Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Math Science

Dan Shechtman Wins Chemistry Nobel For Quasicrystals 74

Posted by timothy
from the oh-it's-just-a-new-class-of-matter dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Dan Shechtman Wins Chemistry Nobel For Quasicrystals

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

    • by ZankerH (1401751)
      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: (Score:1, Troll)

        by Dunbal (464142) *

        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.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @10:54AM (#37612468) Homepage

          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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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.

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

      • by hedwards (940851)

        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.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          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.

          • by edremy (36408)

            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.

            • by geekoid (135745)

              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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WillDraven (760005)

      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.

      • 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.
        • 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.
      • by MightyYar (622222)

        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 cha

      • 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

    • by Sockatume (732728)

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

      • 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.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      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 p

    • by Revotron (1115029)
      It took ten years because the Nobel Prize Committee just finished reading timothy's summary.
  • At last - crystals worthy of stargate! http://stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Control_crystal [wikia.com]

  • 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?

    • 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.

      • by mikael (484)

        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 fie

    • by geekoid (135745)

      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.lt

  • Self-similar, potentially infinite and never repeating? Sounds like the physical equivalent of a fractal to me.
    • by vlm (69642)

      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.

      • by gilleain (1310105)

        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/v [sanu.ac.rs]

    • by mikael (484)

      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).

    • 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.

  • 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 numb

    • by Guppy (12314)

      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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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.

    • by vlm (69642)

      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.

    • by gilleain (1310105)

      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!

    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Exactly what order does pi have, other than approaching the ratio of circumference to diameter?
  • by Chirs (87576) on Wednesday October 05, 2011 @12:07PM (#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.

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

  • ... a quasicrystal made of graphene!

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.

Working...