As you can tell, I am very pleased about the 2011 Chemistry Nobel Prize announcement. I’d love to tell you a bit more about why, but I’m supposed to be working on something urgently right mow, and so will try to do so later. The key thing is that I think the discovery of quasicrystals is fantastic and very visual example of how we can dream up a mathematical structure just because it is interesting and beautiful (Penrose tilings, independently discovered by Roger Penrose as the answer to a mathematical puzzle, (see two dimensional version on left) but also showing up in Islamic tiling patterns from much earlier) and then find later that Nature has exploited that same pattern to make something- a new form of matter (the quasicrystals themselves… The subject of today’s prize to Dan Shechtman – image below on right is of a silver and aluminium quasicrystal compound. Both images here are from wikimedia commons.).
I was in love with these things when I was an undergraduate, not long after their discovery, […] Click to continue reading this post