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Dan Shechtman Wins Chemistry Nobel For Quasicrystals

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the oh-it's-just-a-new-class-of-matter dept.

Math 74

Stirling Newberry writes with word that Dan Shechtman of Israel's Technion has won the Nobel prize in chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals, and provides a short description of why quasicrystals are exciting: "Quasicrystals fill space completely, but do not repeat, even though they show self-similar patterns, the way pi has order, but doesn't repeat. That is, they tessellate in an ordered way, but do not have repeating cells. In art, Girih tiles showed the essential property of being able to cover an infinite space, without repeating. In mathematics, Hao Wang came up with a set of tiles that any Turing Machine could be represented by, and conjectured that they would eventually always repeat. He turned out to be wrong, and over the next decades, tiles that did not repeat, but showed order, were discovered, most famously, though not first, by Penrose. Physically, when x-rays diffract, that is are scattered, from a crystal, they form a discrete lattice. Quasicrystals also have an ordered diffraction pattern, and it tiles the way ordered non-repeating tiles do. Quasicrystal patterns were known before Shechtman labelled them. So why care? Because crystals have only certain symmetries, and that determines their physical properties. Quasicrystals can have different symmetries, and do not bind regularly, and so different physical properties – which means new kinds of materials. Some examples: highly ductile steel, and, in something that is a bit of a by-word among people who study them, cooking utensils."

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Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 3 years ago | (#37612060)

Quasicrystals, now there's a blast from the past. Why didn't he win this about ten years ago, I wonder?

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (2)

ZankerH (1401751) | about 3 years ago | (#37612122)

Because the people who award them want to be almost-completely-sure it's legit after they gave a guy a prize for discovering "the parasite that causes cancer" in the 20s. This is why most Nobel prizes tend to be for stuff that's been happening for years.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0, Troll)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37612296)

Because the people who award them want to be almost-completely-sure it's legit

This must not be the same committee that decides who gets a Peace prize, you know, like in 2009.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (3, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#37612468)

This must not be the same committee that decides who gets a Peace prize, you know, like in 2009.

You know, like, maybe it isn't.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Dunbal (464142) | about 3 years ago | (#37612640)

And yet your sig speaks of tolerance. Like, piss off, lol.

Some groups (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about 3 years ago | (#37614818)

don't deserve tolerance. Judging by your post, I can see why that would make you upset.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37612530)

This must not be the same committee that decides who gets a Peace prize, you know, like in 2009.

It's not. According to the will of Alfred Nobel the Peace prize is administered in Norway which at the time of his death was in a forced union with Sweden.
The specifics to why he made this decision is unclear but the Norwegian Nobel Committee speculates that Nobel may have considered Norway better suited to awarding the prize, as it did not have the same militaristic traditions as Sweden.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#37613572)

You mean they have different people for deciding on the Peace prize and the Physics prize?!

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#37612330)

Assuming they give the prize to the persons primary accomplishment. Often times you find the committee doing things like giving the prize to Einstein for his work on the photoelectric effect rather than for his work on relativity. He won it for relativity, but they awarded it to a less controversial body of work.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 3 years ago | (#37613222)

Assuming they give the prize to the persons primary accomplishment. Often times you find the committee doing things like giving the prize to Einstein for his work on the photoelectric effect rather than for his work on relativity. He won it for relativity, but they awarded it to a less controversial body of work.

But just to be clear -- Einstein deserved it for the photoelectric effect, had that been his only accomplishment at the time of the award.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

edremy (36408) | about 3 years ago | (#37613368)

Assuming they give the prize to the persons primary accomplishment. Often times you find the committee doing things like giving the prize to Einstein for his work on the photoelectric effect rather than for his work on relativity. He won it for relativity, but they awarded it to a less controversial body of work.

But just to be clear -- Einstein deserved it for the photoelectric effect, had that been his only accomplishment at the time of the award.

Einstein actually deserved at least five

  1. Special relativity
  2. General relativity
  3. Photoelectric effect
  4. Heat capacity of crystals
  5. Brownian motion

The issue was that SR/GR are really hard to test, and the Nobel committee wasn't going to allow a prize for something that hadn't been tested. Not giving a prize to Einstein was getting embarrassing, so they found something that deserved the prize and that could be tested on a lab bench in ten minutes.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37613810)

The issue was that SR/GR are really hard to test, and the Nobel committee wasn't going to allow a prize for something that hadn't been tested. Not giving a prize to Einstein was getting embarrassing, so they found something that deserved the prize and that could be tested on a lab bench in ten minutes.

For SR, Einstein would have had to share it at least with Henri Poincaré [wikipedia.org] , but Poincaré died in 1912 and Nobel prizes are in principle to living people only, so that made it impossible to reward it to Einstein. For AR, he would have had to share it with David Hilbert [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37614054)

No, he did not.
relativity could be proven. So he did not deserve them at the time. Only with years of experimentation ahve we proven him to be right in those regards.

"Not giving a prize to Einstein was getting embarrassing, so they found something that deserved the prize and that could be tested on a lab bench in ten minutes."
That's a complete ah hoc Romanticism of the past. He got it, because it met the requirements, not as some apologetic gesture.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37615612)

Makes sense. Most science isn't "good" until it's been through the meat grinder that is peer review. One of the reasons I get so mad at the press. Show them a snappy enough press release [newenergytimes.com] and they'll report all sorts of stuff.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1, Insightful)

WillDraven (760005) | about 3 years ago | (#37612130)

Because this how the Nobel Prizes operate normally. They give the prize to people who's work has stood the test of time and has proven to be correct, and useful. This is why everybody was so flabbergasted when they gave one to Obama, not only had his work not stood the test of time, he hadn't even done any of it yet. He was a glaring exception to the way the prize is normally awarded.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37612190)

Nobel Peace Prize != Nobel Prize

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 3 years ago | (#37612356)

True, but even the Nobel Peace Prize almost always goes to someone who has actually done something other than not being John McCain.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37613890)

I think in Obama's case it was for not being George Bush. That would qualify anybody other than carbon copy Rick Perry.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Surt (22457) | about 3 years ago | (#37614254)

Because giving hope and inspiration to a long oppressed group of people is nothing.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about 3 years ago | (#37614414)

It is nothing when he doesn't do shit to deliver on it.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37615218)

Maybe bankrupting the USA might result in fewer wars = more peace? ;)

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Surt (22457) | about 3 years ago | (#37615442)

Ah, but they couldn't know that when they awarded it. ;-)

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

dkf (304284) | about 3 years ago | (#37612360)

Nobel Peace Prize != Nobel Prize

Well, strictly it is a Nobel Prize in that it is one of the prizes specified by Alfred Nobel's will (unlike the Economics Prize). However, the committee that awards it is Norwegian (for reasons that are too complicated for me to remember and too dull for me to look up) and it's always been highly political. The award to Obama was not actually that remarkable by the standards of the Peace Prize, given that it had previously been given to some highly dodgy characters. (Any organization that gives an award for peace to Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat has got to be not taken too seriously.)

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#37612658)

Well, at least Kissinger was part of the Paris Peace Accords and Arafat the Oslo Accords, both treaties that were signed then ignored. I honestly don't know what Obama did for his, except trying to pull out of some wars his country already was in. But yes, for one they tend to overlook past villainy and they award it way prematurely to impose the peace rather than award the peace after the fact. That tends to fail spectacularly when the parties aren't actually ready to make peace and all you're left with is a prize to a villain for a betrayed peace agreement. And to give it to a sitting president, fuck what if the US had to go to war these last couple years? Should he bring his peace prize to the war room for perfect irony? I'm a Norwegian but that committee doesn't represent anyone but the washed up politicians on it.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 3 years ago | (#37613008)

He obviously didn't try that hard, as we are still there. He IS commander and chief. He could bring them all back with the stroke of a pen if he wanted to. But he doesn't. Too profitable.

Anyone that thinks he is any different from Republicans is fooling themselves. Any and all "mainstream" candidates are exactly the same, and are all bought and paid for by the same monied interests. If you want real leadership, then you have to look to those who have proven themselves to be unbuyable. Dennis Kucinich for the liberals, and Ron Paul for the (true) conservatives. I would be happy to have either as President, because they can be counted on to do what they think is best for the people, not what is best for their donors.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 3 years ago | (#37613704)

He obviously didn't try that hard, as we are still there. He IS commander and chief. He could bring them all back with the stroke of a pen if he wanted to. But he doesn't. Too profitable.

No, too rational. There was already an agreement in place for Iraq, that was a reasonable time table to slowly withdraw and allow the Iraqi government to slowly take over and demonstrate it had the stability to remain after U.S. forces left. With U.S. forces not participating in police duties in the cities as they were, the situation has deteriorated some, but not like it would have if there had been an instant withdrawal in January 2009 that could have brought the country back towards the civil war that was narrowly avoided. As huge an irresponsible cock-up as the Iraq adventure was, just dropping it like a hot potato would have been equally irresponsible. Realistically looking at the situation as it stood then, this is a reasonably good ending.

Similarly, abandoning Afghanistan and letting the Taliban just re-take it would have been irresponsible, as in a nightmare for everyone who celebrated the end of their rule and then would face retribution. Trying to find a reasonable solution that could maintain what had already been accomplished was the rational thing to do. Unfortunately the inherent problem of Pakistan's involvement has made this difficult, and the end result here is not looking nearly as good. This is the reason the President hasn't made a timetable for withdrawal -- because there's no strict timetable that we can be sure our progress will be maintained. I think this is a mistake and a timetable should be created, because even this highly watered-down definition of "success" may not happen in any bounded time frame.

Anyone that thinks he is any different from Republicans is fooling themselves. Any and all "mainstream" candidates are exactly the same, and are all bought and paid for by the same monied interests.

While I readily agree that many of Obama's actual policies are much more conservative than any liberal would want or any conservative would admit, that statement is basically just saying "I either lack or am deliberately eschewing the ability to destinguish." I will never do this in the name of cynicism-for-cynicism's-sake, so I don't have to think or distinguish or pick between realistic options.

I'm a realist. In reality, the candidates are very different, but typically not in the way that would buck the system entirely. That's not going to happen just because you pick the 'right' President.

Dennis Kucinich for the liberals, and Ron Paul for the (true) conservatives. I would be happy to have either as President, because they can be counted on to do what they think is best for the people, not what is best for their donors.

You mean Ron Paul could be counted on to either:
1) accomplish nothing because they could not get Congress to agree, and they would not compromise in order to accomplish it. They very thing you see as an advantage is a terrible disadvantage in a politician -- even the imaginary "ideal" ones. :P
2) accomplish disaster by doing stupid things like just abandoning the Iraqi and Afghan governments instantly.

Sticking to principles by ignoring what has already transpired and what the consequences of those principles would be is exactly the problem we had with Bush II, but I guess it's okay if you like the principles of the guy better. I guess then reality doesn't matter.

Oh and Kuccinich is not the example I would put opposite Paul. I'd pick Russ Feingold for that. I love the man as a Senator, but he'd make a lousy President.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 3 years ago | (#37616588)

My, my, my, the "realist" says to "keep the status quo" because to do otherwise would "accomplish totally undefined disaster". And we wonder why things keep getting worse. Can't let the "radicals" initiate change, no, much better to keep gunning it for the cliff.

Also, nice job totally ignoring third parties, and failing to recognize rampant corruption in the two major ones, apparently only for the sake of being "optimistic" (is choosing the method of execution rather than choosing not to be executed really the opposite of cynicism).

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 3 years ago | (#37618312)

There's a big difference between rejecting your unrealistic and therefore useless and/or disastrous* options in and "keeping the status quo". You've failed to distinguish once again, and in doing so demonstrate binary thinking.

Reality is not binary. Reality is nuanced.

I do recognize the corruption in the major parties, but that does not make all candidates "exactly the same". That you infer from my rejection of that illogical statement that I also do not recognize political corruption or acknowledge third parties just shows your binary un-nuanced thinking. But in reality, I've voted for 3rd parties whenever I thought they had a decent candidate, which has mostly been for state and local positions but this is the best place for a 3rd party to gain support**.

I just haven't ever voted for Ron Paul, who would be a shit President, and by the way is a Republican. So therefore he's really exactly the same as every other Republican, and every Democrat because they're exactly the same too! Right?

No, he's a "radical". And rather than try to brake and steer the car away from the cliff in a controlled fashion, he'd demand an instantaneous cessation of all forward velocity and refuse to accept anything less. And you think this is "choosing not to be executed" rather than "Choosing a method of avoiding execution guaranteed to fail." Sorry, I'd rather pursue a method that might actually work, even if -- due to it involving 'reality' -- it might also fail.

* Disaster which I did define, thank you for not reading. I mean why bother reading if you're not going to bother distinguishing?
** Shooting for the Presidency first with the Electoral College system still in place, and with no significant presence in lesser offices, is just plain foolish.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

wisty (1335733) | about 3 years ago | (#37613060)

What's wrong with Kissinger? You don't like Realpolitik? It's ugly, but it arguably headed off World War III. It's a terrible way to deal with friends, but the least-worst way to deal with powerful enemies. One of the consequences of realpolitik was the anti-nuclear movement. There's nothing wrong with using small tactical nukes (compared to just using conventional missiles) to blow up your enemy's battleships, but your enemy will need to respond with their own tactical nukes. Unfortunately, you and your enemy will have to keep using bigger and bigger nukes, to stay ahead, till you are eventually nuking each other's cities (which is very undesirable). The only winning solution is not to play - to completely avoid the use of nukes in combat (except as deterrents which should never be used). So the realpolitik guys on both sides publicly demonized the idea of using nuclear weapons (even small, clean, tactical ones), except in retaliation. Why else do you think there's never been a nuke used in anger, since 1945?

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

adamanthaea (723150) | about 3 years ago | (#37614268)

The Peace Prize tends to be a joke anyway. I mean, it's not like Kissinger or Arafat or Rabin or Peres work really stood the test of time.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

adamanthaea (723150) | about 3 years ago | (#37614310)

I'm sorry, "tends to be" isn't what I really meant. There have been many deserving laureates, but the questionable ones stick out more in the Peace category.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 3 years ago | (#37614512)

That prize lost it's shine when they gave it to Hull in 1945, Yasser Arafat in 1994, and Al Gore in 2007.

While Hull helped create the UN, he also turned away a boat full of Jews trying to escape Germany - in his defense, he probably didn't know they would be killed... Arafat was a terrorist that got a prize for stopping his terror campaign. I guess all of the peaceful Palestinians don't deserve one unless they kill a bunch of people first? Al Gore did nothing in any way related to peace. Even if climate change leads to conflict, that's a second order effect - should we give his teachers a prize, too? I mean, they enabled him to become the man he is today.

So yeah, the Obama prize was crap, but it became some kind of political tool a long time ago.

(As an aside, I realize that Arafat was not the only recipient that year - I was just picking on him as the most obviously undeserving.)

Alternative award? (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | about 3 years ago | (#37618748)

Well, let's start an alternative award called `The Real Nobel Prize`, clearly it's off track (no troll intended),

unless there already is an alternative.

Awards aren't that great but it's nice to recognise someone and say thanks right

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 years ago | (#37612282)

It's scientific research, not the Olympics. The merit of a result sometimes takes a while to become apparent.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about 3 years ago | (#37621236)

Sure, in 1987 it looked like he might have been wrong, but in, say, 2001? I don't think so. The science of crystallography had already changed to accommodate quasicrystals.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37613928)

Science.
He found something that was unexpect based on what we knew at the time.
SO it need t be duplicated by other people, it refined and an understanding had to happen.

This is normal and expected. It's why the process is so good.
If people went around awarding the Nobel prize for things that where found by one lab and not repeated, they would be worthless

This is a great example of the scientific process. It's also, another' slap in the face to any yahoo that says scientists don't want thing to change, and protect the status quo.

"Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved." Tim M.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37622234)

'nother quote I love:
        You don't use science to show that you're right, you use science to become right.
        -- Randall Munroe (xkcd #701)

Aside: science needs to spend 5.7 seconds learning how to use the common apostrophe, then cease its casual and wanton cruelty to the puir beastie.

<rant>
Anti-grammar nazis need not respond. Clarity should be king, and it's a waste to make people re-read something one or more times to untangle what you were trying to say from what you actually said.
</rant>

Note to self: more sleep, less caffeine.

--klodefactor

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (1)

Revotron (1115029) | about 3 years ago | (#37615358)

It took ten years because the Nobel Prize Committee just finished reading timothy's summary.

Re:Those snappy Nobel guys. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37618290)

I would imagine busily trying to finally start understanding his work after ridiculing him like the other scientists.

SCIENCE: Also likes to get entrenched in its ideas.

At last (1)

samjam (256347) | about 3 years ago | (#37612082)

At last - crystals worthy of stargate! http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Control_crystal [wikia.com]

Re:At last (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#37613618)

Except we still need to figure out where on the periodic table "naquadah" is supposed to be.

Re:At last (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about 3 years ago | (#37614238)

Its between Kryptonite and.Cavorite.

Cooking utensils? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 3 years ago | (#37612264)

That link leads to US Patent 5,204,191.

So I guess life imitates art. Where is the Slashdot knife and fork patent pending icon?

Re:Cooking utensils? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37612320)

If sporks get patent trolled, you neckbeards are screwed.

Re:Cooking utensils? (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 3 years ago | (#37612370)

Thats why all this talk in astronomy of meta-verses, multiverses, and branes is nonsense.

God holds the patent on the Universe and to quell competition won't let anyone else make their own.

Re:Cooking utensils? (1)

mikael (484) | about 3 years ago | (#37612552)

I could believe in branes. Some time ago it was explained that the theory is that there are at least two higher dimension planes. When they intersect, particles are created. Thus particles that give out positive and negative charges (protons, electrons) are really like atomic-sized wormholes into an upstream/downstream of those higher dimensions.

Any line in a higher dimensions would appear as a point in three dimensions, so it seems to make sense.

Maybe fundamental questions such as "Is the gravitational field around a large nucleus constant?", or "Where does an ion (proton) store the information that it is moving?" would be easier to answer.

Re:Cooking utensils? (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 3 years ago | (#37612636)

Branes definately exist in the Zombie universe!

Re:Cooking utensils? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37614140)

no, not "cooking utensils" but:
The invention relates to materials for coating metal alloys or metals, which materials are intended to improve the performance of said alloys or metals. These materials have a composition which corresponds to the general formula Al.sub.a Cu.sub.b Fe.sub.c X.sub.d I.sub.e, wherein X represents one or more elements chosen from V, Mo, Ti, Zr, Nb, Cr, Mn, Ru, Rh, Ni, Mg, W, Si and the rare earths, and I represents the inevitable manufacturing impurities, e.ltoreq.2, 14.ltoreq.b.ltoreq.30, 7.ltoreq.c.ltoreq.20, O.ltoreq.d.ltoreq.10, with c+d.ltoreq.10 and a+b+c+d+e=100% of the number of atoms, and they contain at least 40% by mass of an icosahedral quasi-crystalline phase and/or a decagonal quasi-crystalline phase and have a grain size greater than 1,000 nm in the quasi-crystalline phase. These materials are useful, in particular, for coating copper, aluminium alloys or copper alloys in the manufacture of cooking utensils, anti-friction bearings, anti-wear surfaces and reference surfaces.

So, yes this new material could be used to coat cooking utensil, as well as a bunch of other things.

Physical fractals? (1)

Spykk (823586) | about 3 years ago | (#37612352)

Self-similar, potentially infinite and never repeating? Sounds like the physical equivalent of a fractal to me.

Re:Physical fractals? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37612416)

You're missing the fractional dimensionality clause and the part about being self-similar at different scales... your description applies to pretty much any lattice not just fractals.

Re:Physical fractals? (1)

gilleain (1310105) | about 3 years ago | (#37613046)

You're missing the fractional dimensionality clause and the part about being self-similar at different scales... your description applies to pretty much any lattice not just fractals.

You're right about self-similarity, but I wonder whether quasicrystals don't have some statistical properties that are constant across scales... Actually, I've just googled it:

Self-similarity of Quasi-periodic lattice (Sun Jirong, 1996) : http://cpl.iphy.ac.cn/qikan/manage/wenzhang/0090419.pdf [iphy.ac.cn]

Quite a mathematical paper. Oh, and this also looks interesting (nice pictures, also):

Wallpaper patterns with self-similar and graph-directed fractal lattice units (Deniz et al, 2011) : http://www.mi.sanu.ac.rs/vismath/ozdemirsept2011/Wallpaper.pdf [sanu.ac.rs]

Re:Physical fractals? (1)

mikael (484) | about 3 years ago | (#37614636)

The easiest way to form these Penrose tiling patterns is through fractal growth methods. Start with a simple combination of tiles ( ecagon star, pentagon) then replace small combinations of tiles with a larger combinations (kites and darts).

Re:Physical fractals? (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 3 years ago | (#37615708)

Self-similar, potentially infinite and never repeating? Sounds like the physical equivalent of a fractal to me.

There are several papers connecting fractals to quasicrystals. For example, using fractal sets to generate penrose tilings, and using fractal domains to generate quasicrystal models. See Quasicrystals edited by Fujiwara and Ishii for some examples on how fractal models can be used to generate quasi-crystals.

Space elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37612574)

I hope these new materials will allow us to build a Space Elevator so we can put a lot of mass into space and get off this rock.

Re:Space elevator (2)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37612788)

Quasicrystals look like they can be used for a lot of interesting things. They have interesting thermal and conductive properties.

But they have nothing to do with space elevators. These don't have the desired properties for that all. But we already have substances that do have the desired properties, carbon nanotubes. We need to figure out how to make them in large enough quantities in high enough quality. This is really tough. There's good news in that nanotubes are useful for lots of things, so there's already steady research in nanotube manufacturing for lots of uses other than space elevators. But is unlikely that we will see a space elevator any time soon.

Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | about 3 years ago | (#37612808)

I (briefly) took a look at the link to the cooking utensils link and am still not quite sure why quasicrystals are useful for that application.

Is it because since the patterns NEVER repeat so it is impossible (or extremely unlikely) for two surfaces to "lock" together? Like when you have some nested plastic cups, if each one had different patterns from one another they would always be easy to separate. So does this make cooking utensils "non-stick?".

In that case wouldn't quasicrystals be useful for a number of friction reducing applications? Like the afore-mentioned application, if you had some plastic cups with extruded quasicrystal PATTERNS, the cups would never stick! On a smaller scale, if paper had a very subtle quasicrystal "grain" embossed or watermarked on it, you would have jam free printer paper! Or if printed on currency, money that wouldn't stick together (that's a real problem here in Vietnam with its sticky polymer based notes).

I'm sure you can think of lots of additional applications! (How about plastic wrap that doesn't stick to itself?). It's the anti-Velcro!

Likewise an (equally brief) reading of the other links reveals that the random "periodicity" (I know this is the wrong way to describe it) of quasicrystals extends down to one dimension (not just two and three). Well how about "up" to the fourth dimension (Time)? Are there any applications that could take advantage of a quasicrystal-esque time sampling? Would measurements of various phenomenon be improved by getting rid of time periodicity? I wonder what movies would look like if frames were shot at a quasi periodic frame rate, still high enough to give the illusion of movement, but perhaps getting rid of various motion artifacts.

Anyway, good to see Life imitating Math!

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (2)

Guppy (12314) | about 3 years ago | (#37613012)

Is it because since the patterns NEVER repeat so it is impossible (or extremely unlikely) for two surfaces to "lock" together?

I was thinking the same thing. If lack of periodicity is a key, would a metallic glass have the same non-stick properties as a quasi-crystal metal? Well, did some Googling and found this: Lunac 1 Metallic Glass coating [www.wmv.nl] .

So, I think there's a connection.

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37613074)

I (briefly) took a look at the link to the cooking utensils link and am still not quite sure why quasicrystals are useful for that application.

Attempt at a joke? A peanut brittle is an amorphous glass, and if it crystalizes, you just end up with a mess. Also I think a quasi-crystalline fudge would have excellent texture.

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 3 years ago | (#37613114)

if you had some plastic cups with extruded quasicrystal PATTERNS, the cups would never stick! On a smaller scale, if paper had a very subtle quasicrystal "grain" embossed or watermarked on it, you would have jam free printer paper! Or if printed on currency, money that wouldn't stick together (that's a real problem here in Vietnam with its sticky polymer based notes).

Wouldn't help. A counterexample would be contact cement (rubber cement) which is non-crystalline.

I wonder what movies would look like if frames were shot at a quasi periodic frame rate, still high enough to give the illusion of movement, but perhaps getting rid of various motion artifacts.

Bullet Time.

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

gilleain (1310105) | about 3 years ago | (#37613140)

In that case wouldn't quasicrystals be useful for a number of friction reducing applications?... On a smaller scale, if paper had a very subtle quasicrystal "grain" embossed or watermarked on it, you would have jam free printer paper!

Or toilet tissue:

http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/claw/penrose.htm [gwu.edu]

Oh, and the main problem I found with Vietnamese notes was the exchange rate, like trying to pay for a 20,000 taxi fare with a 200,000 - quite different!

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 3 years ago | (#37615756)

The coating discussed uses a stable quasi-crystal to be "non-stick." The original quasi-crystals discovered were only "meta-stable," meaning that heat and kinetic energy could disrupt them. The patent linked to is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, quasi-crystal patent. It's a bit of an in joke among people who study quasicrystals that the first useful application of a new form of organization of matter was in making frying pans.

Re:Applications? Cooking utensils? (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | about 3 years ago | (#37615810)

That girih, that's Farsi for "knot," patterns were created 500 years ago that produce non-periodic penrose patterns - see the article by Lu in Science Magazine from a few years back: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/315/5815/1106.short [sciencemag.org] shows that math sometimes imitates art too.

pi (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 3 years ago | (#37613096)

Exactly what order does pi have, other than approaching the ratio of circumference to diameter?

Re:pi (1)

kno3 (1327725) | about 3 years ago | (#37613698)

A cease and desist order.

Re:pi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37614324)

Exactly what order does pi have, other than approaching the ratio of circumference to diameter?

Perhaps in hexadecimal (or any base which is a power of two)? [hmc.edu]

Cybernox cooking pans by Sitram (2)

Chirs (87576) | about 3 years ago | (#37613454)

The cooking utensil link isn't very useful, however apparently the deal is that the coating is non-stick, quite hard (thus doesn't wear out like Teflon) and can handle high heat.

Re:Cybernox cooking pans by Sitram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37614338)

to me, it's interesting that there is a connection. I can't say I know what the advantages over using Teflon are, but it's a very nice example of a place where fundamental research leads to something that the researcher never thought about.
furthermore, it is this kind of connections that are important to a teacher, if they want to get students interested in math and science.

Re:Cybernox cooking pans by Sitram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37635404)

That's called a ceramic pan, and you can buy them everywhere!
(Ceramics are harder than the fork you scratch on them with. Hence they are used e.g. for plates.)

The only problem is (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#37613958)

when ever they try to get these crystals, the sleestak show up.

Encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37614038)

Could this theory also be used to help break encryption?

Re:Encryption (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37615948)

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Crypto math is mostly based on mappings (reverse engineering mappings, or designing mappings so they do not exhibit any semi-group behaviors). The quasi-crystals have local symmetry (because if they didn't they wouldn't look crystaline, but amorphic), so the only possible application I could see might be a theory about how to not design crappy encryption..

Just imagine (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 3 years ago | (#37615678)

... a quasicrystal made of graphene!

Re:Just imagine (1)

hannza (2480742) | about 3 years ago | (#37657358)

now that would be something. scientific journals would explode.

Jews doing well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37616552)

med, physics, chemistry, 3 for 3.
Given that Jews don't really stand out from the norm in math and physics competitions, you have to attribute award success to hard work and dedication (the same formula that allow Jews to dominate Hollywood for instance).

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