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Daniel Shechtman wins Nobel chemistry prize

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 10:53

Daniel Shechtman wins Nobel chemistry prize

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals, a mosaic-like chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman's discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter. It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group.

Contrary to the previous belief that atoms were packed inside crystals in symmetrical patterns, Shechtman showed that the atoms in a crystal could be packed in a pattern that could not be repeated, the academy said.

He was studying a mix of aluminum and manganese in his microscope when he found a pattern — similar to Islamic mosaics — that never repeated itself and appeared contrary to the laws of nature.
"His battle eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter," the academy said.

Since then, quasicrystals have been produced in laboratories and a Swedish company found them in one of the most durable kinds of steel, which is now used in products such as razor blades and thin needles made specifically for eye surgery, the citation said. Scientists are also experimenting with using quasicrystals in coatings for frying pans, heat insulation in engines, and in light-emitting devices called LEDs.

They were discovered in nature for the first time in 2009, according to the citation.
"It feels wonderful," Shechtman, a distinguished professor at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, told The Associated Press.

Crystallographers always believed that all crystals have rotational symmetry, so that when they are rotated, they look the same. In 1982, in Washington, D.C., Shechtman first observed crystals with 10 points — pentagonal symmetry, which most scientists said was impossible.

"I told everyone who was ready to listen that I had material with pentagonal symmetry. People just laughed at me," Shechtman said in a description of his work released by his university.

For months he tried to persuade his colleagues of his find, but they refused to accept it. Finally he was asked to leave his research group.

Shechtman returned to Israel, where he found one colleague prepared to work with him on an article describing the phenomenon. The article was at first rejected, but finally published in November 1984 — to uproar in the scientific world. Double Nobel winner Linus Pauling was among those who never accepted the findings.

"He would stand on those platforms and declare, 'Danny Shechtman is talking nonsense. There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.'" Shechtman said.

In 1987, friends of Shechtman in France and Japan succeeded in growing crystals large enough for x-rays to repeat and verify what he had discovered with the electron microscope.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry announcement capped this year's science awards.

Immune system researchers Bruce Beutler of the U.S. and Frenchman Jules Hoffmann shared the medicine prize Monday with Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, who died three days before the announcement. U.S.-born scientists Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess won the physics prize on Tuesday for discovering that the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace.

The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) Nobel Prizes are handed out every year on Dec. 10, the anniversary of award founder Alfred Nobel's death in 1896.

Source: Associated Press


#2 valhalla_rk

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 11:21

Cool, important discovery indeed.
I think that it's part of the nobel prize intent is to bring the knowledge and discoveries to the wide public.

Congratulations!!

#3 Mark

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 11:45

"It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group."

I seem to hear about events like this all the time in the scientific community. Why shun something surprising and new? It seems to go against scientific theory...

#4 mokthraka

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 15:57

Probably the fact this was in the 80's

"It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group."

I seem to hear about events like this all the time in the scientific community. Why shun something surprising and new? It seems to go against scientific theory...



#5 DocM

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 16:40

Well deserved and terribly belated.

#6 valhalla_rk

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 22:19

I think that the scientific community afraid of changes. of pulling the ground under their axioms. It's actually logical, only the one problem is that thinking inside "the box" is not always, actually merely useful.

#7 Eddo89

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 13:53

As a synthetic chemist, I don't really see the big deal with this discovery.

(Actually I do, but much rather see something more organic based win again haha. But huge congratulations to him).



A lot of science discoveries are made by mistakes and thinking the impossible. Often in science we don't accept new concept as it threatens the basis of current research, which may had been running a good 20 years. Science is exact, except our knowledge of it isn't.

#8 guru

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 01:28

"It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group."

I seem to hear about events like this all the time in the scientific community. Why shun something surprising and new? It seems to go against scientific theory...

not all the time but yeah agree with your sentiment in this case.