Saturday, August 20, 2016

Can't Pass It Up

We've come to another in the occasional series of headlines that simply can't be overlooked, whether the average person -- or below-average grumpy middle-aged blogger -- can understand them or not. The latest edition:
 "Brittle quasicrystals become ductile at the nanoscale"
As near as I can figure, the story is about how a state of matter called "quasicrystals" becomes significantly more flexible when you get down to a small enough scale. Molecules form crystals when they interlock with each other in repeating patterns. Quasicrystals show tendencies towards orderly combinations but they don't ever develop repeating patterns. This makes them brittle and not very useful -- they can't be shaped because at regular temperatures, they shatter under stress. They have to be raised to temperatures nearing a thousand degrees Fahrenheit before they lose their brittle characteristics.

But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that at a small enough scale, the quasicrystals hold up better under stress at more normal temperatures. What good exactly that will do remains to be seen, but here's hoping we get another good headline out of it.

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