Facebook Pixel
Science Friday

A New Controversial Black Hole Theory, Saving The Great Salt Lake. March 10, 2023, Part 1

Science Friday
Science Friday

Despite Superconductor Breakthrough, Some Scientists Remain Skeptical

This week, researchers unveiled a new superconductor which they say works at room temperature. Scientists have been working on identifying new superconductors for decades—materials that can transmit electricity without friction-like resistance. However, previously discovered superconductors only work at super cold temperatures, and under incredibly high pressures. The newly discovered superconductor, lutetium, could be much more useful in applications, like strong magnets used in MRIs, magnetically floating trains, and even nuclear fusion, than those which must be kept super-cold.

But there’s a bit of a wrinkle. The research team which published their results in the journal Nature this week, had their previous study on another superconductor retracted in 2020. As a result, many scientists in the field have concerns about the quality of this new research Ira talks with Sophie Bushwick, technology editor at Scientific American, to make sense of this superconductor saga and other big science news of the week including bumblebee culture, extreme ways to save mountain glaciers, and identifying the worms in Mezcal.

Can Utah’s Great Salt Lake Be Saved Before It’s Too Late?

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is one of the state’s treasures and is vital to the local ecosystem and economy. But since the 1980s, it’s been drying up—and now the lake’s water level is at a record low. The lake is fed by three rivers, which are fed by Utah’s snowpack. It’s also a terminal lake, meaning that there’s no outlet for water to exit. And as the population of Utah has increased, more water has been diverted from those rivers to agriculture, industry, and local residents. As more of the lakebed has become exposed, wind has picked up dust plumes and blown them into local communities. Dr. Kevin Perry, a professor of atmospheric science sciences at the University of Utah, discovered that those lakebed dust plumes contain heavy metals, including arsenic.

But despite these challenges, Perry and local politicians are confident that if the right water usage reductions are put in place, the lake will have a chance to bounce back. Science Friday digital producer Emma Gometz visited Perry at the Great Salt Lake in January, who describes how we got here and what the future holds.

Exploring A New Theory About Dark Energy’s Origins

Black holes remain one of the great mysteries of the universe. Another enigma? Dark energy. Little is known about this concept, aside from the belief that dark energy accelerates the expansion of the universe. These are two of the most mind-bending concepts in physics. There’s a new theory that brings together black holes and dark energy into one mind-bending solution: research led by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa posits that dark energy could actually come from supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.

If true, this would be a massive breakthrough in what we know about astrophysics. But many experts in the field have reservations about this idea. Two of those experts join Ira to talk about this theory, and other recent black hole breakthroughs: Janna Levin, PhD, author of “Black Hole Blues” and “Black Hole Survival Guide,” and a physics and astronomy professor at Barnard College in New York City, and Feryal Özel, a professor and chair of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Transcripts for each segment will be available the week after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

Science Friday
Not playing