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Has the Mythical Unicorn of Materials Science Finally Been Found?

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the even-does-the-dishes dept.

Science 238

gbrumfiel writes "For years, physicists have been on the hunt for a material so weird, it might as well be what unicorn horns are made of. Topological insulators are special types of material that conduct electricity, but only on their outermost surface. If they exist, and that's a real IF, then they would play host to all sorts of bizarre phenomenon: virtual particles that are their own anti-particles, strange quantum effects, dogs and cats living together, that sort of thing. Now three independent teams think they've finally found the stuff that the dreams of theoretical physicists are made of: samarium hexaboride."

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238 comments

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So would it be (5, Funny)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#42261305)

Unicornium, or Monohornium?

Boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261373)

Wake me up when they've discovered Trilithium.

Re:Boring (4, Informative)

Anon-Admin (443764) | about 2 years ago | (#42261475)

How about Trilithium Nitrate?

http://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.19054984.html [chemspider.com]

Or

Trilithium borate

http://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.13208905.html [chemspider.com]

I am not sure that three lithium atoms will bond on there own with out something else in the structure. ;P

Re:So would it be (5, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42261861)

Nope, North Koreanium. That is, after all, where unicorns were discovered (despite the fact that this material and story have nothing to do with unicorns)

Re:So would it be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262015)

Hitlerium

Re:So would it be (1)

colin_faber (1083673) | about 2 years ago | (#42262681)

Yes, Best Korea did already discover this. If you don't believe me, just ask them.

Yes, in North Korea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261325)

Near the Unicorn lair [huffingtonpost.com] .

Don't tell the Japanese (1)

tdp252 (519328) | about 2 years ago | (#42261335)

They will make a Sushi roll out of said Unicorn meat.

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 2 years ago | (#42261387)

mmm unicorn rolls. I think that would go well with dolphin maki.

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (3, Funny)

r1348 (2567295) | about 2 years ago | (#42261619)

Bah, wake me up when they have something close to Kentucky Fried Panda.

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261807)

And they wonder why animals are driven to extinction...

Wouldn't be a problem is they weren't made out of meat, right?

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 2 years ago | (#42261845)

mmm panda tempura /HomerDrool

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261847)

Bah, wake me up when they have something close to Kentucky Fried Panda.

I'm certain that would be Cantonese Fried Panda. :-)

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

Ambvai (1106941) | about 2 years ago | (#42262117)

Dolphin?

Courtesy of Wiki: "The mahi-mahi or common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. Also known widely as dorado, it is one of only two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano dolphinfish."

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#42262223)

Dolphin?

Courtesy of Wiki: "The mahi-mahi or common dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. Also known widely as dorado, it is one of only two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano dolphinfish."

So they chase el dorado?

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (2)

OakDragon (885217) | about 2 years ago | (#42262419)

mmm unicorn rolls. I think that would go well with dolphin maki.

Yum, make mine rare!

Get it?

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#42261611)

The Japanese are already planning to invade North Korea and raid the unicorn lair.

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (3, Funny)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42261873)

Unlike most other Japanese medicine/nutrition, this one actually would have magical properties and unusual properties. Tiger penis, not so much, lol.

Re:Don't tell the Japanese (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42262831)

Wouldn't that be Chinese?

About time (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261353)

What took them so long? I've been receiving detailed descriptions of magical materials in my email inbox for years.

The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (-1, Offtopic)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#42261367)

So does this disrupt the Atheists Pink Invisible Unicorn argument.

Where is often used against the argument about God being supernatural thus outside of science, so trying to use Science to disprove God will not work. So they bring up if they believed in an Invisible Pink Unicorn they would be considered crazy, however if a person believes in a God they are just as crazy.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261441)

Nope. Samarium Hexaboride is grey believing in invisible Pink Unicorns is still crazy.

But now I want a visible grey unicorn!

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

ACE209 (1067276) | about 2 years ago | (#42261485)

Actually, the invisible pink unicorn believers seem a bit more rational now compared to the theists. :)

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261621)

The invisible pink unicorn has three horns, and yet is still a unicorn!

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

xtal (49134) | about 2 years ago | (#42261503)

Science may, however, sufficiently advanced, make us Gods. Or extinct.

The older I get, the more positive I am that it will be one of the two.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#42261681)

Honestly I'm more concerned with escaping the heat death of the universe (or big crunch or whatever the end turns out to be). Other than time travel or interdimensional travel I am not sure it will work out too well. Perhaps if we have become digital entities by that point then we can encode ourselves into something that will survive until the next iteration.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#42261935)

so that is the signal embedded in the cosmic background microwave radiation the ancients sent the destiny to investigate was.
  on a more serious not even if you could encode your intellect into some cosmic game save that would survive the end of the universe and the creation of another there would need to be something on the other side capable of decoding and executing your consciousness program. So unless you plan on building a computer outside of space time itself like Asimov wrote of in "the last question" your pretty much out of luck.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262863)

This is my new favorite quote. Ever.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#42261531)

Except that argument is rather... well, wrong, since an invisible pink unicorn a) wouldn't be supernatural in the first place (a unicorn isn't supernatural, it's just a horse with a horn, and merely being invisible isn't supernatural either), and b) wouldn't fit the necessary conditions for creation of the universe.

Physics states certain conditions that are requisite to bring our universe into existence, and God fits the conditions practically by definition. You could hypothesize instead that the universe has the power to bring itself into existence, except now you are talking philosophy, because you are postulating the possibility that something can create itself, which is... impossible (in my opinion). Fundamentally, all explanations for how the universe was brought into existence fall under the realm of philosophy (metaphysics specifically), because although you can show what conditions are necessary to bring about such an event (basically, "the power to bring our universe into existence"), you necessarily cannot treat of them using physics or any of the sciences since those conditions by definition precede (in order of causality, although not of course in time because time doesn't exist before the universe) the existence of physics or any of nature.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (3, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#42261581)

you are postulating the possibility that something can create itself, which is... impossible (in my opinion)

Then where did your god come from?

It works both ways. It's far more likely that something simple and relatively unstructured has always existed, and has come to order itself gradually, than some human-like god has always existing. A god could have evolved, but an intelligent god just happening to exist is as likely as that whole watchmaker thingy that theists love to talk about.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (4, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#42261943)

Then where did your god come from?

It works both ways. It's far more likely that something simple and relatively unstructured has always existed, and has come to order itself gradually, than some human-like god has always existing. A god could have evolved, but an intelligent god just happening to exist is as likely as that whole watchmaker thingy that theists love to talk about.

The argument there gets a bit more complex, but you can get the basic point by looking at entropy. An unordered system is not likely to become ordered over time, and it cannot do so over an infinite time, which it would need to (it would eventually degenerate into a final stable state, unlike the universe we see around us with non-homogeneous elements). That, however, is an argument that you can (and people have) written books about, so I won't go into it further.

But, to your first point, God didn't create himself, he simply always was. Eternal uncreated existence is required. You can then argue that that thing has to be what theologians call "god" (which isn't particularly "human-like" except is certain very limited ways), but like I say, that is an argument in philosophy. The problem there is two-fold: first of all, if the atheist and the theist don't hold certain common principles, they're arguments will always assume and be based on completely different things, and since you can't prove principles (especially metaphysical principles, the principles of other fields can be shown but not within their own area of study), only argue over them, you can't reach a definitive conclusion. Secondly, most atheists (most people in general) don't know nearly enough philosophy to understand the actual arguments. That goes for religious and non-religious people: most people rely on the authority of the arguments of others. You need to look at the credentials of the authority figure you are trusting to know if they have a reasonable position or not.

I would argue that most of the scientists you hear arguing for atheism have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, because they assume that if it exists in any way, it can be reached scientifically, and that anything that cannot be reached scientifically, cannot exist (that combined with their reluctance to trust the authority of anyone or anything they can't understand tends to lead them to atheism). That doesn't follow. Mind you, anything that occurs in the natural world does (so magic is right out), but you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing. You can put conditions on them: for example, they cannot have mass or speed or heat or be visible (otherwise they would fall under physics... part of the reason people attempting magic are foolish), but none of those things are required to actually exist. You can't prove they do (except God, or at least some "supernatural" thing that follows the conditions required to create our universe) but that would be where the whole "faith" thing comes into play.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (5, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#42262141)

But, to your first point, God didn't create himself, he simply always was

Okay, then to your point: the big bang wasn't the start of reality, reality simply always was, and there happened to be a big bang.

An unordered system is not likely to become ordered over time

That may not be true on a global scale (ie our Universe will likely eventually succumb to heat death), but simple molecules can aggregate, and become self replicating, and thus create order. We have observed these molecules forming in gas clouds in space. There is evidence supporting order arising from "disorder", but absolutely none for a god that is anything like a human (ie the bible says we were made in god's image). All religions are man made.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#42262163)

"you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing" is an absurdity because you cannot rule out the possibility of anything existing

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262167)

but you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing.

Sure you can. Supernatral beings by their very definition can not exist in this world.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument (off topic) (1)

OFnow (1098151) | about 2 years ago | (#42262355)

According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law. -- Stephen Hawking

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 2 years ago | (#42262645)

I would argue that most of the scientists you hear arguing for atheism have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, because they assume that if it exists in any way, it can be reached scientifically, and that anything that cannot be reached scientifically, cannot exist (that combined with their reluctance to trust the authority of anyone or anything they can't understand tends to lead them to atheism).

I would argue that you have absolutely no interest in how actual scientists and/or atheists view religion, and prefer beating up on elaborately constructed straw men.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262651)

But, to your first point, God didn't create himself, he simply always was.

Just as I expected when I posted below. Just more fallacious special pleading.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 2 years ago | (#42262711)

That doesn't follow. Mind you, anything that occurs in the natural world does (so magic is right out), but you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing. You can put conditions on them: for example, they cannot have mass or speed or heat or be visible (otherwise they would fall under physics... part of the reason people attempting magic are foolish), but none of those things are required to actually exist. You can't prove they do (except God, or at least some "supernatural" thing that follows the conditions required to create our universe) but that would be where the whole "faith" thing comes into play.

Why does an omniscient and omnipotent being have to exist outside of the laws of physics? Would not such an omniscient being understand all the laws of physics, and perhaps be able to do things that we cannot, due to their understanding of such laws? I don't see why god and science have to be mutually exclusive, at least with our current understanding of both. I understand why many scientists do not believe in god, but I think they are being just as obstinate in people that deny science in the name of god. The (lack of?) existence of god does not mean that you have to follow some crazy leader. And there are plenty of crazy leaders who probably did not believe in god.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

xehonk (930376) | about 2 years ago | (#42262809)

I would argue that most of the scientists you hear arguing for atheism have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, because they assume that if it exists in any way, it can be reached scientifically, and that anything that cannot be reached scientifically, cannot exist (that combined with their reluctance to trust the authority of anyone or anything they can't understand tends to lead them to atheism). That doesn't follow.

It's true that it doesn't follow, but an entity that does not in any way interact with reality may as well not exist for all I care. If on the other hand it does interact with reality, that interaction should be observable - and hence part of scientific inquiry. So while it's strictly speaking true that non-existence does not follow from non-observability, you seem to be attacking a strawman argument by shifting from practical non-existence (i.e. having the same effect as not existing at all) to actual non-existence (i.e. the claimed "cannot exist").

Mind you, anything that occurs in the natural world does (so magic is right out), but you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing.

By your logic we cannot rule out the existence of magic either. It may simply have effects outside of our natural world.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (2)

miroku000 (2791465) | about 2 years ago | (#42262897)

I would argue that most of the scientists you hear arguing for atheism have absolutely no clue what they are talking about, because they assume that if it exists in any way, it can be reached scientifically, and that anything that cannot be reached scientifically, cannot exist (that combined with their reluctance to trust the authority of anyone or anything they can't understand tends to lead them to atheism). That doesn't follow. Mind you, anything that occurs in the natural world does (so magic is right out), but you cannot rule out the possibility of supernatural beings existing. You can put conditions on them: for example, they cannot have mass or speed or heat or be visible (otherwise they would fall under physics... part of the reason people attempting magic are foolish), but none of those things are required to actually exist. You can't prove they do (except God, or at least some "supernatural" thing that follows the conditions required to create our universe) but that would be where the whole "faith" thing comes into play.

I would argue that you have no clue what the majority of scientists think unless you can provide some evidence to back up this belief. I think most scientists acknowledge that things exist that cannot currently be proved/disproved. That part is easy to test. You can ask all sorts of scientific questions that are impossible to prove. Most scientists that argue for Atheism don't rule out the possibility of gods existing. They just don't see sufficient evidence to support that theory. If someone suggests a theory about how wonderful their god is, I think most atheists who are scientists would offer the alternative theory that people invented the so-called god to feel better about themselves. Since we have countless examples of this, it makes a pretty good theory.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42263015)

What most scientists actually argue is that anything worth arguing should have a basis of proof.
For things that "actually exist", scientific method is the only basis of proof worth a damn.
Of course, that doesn't apply to the abstract: there is no empirical test for 1+1=2
But you can prove it with formal logic; thank you Bertrand Russell

God doesn't really apply to either of these categories.

Those who choose to believe, have a wealth of philosophical argument to qualify their belief,
as long as you don't actually try to approach Truth with a capital T. At that point, you can
either be a nihilist or a scientist, everything else is absurd.

So, the real question becomes: Are atheists (by and large) poor communicators? I would
have to say, and I think most people on either side of the line would agree: Yes.
So what should be done about it?

That's a new, useful question, and one that I will leave it up to others to answer.

(btw, I don't have a slashdot account, I'm too lazy to sign up. if you think posting
as AC affects the validity of my statements, then you have much bigger problems)

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

JigJag (2046772) | about 2 years ago | (#42262177)

This is an interesting argument. I notice you hypothesize the presence of something that always existed. As hard it is to understand that concept,* If you were to accept that, why not accept also a God that always existed?

* nothing we know always existed. Humans understand the concept of forward infinity (having no end) but not its inverse (having no beginning). There is always that lingering question "what about before"?

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (2)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#42262457)

Yes, it's a vertigo inducing concept to consider that something has always existed, but the reason I don't accept that a god has always existed is that there is no evidence for such. If you were to accept that something has always existed, why would you think that it would be a fully formed intelligence rather than a bunch of "stuff" that randomly knocks around until something interesting happens?

What about before? (1)

earls (1367951) | about 2 years ago | (#42262835)

The end.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262905)

If you were to accept that, why not accept also a God that always existed?

Because the acceptance of the universe always existing does not posit an undetectable being whose existence is unfalsifiable. Further, due to this being being undetectable there is also no way to prove whether it really is the Christian god, the Zoroastrian version of god, or Zeus, etc.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (2)

tnk1 (899206) | about 2 years ago | (#42262667)

It works both ways. It's far more likely that something simple and relatively unstructured has always existed, and has come to order itself gradually, than some human-like god has always existing.

That's a perfectly valid argument, until you state that it is "more likely", which you have zero evidence for, which makes it as completely unscientific as his opinion.

Logically, something that creates the universe is generally not going to have to follow its rules or processes. Using the natural world, or even logic and causality itself to define a deity is as absurd as assuming that just because my avatar can't scale walls in a 3D FP shooter game, that the person who developed that game also can't scale walls or jump over trivial objects set in its way outside the game.

In reality, there is absolutely nothing to prove or disprove the existence of a watchmaker god, or even a giant white-bearded humanoid smiting people at will. Nothing at all. Science does not have the tools to do it. That's not a indictment of science, which is still probably one of the most useful methods ever devised, it's just a statement of its limitations.

Seeing people try to use science to prove, disprove, or even qualify something outside of "creation" or the natural world is just as hair-pullingly frustrating as watching people try to disprove evolution with Bible quotes.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261687)

Physics states certain conditions that are requisite to bring our universe into existence, and God fits the conditions practically by definition. You could hypothesize instead that the universe has the power to bring itself into existence, except now you are talking philosophy, because you are postulating the possibility that something can create itself, which is... impossible (in my opinion).

No one claims the universe created itself. The argument is that the universe always was there. This argument has the benefit of no undetectable, unfalsifiable supernatural beings posited. Saying that the universe could not have always existed yet your god can is called special pleading. It's quite fallacious.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 2 years ago | (#42261853)

The invisible pink unicorn runs along fault lines upside down, clip-clop, through the earth, without otherwise disturbing the rock and dirt, and that's what causes earthquakes. Or you can go with the magic teapot. Etc.

The point is to propose the most ridiculous thing you can imagine, and compare to superstition. If the ridiculous thing becomes less so, then something more ridiculous is presented.

What would make an interesting argument is to actually come up with an idea that presents the superstition at hand as less ridiculous; see, that's what the argument is trying to say: the idea of a god or gods is equally, or more so, ridiculous, as the most ridiculous thing you can imagine.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (3, Informative)

AvitarX (172628) | about 2 years ago | (#42262035)

A Deist, non-acting God is indistinguishable from physics (thus your calling it philosophy).

But one is visible/observable (physics/universe) the other is not.

Creating IPU or FSM is no different than creating God, unless you demonstrate the universe didn't always exist.

Fact, we have universe and physics

It may not have always existed

Now you're inventing something untestable to fill what may or may not be the case. And the something (capital G God) is attributed to a hell of a lot more than just creating the universe, much of which is falsifiable.

Why can God be attributed universe creation, but not IPU?

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#42262211)

Unicorns aren't supernatural? Most significant portrayals include magical effects or other legendary properties. A unicorn is much more than a hoofed equid with a single horn.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#42262737)

invisible pink

I'm pretty sure I can't find "invisible pink" in my daughters crayons. What does that look like exactly?

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42262901)

pink doesn't exist, ti's an illusion created by your mind.

That's what I tell my daughter, anyways

http://youtu.be/S9dqJRyk0YM [youtu.be]

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (4, Insightful)

slippyblade (962288) | about 2 years ago | (#42262855)

How about this, tell me why you don't believe in Thor, Osiris, or Marduk. I will then apply those exact same reasons to your "god" and they will be equally valid. Considering the several thousand gods known to have been worshipped over the years the difference between us is negligable. I simply believe in one fewer gods than you.

god is irrelevent (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261537)

it doesn't matter whether or not god exists

the real question is do we alter our behavior because of people who claim to know his/her/its will tell us to do so?

do we allow religion as an excuse for some people to avoid paying taxes that support civilized society?

do we allow cultists to harm their children by denying the children medical attention because that is their belief system?

do we allow believers to control the education curriculum, the legal system, the reigns of power?

do we allow believers to say whether or not I can buy beer or work on sunday, whether or not gambling and prostitution and various sex acts are legal?

i dont care if you worship zeus yaweh jehovah slaanesh cthulu or exar kun, I do care when you attempt to use the force to law to impose your beliefs on me and the rest of the society in which I live

Re:god is irrelevent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261635)

Amen!

(SCNR :))

Re:god is irrelevent (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42261757)

Parent forgot FSM. Other than that, RAmen!

Re:god is irrelevent (1)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | about 2 years ago | (#42261733)

I think Exar Kun tripped you up there, you meant "use the force of" not "use the Force to". But I agree wholeheartedly.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261695)

Trying to prove or disprove the existence of God is silly.

It doesn't matter if people believe the show is directed or self-directing. Whatever.

What matters is when people believe they are bound by divine ordinance to oppress other people, or to reject conclusions drawn from real-world observations. Religious people tend to do this when they get a bit confused about what they actually have faith in. They think their faith is in God, however, God never came down from heaven and told them anything. Everything they know about God was told to them by other humans (preachers, authors of ancient books, etc). Therefore, they are actually putting their faith in other humans instead of God.

And those other humans have an agenda. Humans always do.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262091)

No, it does not. It has nothing to do with that argument.

If you really want to understand why, I would suggest studying some apologetics (and philosophy in general) to develop your analytical thinking skills.

Re:The Invisible Unicorn Argument. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262287)

They switched to Flying Spaghetti Monster years ago

are there any (3)

etash (1907284) | about 2 years ago | (#42261397)

practical interesting applications for such a material ?

Re:are there any (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 2 years ago | (#42261439)

World peace was reachead at last, at least for cats and dogs. What a discovery!

Re:are there any (2)

jimbolauski (882977) | about 2 years ago | (#42262731)

There has been peace for cats and dogs for quite some time in my household, although it could just be a cease fire.

Re:are there any (1, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42261499)

practical interesting applications for such a material ?

Patents. Patents. More Patents. Lawsuits.

You know, the usual stuff.

Re:are there any (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261547)

Yes, electrified body armor.

Hey, it can be used to kill terrorists. I'm sure there'll plenty of DoD funding for this.

Re:are there any (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261641)

yes there are.

Re:are there any (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 2 years ago | (#42261881)

Probably about as much as a material like doped silicon or germanium, which, as semiconductors, can act as electrical switches.. or amplifiers, or a few other things. On the face of it, it might not seem huge, but look how significant the invention of semiconductor material was.

Job security for the researchers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262753)

Job security for the researchers

Re:are there any (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#42262941)

If only there was a link in the article to some sort of collaborative information source put together through a system of networks and computers.

How about we wait until this is accepted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261483)

Otherwise we might as well start celebrating that I finally got fusion working.
I'll write the paper tomorrow, I promise.

slashdot disappoints.. (3, Interesting)

rgbrenner (317308) | about 2 years ago | (#42261507)

this sounds like an interesting article.. so why does the summary read like an april fools joke. is this the way /. encourages intelligent discussion?

Re:slashdot disappoints.. (2, Funny)

Zeromous (668365) | about 2 years ago | (#42261715)

Clearly this was intended to create MASS HYSTERIA

Re:slashdot disappoints.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261859)

Grow a sense of humor, geez.
No wonder nobody wants to science any more, full of boring people.

Re:slashdot disappoints.. (2)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 2 years ago | (#42261897)

this sounds like an interesting article.. so why does the summary read like an april fools joke. is this the way /. encourages intelligent discussion?

The quality of summaries have always varied widely depending on the submitter and editor.

Unfortunately trying to figure out if Slashdot is dying is like trying to assess global warming by taking random temperature measurements.

Re:slashdot disappoints.. (1)

Chryana (708485) | about 2 years ago | (#42262365)

I would add to this comment that the entry on wikipedia, which is mentioned in TFA, seems so opaque to me that it might have been randomly generated and I wouldn't know any better. :(

And don't get me started on fairy wings. (0)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#42261521)

Look, man. I can't tell you the number of unicorn horns I've looted over the years, and I've yet to see one that's worth more than 50 cents.

Re:And don't get me started on fairy wings. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#42262021)

What?? The candy alone [ebay.com] is worth $6.40USD!! You need to find a better black market.

Conductive on the outside - simple! (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 2 years ago | (#42261525)

So it would be like steel coated porcelaine?

Re:Conductive on the outside - simple! (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#42261691)

Sure, if steel and the porcelain core were not different elements/compounds?

Topological insulator a misnomer? (5, Interesting)

badzilla (50355) | about 2 years ago | (#42261543)

I can't help feeling that "topological conductor" would be a better name for a material that behaves as an insulator in its interior but whose surface can conduct.

Re:Topological insulator a misnomer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261769)

Seconded. I hope the wrong name never gains popularity.

Re:Topological insulator a misnomer? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | about 2 years ago | (#42262303)

*Shrug* Still better than unicorn horn.

Re:Topological insulator a misnomer? (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 years ago | (#42262291)

As far as I can tell, the insulating behaviour of the material arises for reasons that are related to ideas in the theory of topology. Ergo, "topological insulator". The interesting edge effects at the surface are an additional anomaly.

Re:Topological insulator a misnomer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262423)

Not really, it is its structure in the inside that causes it to be an insulator. The surface is conducting because the structure is necessarily broken at the surface. Thus "topological insulator", because "naturally" without that special topology it would be a conductor.

Re:Topological insulator a misnomer? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262475)

There is actually a good reason for using "insulator" instead of "conductor". The conducting surface is a just consequence of the kind of insulating phase in the bulk rather than the central feature; it really is an kind of insulator that has conducting surface state.

Until pretty recently most phase transitions could be traced to a breaking of symmetry, and described using something called an order parameter. Superconductivity, for example, is a consequence of breaking gauge symmetry. Topological phases, on the other hand, do *not* have an associated order parameter. They are, as you might guess from the name, distinct from trivial phases in a discrete way(and as such are robust under perturbation), and can be classified by an integer parameter.

Topological insulators are an insulating phase that is distinct from normal insulating phases in that you cannot change to one from the other without changing it to a metal first. In a very (very) vague sense, in a topological insulator these electronic states are twisted around one another such that in order to unwind them you have to break them by making it a metal first.

This is why the surface states are metallic. At the surface you are going from the topological phase to the trivial phase, and in order for the electronic states to unwind they have to become metallic at some point. You cannot get rid of the metallic states without destroying the topological insulating bulk phase. Furthermore, this metallic surface state will be a Dirac cone, like in graphene. So these aren't just any metallic states, they are very special ones.

In any event, the summary is wrong. This is not the first topological insulator experimentally verified. It's just a particularly clean example, and has additional interesting wrinkles making it worth study.

Also, if you don't like the name, it's way, way too late to hope for a change. It's been around for five years, and many thousands of papers have been written about it. Phys Rev has an RSS feed for papers on just this topic.

Yes, it was found. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261583)

In North Korea. All hail glorious Kim Jong Un.

but was it discovered (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261603)

By north korea?

Stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261625)

You had me at "virtual particles that are their own anti-particles".

Language lesson (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261755)

"Phenomenon" is singular, with "phenomena" for the matching plural. You evidently heard it here first.

Re:Language lesson (0)

omnichad (1198475) | about 2 years ago | (#42261971)

Thank you, AC. And yet, I never noticed the error until you pointed it out. So maybe it doesn't matter at all.

Atrocious, factually incorrect summary (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261825)

The summary includes the caveat: "If they exist, and that's a real IF".

This is baffling, as the first topological insulators were experimentally confirmed several years ago(the family Bi2Se3, Bi2Te3, Sb2Te3, Zhang, et al. Nat Phys 5, 438 (2009)). While samarium hexaboride has some unique wrinkles in terms of physics at play, the major reason for interest is chemical. The materials above are prone the oxidation and vacancies, which shifts the fermi energy into the bulk. This means that the bulk is not fully insulating, even though the topological insulator hallmarks are still readily observable using the right experimental techniques. Samarium hexaboride appears to have a much more strongly insulating bulk, making it in some sense a much "cleaner" example.

IEEE July 2011 (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42261893)

This is a better description of Topological Insulators [ieee.org] from IEEE in July 2011. Not real sure what can be done with these things in practice. They have interesting properties, though.

Lightsabers? (0)

Slutticus (1237534) | about 2 years ago | (#42262783)

Only useful thing i can think of...

How does this affect audiophiles? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262201)

How does this affect audiophiles? Would this material result in a cable that effectively eliminates skin effect? Or would it be all-skin-effect?
For audiophile applications, how good (read: expensive) would a samarium hexaboride cable be?

Re:How does this affect audiophiles? (3, Funny)

MiniMike (234881) | about 2 years ago | (#42262801)

The new high-end cables will come in two variants: a 'base' version using SmB6 costing merely twice as much as the current high end cable, and a 'high end' version using SmB7 to 'capture the extra bass' and 'significantly enhance the audio experience' or somesuch, and will only cost 4x as much as the current high end cable. Both variants will provide exactly the same sound quality as a generic $5 cable (or a $20 cable from Best Buy) to everyone except the person that paid for them.

Re:How does this affect audiophiles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262839)

9,999.99$ for a 3 inch cable. Audiophile.. LOL.

TI's were predicted, confirmed previous to this (1)

allwheat (1235474) | about 2 years ago | (#42262499)

Topological Insulators (2D and 3D) are strange, but definitely not an "IF". Check this: http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.3895 [arxiv.org] from 2010. Several have been predicted and confirmed experimentally previous to this.

SmB6 is great because it's not based on weak interactions (like other topological insulators) but on strongly-correlated electrons, and the new relation of the Kondo insulator to the Topological Insulator.

Or as the aliens tend to call this stuff ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262543)

UFO paint!

"Mythical" unicorn? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42262549)

They are real! The cave was found in N. Korea!

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