Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 39: May-Jun 1985

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Forbidden Matter

When a hot mixture of aluminum and manganese, iron or chromium is squirted onto a spinning water-cooled copper wheel, the molten metal freezes into a thin, metallic ribbon. If it is cooled too fast, a metallic glass results; cooled too slowly, it forms normal metal crystals. But when conditions are just right, icosahedral crystals cluster together in nodules a few microns in size. These icosahedral crystals are not normal in the sense that they have five-fold symmetry. In fact, to a crystallographer, these crystals are the equivalent to ESP in psychology.

All the rules of crystallography insist that icosahedral crystals should not exist. One scientist reacted in this way:

"All my training has been with the assumption that crystals are periodic. Now, almost everything has to be reexamined."

Actually, the icosahedral crystals are "quasi-periodic"; that is, they are completely regular only over small distances. Nevertheless, there are hints that these materials that should not exist have remarkable structural and electronic properties.

(Peterson, Ivars; "The Fivefold Way for Crystals," Science News, 127:188, 1985.)

Two-dimensionsal quasiperiodic geometry (Penrose tiling)
Two-dimensionsal quasiperiodic geometry (Penrose tiling) with five-fold symmetry formerly thought to be impossible in nature.

Tricontahedron with 30 faces
The tricontahedron with 30 faces is the basis of three-dimensional quasiperiodic structures with five-fold symmetry.

From Science Frontiers #39, MAY-JUN 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987