posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The former CEO of Redflex, a large red light camera vendor, pleaded guilty on Thursday to bribery of Chicago city officials as part of a large contracting bid. Karen Finley is the second of three defendants to plead guilty to such charges, The scheme was to hire a friend of a former Chicago transit official as a $2 million consultant, much of which was then funneled to that official. Martin O’Malley, the contractor, announced in court filings that he would plead guilty in October 2014. The federal criminal trial of John Bills, the former managing deputy commissioner at the Department of Transportation, is currently set for January 11, 2016. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The latest face-palm-worthy revelation from the Ashley Maddison hack comes courtesy of the Associated Press, which is reporting that hundreds of government employees—some with sensitive jobs in the White House, Congress, and law enforcement agencies—used Internet connections in their federal offices to pay membership fees for and use the dating website for cheating. The news organization pored over a massive trove of data the hackers made available earlier this week. By tracing the IP addresses of people who visited the site over more than five years, AP reporters determined the visitors included two assistant U.S. attorneys; an information technology administrator in the Executive Office of the President; a division chief, an investigator, and a trial attorney in the Justice Department; a government hacker at the Homeland Security Department; and another DHS employee who indicated he worked on a US counterterrorism response team. According to Thursday's AP report: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Think of it as a map of the rapidly changing world of computer software. On Wednesday, GitHub published a graph tracking the popularity of various programming languages on its eponymous Internet service, a tool that lets anyone store, edit, and collaborate on software code. In recent years, GitHub.com has become the primary means of housing open source software—code that’s freely available to the world at large; an increasing number of businesses are using the service for private code, as well. A look at how the languages that predominate on GitHub have changed over time is a look at how the software game is evolving. In particular, the graph reveals just how much open source has grown in recent years. It shows that even technologies that grew up in the years before the recent open source boom are thriving in this new world order—that open source has spread well beyond the tools and the companies typically associated with the movement. Providing a quicker, cheaper, and more comprehensive way of building software, open source is now mainstream. And the mainstream is now open source. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Hackers behind the breach of the Ashley Madison cheater's dating service have released a second, much bigger dump of sensitive materials that include a massive amount of e-mail from its parent company's CEO Noel Biderman. The BitTorrent download totals 19GB, including 13GB worth of e-mail from Biderman's, who is CEO of Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison. The rest is made up of source code for the website and its various smartphone apps as well as proprietary corporate data. The new leak comes two days after Avid Life Media officials left open the possibility a previous 10GB download may not have been genuine . As it turned out, the leaked materials were real and showed the hackers had burrowed further into Ashley Madison than almost anyone had imagined. "Hey Noel, you can admit it's real now," the hackers wrote in a message included in the download. It will take time for the Internet to digest the contents. Still, a preliminary analysis doesn't look good. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The studio behind a poorly-reviewed Adam Sandler movie has targeted 11 Popcorn Time users in Oregon who used the BitTorrent-based app to download The Cobbler. The app, which debuted in about March 2014 as a sort of BitTorrent for dummies, created a Netflix-style interface for largely pirated materials. According to the civil suit, which was filed earlier this week in federal court in Portland, 11 anonymous Comcast customers downloaded the movie at various times this year. They are believed to be in violation of a copyright held by Cobbler Nevada LLC, the corporate entity behind the film. According to the complaint: Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The Bits watchface. Today Google announced an upcoming Android Wear update that adds interactive watch face support to the platform. Developers can now write watch face apps with customized layouts and buttons that reveal information and trigger new activities. One app that takes advantage of the new API is the "Bits" watchface. Right from the watch face, this app lets you see appointments, unread e-mails, the weather, and more. Tapping on any of the circles will expand that section to take up the huge screen. Google hasn't given a formal name to the Android Wear update, but the Bits app description says it requires "Android Wear 1.3." The update seems to let developers fully customize the main interface of Android Wear. Wearables don't really seem like a fully mature product category, so opening the floodgates of third-party innovation should be a boon to Android Wear. Before today, developers could only make static watchfaces. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
One of Google's datacenters in Europe, europe-west1-b, suffered permanent data loss after power fluctuations resulted in sporadic I/O errors. The cause? Four lightning strikes to the power grid disrupted the building's power. Although the datacenter has battery backups and auxiliary generation, Google writes that "some recently written data was located on storage systems which were more susceptible to power failure from extended or repeated battery drain." The result? "[I]n a very few cases, recent writes were unrecoverable, leading to permanent data loss." The company said that less than 0.000001 percent of storage in its persistent disk system was affected. That doesn't sound like much—it's ten kilobytes for every 1 terabyte—but with the datacenter likely holding many petabytes, it all adds up, and Google could well have lost as much as a few gigabytes of data. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The hyperloop sounds like science fiction, Elon Musk’s pipe dream: leapfrog high speed rail and go right to packing us into capsules that fling us across the country in hours using what are, essentially, pneumatic tubes. It sounds crazy, when you think about it. It’s starting to look a little less crazy. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced today that it has signed agreements to work with Oerlikon Leybold Vacuum and global engineering design firm Aecom. The two companies will lend their expertise in exchange for stock options in the company, joining the army of engineers from the likes of Boeing and SpaceX already lending their time to the effort. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
A bumper crop of new Microsoft hardware will be announced at an event in October according to a rumor coming from Chinese site WPDang. This confirms a previous rumor reported a couple of weeks ago by Neowin, that said that Microsoft was going to refresh its range of hardware in time for the holiday season. The stars of the show will undoubtedly be a Surface Pro 4 and a pair of flagship Lumia handsets. The specs of the Surface Pro 4 are still something of an unknown. It's expected to have a Skylake processor, and it would seem strange if Microsoft's first-party hardware cannot showcase new Windows 10 features such as Windows Hello biometric login. At its IDF conference in San Francisco, Intel demonstrated using voice recognition to wake a Windows PC from sleep—"Hey, Cortana, wake up!"—and similarly it would make sense for Surface Pro 4 to support this capability. The flagship Lumia handsets have fewer surprises, with multiple leaks of their specs. The Lumia 950, codenamed Talkman, will have a 5.2 inch 1440×2560 OLED screen, six-core Qualcomm 808 processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage with microSD expansion, a 20MP rear and 5MP front camera, a 3000mAh removable battery, Qi wireless charging, and USB Type C. The Lumia 950 XL, codenamed Cityman, bumps the screen up to 5.7 inches, the processor to an eight-core Qualcomm 810, and the battery up to 3300mAh removable battery. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The information age demands fat pipes. But making fat pipes is not always as easy as it sounds. Consider our current generation of fiber optic communications. Compared to microwave systems, where every symbol communicates something like one or two bytes of data, most current optical systems are limited to one to four bits per symbol. This hasn’t mattered so much because many lasers, each with a different wavelength—called a channel—can be used on the same fiber, and the rate at which we send those bits is astonishingly high. Single channel capacities are way in excess of 40Gb/s range—40Gb/s was in testing the last time I taught a telecommunications course, and in 2012, various companies were testing 160Gb/s per channel. These incredible capacities, however, are achieved under very stringent conditions: the optical power must remain low and the optical properties of the fiber must be carefully controlled (something called dispersion management). The increase from 40Gb/s to 160Gb/s also represented the switch from encoding one bit per symbol to four bits per symbol. However, these encoding systems require that there is considerably more optical power per channel, and this causes problems with the stringent conditions mentioned above. This has made increases beyond four bits per symbol difficult. Funnily enough, everyone has kind-of-sorta known how to solve the problem, but no one was willing to simply bite the bullet and do it. At least until now. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Norovirus is famed for sending cruise ships scurrying back to port to unload hoards of violently-ill passengers. Aside from its brutal symptoms—vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and a general sense that death would be a fine option—the virus is famed for how easily it spreads. It has generally been assumed that the vomiting portion of the symptoms scatters small particles of liquid that carry the virus to new surfaces. But this is science, and we don't like assumptions. "There have been no laboratory-based studies characterizing the degree of [norovirus] release during a vomiting event," complain the authors of a new paper on the virus. So, to solve this gap in our knowledge, they built a simulated vomiting machine. Once the machine was functional, a batch of virus was mixed up and "was then subjected to scaled physiologically relevant pressures associated with vomiting." The amount of virus varied based on the pressure behind the vomit and the viscosity of the material. But virus travelled far from the site of release in all cases, confirming that the virus can potentially spread through this route. So now we know. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Nearly two years after its U.S. launch, Nintendo has lowered the price of its slate-like 2DS to $99.99, throwing in a downloadable copy of Mario Kart 7 with the system for good measure. The 2DS was already the cheapest way to get access to the 3DS' impressive library of games (plus original DS titles) at its original price of $130. And while the 2DS has dropped below $100 briefly during retailer-specific sales, this is the first time the official price of entering the 3DS ecosystem has come in under that figure (just barely). The lower price comes with significant drawbacks compared to the traditional 3DS line, though, including a lack of stereoscopic 3D and a non-folding design with slightly uncomfortable button positioning, and a smaller screen than the "XL" line. The 2DS also doesn't play the few games that require the "new 3DS" chipset. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Whistled Turkish is a non-conformist. Most obviously, it bucks the normal language trend of using consonants and vowels, opting instead for a bird-like whistle. But more importantly, it departs from other language forms in a more fundamental respect: it's processed differently by the brain. Language is usually processed asymmetrically by the brain. The left hemisphere does the heavy lifting, regardless of whether the language in question is spoken, written, or signed. Whistled Turkish is the first exception to this rule, according to a paper in today's issue of Current Biology: there's evidence that both hemispheres pitch in about the same amount of effort when processing the whistled words. This evidence could contribute to our general understanding of how the brain works by answering some of the many mysteries about how and why we have asymmetrical processing, and could maybe—very far down the road—help stroke sufferers regain some of their lost communicative skills. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Can a city make it easier for cell phone users to learn about RF energy?A federal judge in San Francisco is set to hear arguments today on a city's ability to force cell phone retailers to reiterate government information regarding radiofrequency (RF) energy absorption. In the civil suit, the American cell phone trade group wants a judge to declare Berkeley’s new municipal ordinance, which would require new such disclosures at the point of sale, invalid. The law, which passed in May 2015, was scheduled to take effect in August 2015, but the legal case aims to halt it. The case, known as CTIA v. City of Berkeley, pits two giants of the legal world against one another: on the side of the plaintiffs is Ted Olson, a former solicitor general under the George W. Bush Administration. Meanwhile, the defendants are armed with presidential hopeful and rockstar Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig. Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Road safety is a serious public health issue worldwide: 1.3 million people are killed in road transportation accidents every year, most of which occur in the developing world. In a study published in PNAS, researchers present the results of a randomized intervention to test whether a simple sticker could be enough to change people’s behavior behind the wheel. This extremely simple and cost-effective approach reduced insurance claims by 25 to 33 percent. The road safety experiment was conducted in Kenya between 2011 and 2013. Stickers with evocative messages were posted inside the country’s 14-seater minibuses, suggesting that passengers speak up if their driver was being unsafe. Vehicles (and their drivers) were recruited into the study at the point of insurance purchase then randomized into one of the treatment groups or one of the control groups. The experiment included several different treatment groups, including a placebo set that saw a neutral sticker saying "Travel Well." The other three groups all saw stickers intended to catch eyes:  the first used evocative messages with text about dangerous driving and no images; the second saw evocative messages with text about dangerous driving and images of people speaking up; and the third viewed evocative messages about dangerous driving with images of post-accident riders. Within each of these groups, there were subgroups in which the message encouraged either individual action or collective action—the latter involved a message roughly equivalent to “together we can.” Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Of all the features that Windows 10 brings to the table—the return of the Start menu, Cortana, the Xbox App—the most interesting for gamers, DirectX 12, has remained the most mysterious. Sure, the promise of a graphics API that allows console-like low-level access to the GPU and CPU, as well as improved performance for existing graphics cards, is tremendously exciting—but there's been no way to actually test those features and see just what kind of performance uplift (if any) there is. Until now. Enter Oxide Games' real-time strategy game Ashes of the Singularity, the very first publicly available game that natively uses DirectX 12. Even better, it has a DX11 mode, too, which means for the first time we can make a direct comparison between the real-world (i.e. actual game) performance of the two APIs across different hardware. Earlier benchmarks like 3DMark's API Overhead feature test were interesting, but entirely synthetic, and focused on the maximum number of draw calls per second (which allows a game engine to draw more objects, textures, and effects) achieved by each API. What's so special about DirectX 12? DirectX 12 features an entirely new programming model, one that works on a wide range of existing hardware. On the AMD side, that means any GPU featuring GCN 1.0 or higher (cards like the R9 270, R9 290X, and Fury X) are supported, while Nvidia says anything from Fermi (400-series and up) will work. Not every one of those graphics cards will support every feature of DirectX 12, though, thanks to how the API is split into different feature levels. Those levels include extra features like Conservative Rasterization, Tiled Resources, Raster Order Views, and Typed UAV Formats. Read 36 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
The abundance of password leaks over the past decade has revealed some of the most commonly used—and consequently most vulnerable—passphrases, including "password", "p@$$w0rd", and "1234567". The large body of data has proven invaluable to whitehats and blackhats alike in identifying passwords that on their face may appear strong but can be cracked in a matter of seconds. Now, Android lock patterns—the password alternative Google introduced in 2008 with the launch of its Android mobile OS—are getting the same sort of treatment. The Tic-Tac-Toe-style patterns, it turns out, frequently adhere to their own sets of predictable rules and often possess only a fraction of the complexity they're capable of. The research is in its infancy since Android lock Patterns (ALPs) are so new and the number of collected real-world-patterns is comparatively miniscule. Still, the predictability suggests the patterns could one day be subject to the same sorts of intensive attacks that regularly visit passwords. Marte Løge, a 2015 graduate of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, recently collected and analyzed almost 4,000 ALPs as part of her master's thesis. She found that a large percentage of them—44 percent—started in the top left-most node of the screen. A full 77 percent of them started in one of the four corners. The average number of nodes was about five, meaning there were fewer than 9,000 possible pattern combinations. A significant percentage of patterns had just four nodes, shrinking the pool of available combinations to 1,624. More often than not, patterns moved from left to right and top to bottom, another factor that makes guessing easier. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The third technical preview of Windows Server 2016 was released today, with one new feature in particular sure to attract interest: container support. Microsoft announced two kinds of container support for Windows Server 2016 back in April. The containers included in today's release are comparable to similar offerings on Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD; while they provide an isolated environment for deploying applications into, they don't shield apps from the underlying operating system or its version. Redmond is also promising a second kind of container, Hyper-V containers, which will use operating system virtualization to allow containers to use a different operating system or version from their host. They're not in today's build. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Jeb Bush, one of the leading Republican presidential candidates, told a national security forum that Washington, DC needs a stronger link to Silicon Valley. "There's a place to find common ground between personal civil liberties and NSA doing its job," Bush said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. "I think the balance has actually gone the wrong way." The former Florida governor's statement puts him not only at odds with rival Republican candidates like Rand Paul, but also against a number of government committees and federal judges. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
A Minnesota court has ordered Paul Hansmeier, one of two lawyers considered the creators of the Prenda Law copyright-trolling scheme, to pay sanctions in a case where he and his colleague John Steele were accused of trying to collude with a defendant. An order published Monday by a Minnesota appeals court describes how Hansmeier tried to dodge a $64,000 judicial sanction in the Guava LLC v. Spencer Merkel case by moving money out of his Alpha Law Firm then dissolving it. A district court previously found that Hansmeier's actions and inconsistent explanations warranted a piercing of the "corporate veil," and that court ruled that Hansmeier should be held personally responsible for the debt. Now, an appeals court has agreed (PDF) with that conclusion. Show us your "co-conspirators" The Guava LLC v. Spencer Merkel case was filed in early 2013. The lawsuit accused an Oregon man, Merkel, of downloading a porn movie entitled Amateur Allure—MaeLynn. Merkel called Prenda Law and admitted he did the downloading, but the man said he didn't have the $3,400 they were asking for as compensation. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
On Tuesday, Target and Visa confirmed that they had reached a settlement in which Target would pay up to $67 million to Visa card issuers for a security breach in 2013 that left 40 million customer credit card numbers compromised. Visa brokered the deal and will pass the award on to the card issuers that work within its network. The settlement deal is considerably larger than the $19 million settlement that Target reached with MasterCard earlier in the proceedings. That settlement was not approved because MasterCard issuers rejected it for being too low. The Wall Street Journal reports that Target’s deal with Visa is much more likely to succeed this time around because the agreement had "already received support from Visa’s largest card issuers.” A representative from JP Morgan Chase & Co. told Ars in an e-mail that the company was “pleased” with the settlement, but he would not go into detail about specifics. It also seems that Target is working on a new deal with MasterCard comparable to the one it cut with Visa. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
British health officials said Wednesday that e-cigarettes are about 95 percent less harmful than smoking, and added that they do not serve as a gateway or "route into smoking for children or non-smokers." "E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm. The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely," said Kevin Fenton, director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England. There's plenty of competing literature about the hot-button issue as vaping, or using e-cigarettes, has been growing in popularity across the globe. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Ron Amadeo The OnePlus 2. 10 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } Specs at a glance: OnePlus 2 Screen 1920×1080 5.5"(401 ppi) LCD OS Android Lollipop 5.1 with Oxygen UI CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 (Four 1.8 GHz Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores) RAM 3GB (16GB version)4GB (64GB version) GPU Adreno 430 Storage 16GB, or 64GB Networking 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS Bands US Model GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz WCDMA: 1/2/4/5/8 FDD-LTE: 1/2/4/5/7/8/12/17Europe Model GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900MHz WCDMA: 1/2/5/8 FDD-LTE: 1/3/5/7/8/20 Ports Micro USB 2.0 Type-C, headphones Camera 13MP rear camera with OSI and laser autofocus, 5MP front camera Size 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.9 mm Weight 175 g Battery 3300 mAh Price $329 (16GB version) $389 (64GB version) Other perks Fingerprint reader, 3-position physical notification mode switch, RGB notification LED, Dual SIM As a company, OnePlus' most distinctive quality has always been its aggressive marketing strategy. Despite only selling about a million phones so far, the company's slow drip of launch info and any-press-is-good-press mentality keeps it in the news almost as much as companies that sell 100x more units. OnePlus has made a name for itself by aggressively targeting enthusiasts with a "flagship" level device priced at less-than-flagship prices. Its software strategy fully embraces the modding community. The OnePlus One, like several of Google's Nexus phones before it, did a great job of being cheap without feeling cheap. Google has a ton of money to burn with a pricing scheme like that, but things appear different for OnePlus. It seems like reality has kicked in with the company's second phone, and you can really feel the cost cutting issues with the OnePlus 2. In an attempt to stand out on a budget, OnePlus removed some "standard" features you would expect on a smartphone, replacing them with unique items it thought consumers would like. We imagine the company made a list of things users do and don't care about, which came out like this: Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
After being caught in a legal tug of war for nearly a year and a half, the storied (and battered) Duke Nukem franchise has finally ended up in the hands of Gearbox Software. The Borderlands developer, which finally published the long-delayed and ill-received Duke Nukem Forever in 2011, said in a statement this morning that all pending litigation had been settled and that it "is the full and rightful owner of the Duke Nukem franchise." The legal battle started in February 2014, after 3D Realms and licensee Interceptor started teasing "an isometric action role-playging game" called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction. That got the attention of Gearbox, which thought it had purchased all rights to the Duke Nukem name and franchise in 2010, when it took over work on Forever. 3D Realms CEO Mike Nielsen said that the company's attempt to license the Duke Nukem name was done "in good faith and were not aware of any conflict. We never intended to cause any harm to Gearbox or Duke, which is why we immediately ceased development after Gearbox reached out." In any case, Nielsen said, "to secure the future of Duke, 3D Realms has agreed with Gearbox that a single home serves the IP best. And as big Duke fans, we’re excited to see what Gearbox has in store for the ‘King.’" Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Superconductivity was first seen in metals cooled down to close to absolute zero. But after exhausting every metal on the periodic table, the critical temperature at which the metal transitions to superconductivity never budged far from those extremely low temperatures. That changed dramatically with the development of cuprate superconductors, copper-containing ceramics that could superconduct in liquid nitrogen—still very cold (138K or −135°C), but relatively easy to achieve. But progress has stalled, in part because we don't have a solid theory to explain superconductivity in these materials. Now, taking advantage of the fact that we do understand what's going on in superconducting metals, a German research team has reached a new record critical temperature: 203K, or -70°C, a temperature that is sometimes seen in polar regions. The material they used, however, isn't a metal that appears on the periodic table. In fact, they're not even positive they know what the material is, just that it forms from hydrogen sulfide at extreme pressures. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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