Nobel Prize Awarded to Discoverer of Quasicrystals
Quasicrystals of an alloy of aluminum, copper, and iron. Photo: McGraw-Hill.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Oct. 5 to Dan Shechtman at the Israel Institute of Technology for his discovery of quasicrystals—atomic structures that resemble aperiodic mosaics found in Islamic architecture. The honor commemorates not only intriguing science, but also the struggle to prove it. Shechtman fought bitterly since 1982 against an establishment that believed that atoms were packed in repeating symmetrical patterns. The crystals he discovered were arranged in regular patterns that did not repeat, but in his effort to convince his colleagues, Shechtman was ostracized. According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Shechtman’s discovery “eventually forced scientists to reconsider their conception of the very nature of matter.”