Superconductivity is the weird phenomenon of zero electrical resistance that occurs when some materials are cooled below a critical temperature. The best superconductors have to be cooled with liquid helium or nitrogen to get cold enough (often as low as -250 °C or -480 F) to work. The holy grail for researchers is the idea that a material could be made to superconduct at around 0 °C — so-called "room temperature" superconductivity. If such a thing was ever discovered it would unleash a wide range of new technologies, including super-fast computers and data transfer.

The history of superconductivity is littered with dubious claims of high-temperature activity that later turn out to be impossible to reproduce. Indeed, physicists have a name for this: USOs, or unidentified superconducting objects.

So new claims of high-temperature superconductivity have to be treated with caution. Having said that, the news today that the record for high-temperature superconductivity has been smashed is worth looking at in more detail.

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