Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crystals From Space

Happy New Year! In October, The Whole Pie, this blog recounted the Nobel Prize-winning discovery by Dr. Daniel Schechtman of quasicrystals. Unlike most crystalline structures, quasicrystals form mathematical patterns that do not repeat. Dr. Schechtman discovered quasicrystals in 1982, waiting 29 years for his prize.

At first noone believed him. Someone handed Schechtman a crystallography book and suggested he reread it. He was asked to leave his research group. It was 2 years before he could get a paper published. Nobel winner Linus Pauling condemned Schechtman's work. He had great difficulty getting other researchers to confirm his results.

The first evidence of extraterrestrial life came from a Martian meteorite. Naturally formed quasicrystals were discovered during 2009 in the Koryak mountains of Russia. No one could explain how they formed. The January 2 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences contains a paper claiming that these quasicrystals arrived on Earth via another meteorite. The paper proposes that naturally occurring quasicrystals formed in deep Space. Evidence for the extraterrestrial origin of a natural quasicrystal

“Our evidence indicates that quasicrystals can form naturally under astrophysical conditions and remain stable over cosmic timescales.”

According to the paper, these quasicrystals formed about 4.5 billion years ago. At one time scientist doubted that quasicrystals existed at all. Daniel Schechtman faced great opposition to his findings. Discovery in Russia of natural quasicrystals was baffling. They may have originated in Space near the dawn of our solar system.