Thursday, October 06, 2011
Prof Daniel Shechtman of Israel won the Nobel in chemistry for his discovery of a new from of condensed matter, quasicrystals - a find that got him ridiculed for years. Crystals are big on symmetry. You cut one in half, it looks the same on both sides - your turn one a quarter or a half turn, it looks the same. Shechtman found crystals in patterns that could not be repeated so easily - they had pentagonal symmetry. Turn a quasicrystal a half-turn and it no longer looks the same, but if you go back to the starting position and turn it a fifth of a turn, it DOES look the same. He saw this in 1982, but it was decades before anyone could stop throwing rocks long enough to provide the ultimate proof - growing quasicrystals in a lab. Congratulations to a pioneer!