: Mysterious materials.

      I guess it would be ironic if some form of electrum turned out to be superconducting...

      (Gold, Silver and Copper alloy is actually Electrum and gold is poorer alone than silver, poorer than copper).

      Of course, being a good conductor at room temperature doesn't necessarily predict superconducting behaviour. None of copper, silver or gold display superconductivity in their pure state, while metals that are poorer conductors at room temperature do.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    As usual, incredible claims come from far away

    When I read that room-temperature superconducting material had been discovered in an Indian university, I immediately thought of all the great cloning claims that came out of China and finally proven bunk.

    And there weren't wierd emails or wrong graphics to go after in those cases.

    So I'm fully expecting the University of Bangalore to be covered in the shame of fostering a sham.

    But, if the maillion-to-one chance actually happens, I will be overjoyed at their success.

    This is not a Hollywood film, though. Not even a Bollywood one. So I won't hold my breath.

    Oh, and "A pair of physicists" ? And just what is the publishing history of these two guys ? How many years have they been working in field already ? Right, one may or not have just graduated, the other is not even a teacher, just an associate. I don't see the Nobel prize in physics being awarded to Bangalore Uni just yet.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: As usual, incredible claims come from far away

      Oh, and "A pair of physicists" ? And just what is the publishing history of these two guys ? How many years have they been working in field already ? Right, one may or not have just graduated, the other is not even a teacher, just an associate. I don't see the Nobel prize in physics being awarded to Bangalore Uni just yet.

      Of course, Brian Josephson got his Nobel prize for work done during his PhD https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephson_effect

      If their data was right it wouldn't matter how many years they've been working in the field. As for "not even a teacher", associate professor in India looks to be a postdoctoral lectureship appointment. Being snobbish about people's job titles isn't a great way to judge their work.

      Of course, looking at the work and ensuing communications, the duplicated trace and email chicanery doesn't look particularly encouraging.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: As usual, incredible claims come from far away

      Statistically, most of anything comes from far away: incredible claims, things made of plastic, food, tourists, cobalt, trees, large mammals, icebergs. Shall I go on?

      1. Steve Knox
        Boffin

        Re: As usual, incredible claims come from far away

        Statistically, most of anything comes from far away...

        Well, if you want to get technical, the vast majority of stuff is far away, but doesn't come here. It's moving away at an increasing rate.

        All the stuff you mentioned is staggeringly close to hand in comparison.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: As usual, incredible claims come from far away

          Since just about everything except hydrogen was made in stars, yeah most things come from very far away.

          1. HelpfulJohn

            Re: As usual, incredible claims come from far away

            A bit of helium and the odd atom of "metals" (Astronomer slang for "the rubbish that isn't hydrogen or helium", the stuff normal folk think of as The Periodic Table) were also not created in stars though at this late stage in the life of the cosmos it might be difficult to tell the stellar stuff from the primordial as they have been mixed for quite a while.

            As a side note, quite a lot of the hydrogen that exists may not really be primordial, either. Loads of processes produce protons from larger collections of nucleons so much of it may have been rinsed through other nuclei over the aeons. How much is probably utterly unknowable.

            It gets worse if by "primordial hydrogen" you insist that the atom should have kept both its proton and its very own electron to itself throughout the universe's multi-gigayear churning. By that definition, there may be *no* "primordial" stuff anywhere.

            Or, like me, the cosmos might be full of it.

  13. SkippyBing Silver badge

    Would have got away with it too

    Except at some point someone would have tried sending electricity down some of this material and discovered it's a normal conductor. So exactly what were they expecting to achieve from this subterfuge?*

    *I mean it may actually work and this is all just a terrible misunderstanding, but my basic point remains for any faked scientific discovery.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would have got away with it too

      > So exactly what were they expecting to achieve from this subterfuge?

      We have discovered room temperature superconductivity, based on gold, silver and large, flawless natural diamonds!

      Of course, we'll need large quantities of them in order to replicate the findings. As this has amazing potential, it shouldn't be a problem to get funding.

      Please supply 3 tonnes each of gold, silver and expensive diamonds with no traceable markings to Dept 1a, Bangalore Uni. [etc]

      On a personal note, we'll be going on a short vacation in the near future. If you don't hear from us for a few weeks after the delivery of requested supplies, don't worry. Nothing to be concerned about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Would have got away with it too

        That looks like an email I got from the Prince of Nigeria University.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Would have got away with it too

          That looks like an email I got from the Prince of Nigeria University.

          I hear they're doing fantastic work in cold fusion. Just need a little individual funding to push it over the line.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Would have got away with it too

      Yeah, if I wanted to mount a scam based on some imaginary energy technology, I'd go the E-Cat route. It seems to be easier to separate fools and money using the "trade secret" whiz than the "bogus science" one.

      I'm hoping there might be some less-damning explanation - an honest mistake (an error in data handling, perhaps), compounded by an email forgery from someone who wants to believe in the supposed discovery but isn't actually connected to Thapa and Pandey. (I really doubt the results are genuine.) Even that would be bad; you really don't want to put something on arXiv without double-checking, and a history of sloppy work, particularly this prominent, could be enough to end a career. But that's probably just wishful thinking.

  14. old_IT_guy

    heavy atmosphere

    I am feeling oppressed, seems we live on a planet where the normal pressure is 1000 Earth atmospheres.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    WTF?

    Undecided

    After (admittedly briefly) looking at this, I can't decide whether this most resembles rocking horse poo or unicorn farts.

    P.S. do they have unicorns in India?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Undecided

      I'm afraid not. There aren't any unicorns anymore. Here's a Youtube link to a short documentary about what happened to them: link

    2. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Undecided

      No, you have to go to North Korea to find unicorns. Seriously.

  16. Cuddles Silver badge

    Not technically wrong

    "150 gigapascals - over a thousand times more than the pressure of the atmosphere"

    While it's true that 1.5 million is over a thousand, that's maybe not the best way to describe it.

  17. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  18. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    WTF?

    "Silver in gold"

    The one weird thing about this superconductor would be that it is not made of cheap materials and "rare earth metal" (also cheap) oxydes, but of Real Money metals.

    Sounds Hollywoodesque. Maybe you want to sandwich it in Platinum for best effects?

    1. BeerTokens

      Re: "Silver in gold"

      Your description reminded me of Star Trek 'Gold Pressed Latinum'

      http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Latinum

      1. Mark Wallace

        Re: "Silver in gold"

        Your description reminded me of Star Trek 'Gold Pressed Latinum'

        http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Latinum

        What came to my mind was The Wild, Wild, West

        Great minds obviously think alike -- of very silly TV show concepts.

  19. iron Silver badge

    "promised superconductivity “at ambient temperature and pressure conditions”... researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore... at 236 kelvin or -37.15 degrees"

    I'm pretty sure that -37C is never ambient temperature in India.

    By any chance do these physicists have an uncle who works for Microsoft and want to remove a virus from my computer?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...-37C is never ambient temperature in India."

      In Ottawa, -40° can be ambient at times. Then in the summer, +40°C.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If nothing else this proves

    that science works.

  21. Geekpride
    Boffin

    Awesome if true, but...

    This reminds me of when it seemed an experiment had spotted particles travelling faster than light. Like practical-temperature superconductors, it would be an amazing breakthrough if true. But just as the particle speed measurement turned out to be an experimental error, this seems likely to be incorrect.

    Let's get trying to replicate this and find out the answer.

    1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

      Re: Awesome if true, but...

      Except that in the case of the FTL particles, IIRC, the scientists doubted their own results and immediately published their protocols and results to the community in the hope that someone would help them identify the source of their error, which is what eventually happened.

      Can't really compare with what looks suspiciously like data massaging and email fraud.

  22. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Pint

    Inspiriong words1

    "I love the fact that we are all living in interesting times. Let us argue, let us fight, let us raise a stink and let us clear it ourselves! Let us make the best of the situation. Whether Thapa and Pandey win or not, let science win. Silence is not an option.”

    -- Prof. Raychaudhuri

    I'll drink to that!

    In fact, I already am.

  23. DougS Silver badge

    Even if this were true

    Its applicability would be limited, due to the cost of gold that appears a primary constituent of this material. You think copper theft is a problem, just wait!

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Even if this were true

      Absolutely. But just because it won't work for power distribution - and given that it's a nanomaterial, the component metals will be a small part of the cost - maybe it will be useful in microchips, for example.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Even if this were true

        Possibly, but look at how much trouble it was to convert from aluminum to copper, and Intel's 10nm issues apparently stem at least in part from trying to use cobalt for some wires.

        Switching to gold alone would be fraught with difficulty, but the processes used wouldn't even allow for the the possibility of using wires with a special construction like this would require. It would probably take decades to figure out.

        It would be a really sad irony if we finally cracked room temperature superconductors, but we couldn't use them for power transmission due to cost, and couldn't use them in computers because we couldn't make them!

        Still, I guess just having a room temperature superconductor to study could potentially help us learn more about the phenomena, and perhaps eventually find others that were less problematic, so it wouldn't be all bad.

    2. HelpfulJohn

      Re: Even if this were true

      "You think copper theft is a problem, just wait!"

      The positive aspect to a gold-based superconductor might be that the usable current density could be humongous. This would make it an instant Darwin Award for anyone trying to klep a live wire. Sort of like trying to steal copper from a live sub-station only vastly more so.

      Our future infrastructure could be entirely safe from casual theft. This would be an advantage to the technology that I've yet to see publicly mentioned.

  24. John Savard Silver badge

    Puzzled

    "Let them give up their greed of earning a billion dollars in patent" - if they actually do have room temperature superconductivity, of course they would have to secure patents before they could reveal details; that is perfectly normal and to be expected.

    Of course, since there is reason to believe their data is faked - the duplicate noise - and now the use of a fake E-mail account to try and subdue criticism - there is reason to suspect they may not have it. But if so, why waste money applying for a patent?

    I am, therefore, a bit puzzled by all this. While it's easy to jump to the conclusion that the discovery was faked, the events don't quite fit with any obvious motive. Could the experimenters be victims of a prankster aiming to destroy their reputations by tampering with their experiment, to make them think they had found this discovery, and then doing underhanded things so as to appear they are done on their behalf?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its just possible that this works

    Hi, my own experiments did show a resistance drop in one sample of pyrolytic graphite doped with a mixture of MEK and acetone: its possible that a variant of this explains the early results by Prof Pablo and others (as I suspected the original result was due to low level solvent contamination in the water)

    If the effect being seen is actually bipolaron based or something really strange like the recently observed 3/2 spin material @ <1K then it may in fact be genuine.

    The kicker will be if a second laboratory independently duplicates their experiment and gets near identical results with the obvious addition of a levitated magnet at >229K (eg using thermoelectric cooler), also Ag/Au nanoparticles may be the missing "glue" everyone missed.

    An interesting experiment might be to try co-precipitating Ag/Au from silver doped chloroauric acid and sintering at a very low temperature to see what that does.

  26. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Why no excitement?

    We are seeing how science is supposed to work. I propose, and others dispose. Last man standing is your winner. Its ugly but we've got a lot as a civilization to show for it. Where Pons and Fleischman left the script with cold fusion is when they and their uni went straight to the press and tried to short circuit the normal process.

    High temp superconductors as we know them now are very interesting physically... the Nobel committee has certainly found that true... but they've not seen as much use as type 2 low temp materials. Look at the magnets in ITER, CERN, or even your local friendly MRI machine. Whats going on here is that as much as liquid helium is a pain in the tail to deal with, liquid He plus low temp material solutions are cheaper in terms of total cost of ownership than the current HTS materials at liquid nitrogen temps. This is subject to change as manufacturing engineering chips away at the problem.

    Economics gets a vote. Even assuming these guys' claim is good... and from the looks of things thats charitable... given the extreme cost of HTS materials today the best I can give you is a warm, hearty "meh" until costs are understood for another material class.

  27. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Epic podcast on superconductors

    Listen to this and you will get an appreciation that zero loss is only half the story... Meissner effect is equally interesting and useful. But the field repulsion requires flux pinning... And flux pinning is the tip of the iceberg of nonideal effects that make practical application of SC very difficult.

    Manufacture of superconductors to achieve desired pinning properties is a mixture of nano engineering and black magic. Black magic of the most evil sort. There is some decent discussion of the economics of SC and so on:

    http://omegataupodcast.net/285-superconductivity/

    Omega Tau's podcasts are by and large excellent. Except of course when they are extraordinary.

  28. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Lies

    We all know the holy grail is made out of wood.

    1. HelpfulJohn

      Re: Lies

      "We all know the holy grail is made out of wood."

      I thought the documentary by whozzisname insisted it was meat?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. High temperature

    Interesting to note, room temperature materials exist already.

    Just not on Earth.

    "Room Temperature" on Pluto is cold enough that Hg superconducts.

  30. Conundrum1885

    More information on bipolarons

    Essentially a bipolaron is a quasi-particle believed to originate from electron interactions with phonons (lattice vibrations) which are themselves a quasi-particle of probabilistic origin where the electron orbits are distorted into a resonance.

    In fact HTSC is a manifestation of quantum effects on a macroscopic scale.

    I am now working on a variant of earlier work, please feel free to contribute.

    The intriguing discovery of Br doping in graphene is believed to be causally linked to HTSC in that it might be a precursor so we now have the graphene equivalent of a Mott insulator.

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