Biggest-yet quasicrystal made by shaking metal beads for a week

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A computer-generated model of a quasicrystal pattern


A computer-generated model of a quasicrystal pattern

Eric Heller/Science Photo Library

After being shaken for about a week, thousands of millimetre-sized metal beads arranged themselves into an exotic structure called a quasicrystal – and it was the biggest one yet. The creation also helped the researcher behind it win a bet against a colleague.

For something to be a crystal, its building blocks must be arranged in a repeating pattern, like the perfect grids of atoms in salt crystals. Within quasicrystals, some arrangements do repeat but never in a uniform or predictable way.

Quasicrystals were first …



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