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Grand Unifying Theory of High-Temp Superconducting Materials Proposed 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the writing-the-textbooks-of-the-future dept.
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]."
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Grand Unifying Theory of High-Temp Superconducting Materials Proposed

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  • by Badge 17 (613974) on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:52AM (#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.

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

      Why would anyone do this?

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:33AM (#45161729) Journal
        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.

        • by Saunalainen (627977) on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:02AM (#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.

          • by Sockatume (732728)

            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."

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        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.

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

  • They were complicated enough to make my head spin in opposite directions.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      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.
      • 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 pi
  • It's composed of "Dark Stuff"

    • 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.

    • 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).

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:44AM (#45161505) Homepage

    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.

    • 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

      • 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).

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

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

  • by Zyrill (700263)
    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 j
    • by Zyrill (700263)
      my god. Mistakes en masse! :s/Science of Nature/Science or Nature/ :s/published I've/published if/
    • by Sockatume (732728)

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

    • 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".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    >"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 com

  • Will this allow them to predict what compounds will make the best super-high-temperature superconductors, like Leland Hobart's periodic table of superconducting compounds [tvtropes.org]?

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