Friday, October 07, 2011

Impossible Crystals

You hear sometimes that modern science is no longer an individual effort. That it's a team sport. Then someone like Daniel Shechtman wins the Nobel prize for Chemistry.

In 1982 he discovered a kind of crystal that was thought to be a mathematical impossibility - a crystal with "five-fold symmetry"...
...that is, the atoms in it formed a pattern that appeared essentially the same when rotated by a fifth of a turn, or 72 degrees
But the science, unfortunately, was already settled.
When he finally told colleagues about his discovery, he was met with dismissal and ridicule. His claims caused such embarrassment that his boss asked him to leave the research group. The results drew a similar hostile response when he finally published them in Physical Review Letters in November 1984.
Eventually, science re-settled. Shechtman was right.

And It turned out other researchers had even seen the same telltale diffraction pattern which he had spotted. But they had dismissed it.

He believed what was before his eyes.
For that he wins a Nobel Prize.

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