Searching for quasicrystals near Kamchatka
Quasicrystals are crystals with ‘impossible’ five-fold symmetries, which nevertheless were synthesized in the lab in 1982. Paul J. Steinhardt helped figure out their structure, but he didn’t stop at that.
Quasicrystals were considered impossible
In his ripping yarn of an Ehrenfest lecture on 22 May, Steinhardt told his audience about the adventures that he and Italian mineralogist Luca Bindi (University of Florence) embarked on, searching for a natural quasicrystal. It’s a story that featured shady Russian academicians, a secret secret diary by an Amsterdam mineral collector, travels on a crazy amphibian vehicle in the Russian far east, and sceptical scientists at every turn.
In the end Steinhardt and Bindi found their impossible crystal, named Khatyrkite, to find out that it must have been forged either impossibly deep inside earth, or in a violent collision in space. Steinhardt wrote a book about this adventures, ‘the Second Kind of Impossible’.
Paul J. Steinhardt, The Second Kind of Impossible, Simon & Schuster 2019