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The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
stymie4
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This is a story of validation. This is a story of redemption. It is the kind of story that we like, a feel good story. In April 1982, Dan Shechtman was looking at images from his electon microscope when he saw something that all of the textbooks and theories of the day said was not possible. In solid matter, it was known that all atoms were arranged in a repeating, periodic manner. This was the basis for crystal formation by solids and had been conventional wisdom for almost 200 years. In Shechtman's images, the patterns were regular, but they did not repeat themselves. The patterns looked much like medieval Islamic mosaics. These crystals were deemed quasi-crystals.

Shechtman publicized his controversial findings but because they were against the conventional wisdom, they were dismissed by the scientific community. The situation was so bad that he was asked to leave his research group and had to find another scientific home. It took 2 years to get his work published and another 3 years for someone else to confirm it. During this time, 2 time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling went so far as to say, "there are no quasi-crystals, only quasi-scientists."

The scene at the end of the movie where the hero is vindicated occurred today when the Nobel Committee awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasi-crystals. This is one of those awards for a concept that overturned a convention of science. Textbooks had to be rewritten because of Professor Shechtman's work. Quasi-crystals are now used in razor blades as well as tools needed to perform delicate cuts on eye tissue during surgery.

Congratulations to Professor Shechtman on a well-deserved honor. Having his name appear alongside Linus Pauling as a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry is Hollywood-like justice.

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I'm happy for Dan Schechtman and embarrassed on behalf of Linus Pauling.

Well, ol' Linus is dead. So, I guess Prof. Shechtman gets the last laugh.

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