Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Grand Unifying Theory of High-Temp Superconducting Materials Proposed

Soulskill posted 1 year,4 days | from the writing-the-textbooks-of-the-future dept.

Science 48

An anonymous reader writes "Years of experiments on various types of high-temperature (high-Tc) superconductors — materials that offer hope for energy-saving applications such as zero-loss electrical power lines — have turned up an amazing array of complex behaviors among the electrons that in some instances pair up to carry current with no resistance, and in others stop the flow of current in its tracks. The variety of these exotic electronic phenomena is a key reason it has been so hard to identify unifying concepts to explain why high-Tc superconductivity occurs in these promising materials. Now Séamus Davis, a physicist who's conducted experiments on many of these materials at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cornell University, and Dung-Hai Lee, a theorist at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, postulate a set of key principles for understanding the superconductivity and the variety of 'intertwined' electronic phenomena that applies to all the families of high-Tc superconductors [full academic paper]."

cancel ×

48 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

This is horrible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#45161215)

I can't think of a witty first post.

Re:This is horrible. (2)

hutsell (1228828) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161293)

How about: Is the summary title from the article misleading? Will success at finding a technological solution for High-TC also unify quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Re:This is horrible. (1)

Pino Grigio (2232472) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162389)

I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is no.

Re:This is horrible. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45163597)

I RTFA. You are correct, it isn't misleading. But it is a fascinating article (non-nerds, don't bother, you won't understand it).

Re:This is horrible. (1)

hutsell (1228828) | 1 year,3 days | (#45165689)

I RTFA. You are correct, it isn't misleading. But it is a fascinating article (non-nerds, don't bother, you won't understand it).

I read most of the article myself and avoided the original paper. It's was a little over my head making my best guess at a simplistic takeaway for the layman, like myself, appears to be: Electrons, under certain conditions, won't repel from one another as they normally do and instead pair off with each other to create superconducting properties. The authors feel they've developed an explanation that will allow one to predictably manipulate this property with better materials for future technologies. The challenge now is to confirm their explanation is correct by finding a way to apply their ideas. This is hopefully close enough; however,any improvements or clarifications on its accuracy is desired (and expected).

As for the title: Yes, I'm aware it obviously wasn't implying this would resolve the Grand Unified Theory of everything. However, during the first half a second on my first read, I did initially think it had something to do with that idea the phrase for G.U.T. is traditionally reserved for when it's discussed in articles related to science and technology. Then, much to my disappointment I realized my mistake; the writers were probably doing it to capture the reader by baiting the article with a little bit of sensationalism. It's called marketing and story tellers do it to "engage" the reader, which they have every right to do. I'll need to try a little harder at keeping my wishes in check to avoid that type of manipulation.

Re:This is horrible. (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162477)

No more than finding "a grand unified theory of tennis" or "the grand unified theory of pixar" would, no. On the other hand I don't expect "the Godfather of Soul" to be a mob boss or "Citizen Kane of science fiction cinema" to have the plot of Citizen Kane.

Re:This is horrible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45166031)

You're self-mislead, you were thinking it said Grand Unifying Theory of EVERYTHING?

Re:This is horrible. (1)

hutsell (1228828) | 1 year,3 days | (#45167539)

You're self-mislead, you were thinking it said Grand Unifying Theory of EVERYTHING?

You're right, sort of. I mentioned this earlier and why I felt I "mislead myself" (and a couple of other readers who may not agree for the same reasons) in a follow up comment under my original post. In hindsight, instead of doing a poorly thought out incomplete quip, it would have been better from the start to take the time to write both comments as one.

PNAS contributed paper (4, Informative)

Badge 17 (613974) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161223)

Disclaimer: I am not qualified to evaluate the science presented here. However, I always wince when I see something with such big claims as a PNAS contributed paper. PNAS allows National Academy members to "contribute" a paper, i.e. they act as the editor, selecting referees for the paper. This allows well-established scientists to get controversial ideas published without a big fuss - but it also means that sometimes goofy and incorrect stuff can slip through.

Of course, if the theory works out, it will be a huge, huge result. Just add a slightly larger grain of salt than you usually do, because the paper came out of a different peer review process.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161601)

"PNAS authors must provide the National Academy of Sciences with an exclusive license to publish their work"

Why would anyone do this?

Re:PNAS contributed paper (3, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161729)

Why would anyone do this?

AFAIK, that's the way the majority of Journals operate, most don't care that the author will hand out electronic copies to anyone who asks, many will post it on their university's web site. It's an anachronism these days, it was originally aimed at stopping other journals from just copying and printing the good stuff after other had gone to the trouble of reviewing it. Academic publishing is a two way street the academics and journals need each other because "publish or perish" applies to both sides. Because of this symbiotic relationship journals are not widely regarded as "greedy capitalists", sure subscriptions are expensive compared to (say) people magazine, but if you pay peanuts for a job then only monkeys are going to apply.

Having said that. The GP has every right to be cautiously optimistic and somewhat cynical. It's an extraordinary claim, but regardless of it's pedigree, a solitary paper with the ink still drying is not extraordinary evidence.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (4, Interesting)

Saunalainen (627977) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161877)

that's the way the majority of Journals operate, most don't care that the author will hand out electronic copies to anyone who asks, many will post it on their university's web site.

Actually, the publishers DO care about generating income from their copyright, and for instance require extra subscription fees from universities in order for students to be allowed to copy articles that they already have access to. I'm repeatedly warned that my University could be fined if I copy a figure from a paper into my lecture slides and then "publish" them by distributing them to my students.

Academic publishing is a two way street the academics and journals need each other because "publish or perish" applies to both sides.

Academics do need to publish but they don't need commercial publishers to do so. There's a growing movement against the traditional journals - fuelled by the extortionate fees required for electronic access to the catalogue of publishing houses such as Springer and Elsevier. Universities cannot function without access to the literature, and this is your tax dollar being funnelled into the pockets of the publishers.

sure subscriptions are expensive compared to (say) people magazine, but if you pay peanuts for a job then only monkeys are going to apply.

The people who do the hard work behind the articles - the authors, the editors, and the reviewers - are not paid by the journal. The only paid staff are administrators and copy editors, who in my experience introduce more mistakes into the text than they correct.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162517)

The good journals give you the right to republish your figures in contexts that don't compete with the journal, at least. That said the terms are very weakly enforced. I've seen many a publications web page that features the text:

"Do to restrictions on simultaneous publishing, these papers come to you as a personal communication."

Re:PNAS contributed paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45166665)

FYI: "Due to restrictions" *

Re:PNAS contributed paper (2)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162495)

For the same reason that such clauses exist in book or record publishing contracts. There's bugger all advantage to the publisher in being one of fifty different people you've convinced to print exactly the same work.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (1)

Baron Eekman (713784) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163491)

They put the paper on arXiv [arxiv.org] before publication, so I guess exclusive is not as restrictive as it may sound.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45164695)

we pay extra to make our papers open access for everyone. The NIH insists upon it.

Re:PNAS contributed paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45166951)

A lot of us outside the medical and biology fields don't have to pay to put a copy of a paper up on a preprint server or on our own websites. It is allowed as part of just the basic copyright agreement when publishing without paying the publisher.

Here You Go (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#45161237)

They don't exist - unified and first post.

Too good to be true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#45161325)

I think I now know what it feels like to walk into the bedroom after work and finding a sanctioned (and favorable) three way proposed.....

Re:Too good to be true.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#45161339)

And after actually reading the TFA I know that the paper is useful yet they gave an inaccurate heading...

It does propose a theory defining structures that commonly tend to be superconducting but not all are. This would definitely help narrow down the search though.

Reading the Two Articles (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161331)

They were complicated enough to make my head spin in opposite directions.

Re:Reading the Two Articles (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163373)

However it's less confusing than the other stuff I've read (and admittedly not understood) on the subject. From observation very "messy" multiphase microstructures superconduct well when single phases with what is supposed to be the superconducting phase don't - confusing as all hell.

Re:Reading the Two Articles (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | 1 year,3 days | (#45169157)

I was just thinking about the explanation of electrons on adjacent atoms spinning in the opposite direction. :) Interesting stuff, and I'm torn between being glad I don't have to bend my brain that much and sad because of the fact that I haven't used that kind of learning/thinking in so long I couldn't anyway. Glad to see it looks like someone with that kind of experience thinks there is progress to be had in super conductors. I think they are key to a peaceful future. They would help take oil out of the picture.

Don't tell me: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161369)

It's composed of "Dark Stuff"

Re:Don't tell me: (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,3 days | (#45164553)

That theory that was published last month says it has to do more with gravity, with a pure superconductor being equivalent to a miniature black hole.

Who knows - not too long ago the idea that matter and energy were equivalent was wildly speculative.

Re:Don't tell me: (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | 1 year,3 days | (#45168217)

Nope, it due to antiferromagnetism.

But I guess some people will ignore anything that they can't use to call people stupid (including what dark matter and energy actualy are).

Nice hypothesis. Now to test it. (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161505)

It's a neat idea. It's very testable. Now they have to find some new materials which this theory predicts will superconduct and check them out.

If it checks out, it's comparable to the early research on semiconductors which led to understanding that phenomenon. There were some early attempts at a transistor, but until there was some theoretical understanding of what electrons were doing in a crystal, nobody could make even make a reliable one, let alone figure out what materials would be better than germanium. Once there was some theory, there was more of an idea what materials to make.

New materials may have to be made. Semiconductors are usually made of ultra-pure silicon with the addition of tiny amounts of specific impurities. Those are invented materials - nothing like that exists in nature. With some theory for guidance, new superconducting materials may be created. The ones now known were more or less discovered by trial and error.

"Science is prediction, not explanation" - Fred Hoyle.

Re:Nice hypothesis. Now to test it. (2)

Baron Eekman (713784) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163675)

I'm sorry, but I fail to see how it is very testable. I very much like the main conceptual point "it is the antiferromagnetic interaction that is universal while it is the fermiology that is not". To this end, the authors pose (definitely not derive in any way) an extremely simplified model, that nevertheless is seemingly capable of accomodating the wildly varying behaviours we see in unconventional superconductors. It is consistent with many observed properties. However, perhaps due to its versatility, to me it doesn't seem to have much predictive power, and certainly not quantitatively. It may be perhaps be falsified by some new class of materials, but even that seems not very straightforward to me.

Re:Nice hypothesis. Now to test it. (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | 1 year,3 days | (#45168515)

It looks like pointers for people trying to create a model that predicts something. The article reads much like "we tought hard about the problem, and altough we couldn't really explain it, this line of tought seems promissing".

I really don't know how deeply it deviates from what other people aready discovered, and the title of the article is quite hyped anyway, but it does not claim to have a working model (altough it claims that it may lead to a model).

Calling Bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,4 days | (#45161641)

Superconductors .. done a long time ago .. US and Russia .. own it . sorry kids

Re:Calling 'Phallus-y" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45171199)

Because PNAS just sounds too much like ....

NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | 1 year,4 days | (#45161771)

seriously, slashdot editors, it's pretty easy to tell when an article title is bullshit hype. WHY DID YOU LET THIS TITLE PASS?!

Re: NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45162257)

Don't worry, they will use a different tittle when it's reported tomorrow

Re:NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162465)

"A grand unified theory of X" is a very standard English idiom [google.co.uk] used to refer to a broad and extensive theory of a subject "X". It does not mean that the subject involves grand unified theory, but rather something that is the metaphorical equivalent of GUT in a different field.

It boggles my mind that you would be able to make such a misapprehension. It's not a particularly complex sentence to parse. If the article was about how tuna is the "beef cow of the sea" would you be complaining that tuna don't have hooves and aren't made of beef?

Re:NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163225)

Why is that URL blank. :(

Re:NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45168011)

I thought you were just being extra lazy and having others Google "a very standard English idiom" on their own.
 
In all honesty, it's mostly because your URL has an empty "q" parameter in the query string.

Re:NOTHING to do with Grand Unified Theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,2 days | (#45179391)

Silly us for not being aware that the grand unifying theory now applies to other fields and subsets of fields in science besides the one it's normally associated with in physics. I'm now curious as to what the other ones were that should have been considered.

Not the obviously silly ones for tennis or pixar that no-one thinks about, mentioned in another comment. The grand unifying theory of cells comes to mind, but that's a bit silly also, considering it's a subset of biology -- a more deserving category for the phrase's misuse. The same could be said for the grand unifying theory of superconductivity, if it weren't a subset of chemistry or phusics; if it were considered a subset of physics, one should realize this creates an obvious problem.

To be fair, the article's title used "unifying" and not "unified" and they put the whole phrase in quotes. That may mean they felt using the right word would have been wrong. And, if it weren't for the quotes, they would seem to be off the hook. However, this mixing or mixup more than likely means they didn't realize they were referring to the word inaccurately and also knew the importance of the idea was being misapplied for hyperbole's sake. Repurposing the phrase into a newly minted idiom without giving it time to acclamate into mainstream usage creates an additional unintentionally sloppy or intentionally sleazy loophole.

Personally, if the article had taken the high road with something like: "Major Breakthrough in Solving the Theory of Superconducting", it would have made it much more interesting.

~ Syntax Oberführer

Practical applications... (1)

Myria (562655) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162717)

Just let me know when I can build my dream of a hoverboard arena. =^-^=

FInally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45162851)

I eagerly await the .stl files so I can 3D print some high-temperature superconductors in my living room!

PNAS (1)

Zyrill (700263) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162989)

As a researcher in the field, I find it highly unsavory that something as important as a theory claiming to explain high-Tc superconductivity would be published in a proceedings journal. And not, say, in Science of Nature... In physics in general, proceedings are considered the lowest form of scientific paper. Basically, you get published I've you've been to the conference. That's not really an achievement. Which isn't to say that the paper is complete bullshit, I'm no expert in that particular topic. I just work on more applied techniques involving high-Tc superconductors...

Re:PNAS (1)

Zyrill (700263) | 1 year,3 days | (#45162995)

my god. Mistakes en masse! :s/Science of Nature/Science or Nature/ :s/published I've/published if/

Re:PNAS (1)

Sockatume (732728) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163093)

Normally I'd agree, but PNAS isn't a conference proceedings journal. It's more like Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Re:PNAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45163785)

Did you even read the paper before ripping it a new asshole?

Re:PNAS (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | 1 year,3 days | (#45168595)

The paper (I don't even know what's in TFA) is not a model of hight-Tc superconductivity. It's more like "we tought about the problem, and think that the explanation is at this side".

Maybe they were high-Tc, too (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,3 days | (#45163451)

After reading the linked article I just have one question: Who the hell decided mobile versions of sites need an auto-reappear navigation bar?

Come on! Screen real estate is already precious, and you clowns take it up? If I want to navigate, I'll do a thumb whip, thanks.

At least add a close box to the stupid thing, you idiots. No, you don't know better than me.

Points (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,3 days | (#45163579)

>"Now Séamus Davis, a physicist who's conducted experiments on many of these materials at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cornell University, and Dung-Hai Lee, a theorist at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, postulate a set of key principles for understanding the superconductivity and the variety of 'intertwined' electronic phenomena that applies to all the families of high-Tc superconductors"

How many combo points did you get for that sentence?

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?