Episode 20 - The Second Kind of Impossible

THE SECOND KIND OF IMPOSSIBLE: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter is the exciting, first-hand story of how Paul Steinhardt, the award-winning physicist and Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University, predicted a new type of matter – the quasicrystal – shattering centuries-old laws of physics. Steinhardt’s quest to prove the natural existence of quasicrystals takes him on a globe-hopping scientific journey from Princeton to Italy to the remote mountains of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. In a “suspenseful true-life thriller of science investigation and discovery” (Publishers Weekly), readers are taken along for the ride as Steinhardt challenges commonly held assumptions about settled science, refuting skeptics and disproving their notions of impossibility along the way. Steinhardt’s search to prove the existence of this rare crystal structure began in the early 1980s, when he first proposed the existence of “quasicrystals.” While studying abstract tile patterns, Steinhardt and his graduate student discovered a scientific loophole in one of the most well-established laws of science and, exploiting that, realized it was possible to create new forms of matter. In this podcast, co-associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, Professor Brian Keating, and Professor Paul Steinhardt explore a wide range of ideas from the discovery of new forms of matter to string theory and the sociology of science. Enjoy!

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An example of quasicrystal tilings. This pattern, comprised of five different tile shapes, has eleven-fold symmetry.


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