THE PATH OF NO RESISTANCE: The Story of the Revolu by Bruce Schechter

THE PATH OF NO RESISTANCE: The Story of the Revolu

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A neat title for a first-rate account of the discovery of high(er) temperature superconductivity. Schechter, a particle physicist, is good in the historical details. He describes the 19th-century fascination with the notion of absolute zero and of men like James Dewar, whose silvered, evacuated double-glass-cylinders for keeping things cool were the ancestors of the thermos bottle. Dewar's goal to liquefy helium gas was achieved by Heike Omnes, a Dutch physicist who demonstrated superconductivity (when matter loses all resistance to the flow of electricity) by observing the drop in the resistance of mercury when exposed to liquid helium at 2 or 3 degrees above absolute zero, The story then rapidly turns to the recent developments in ceramics and to the band of solid-state physicists who stuck to their "schmutz" (dirty) physics in contrast to the glamour kids entranced by particles and accelerators. The appeal here is with experiments with oddball materials investigating changes and unusual properties--none predictable by theory. Indeed, there is as yet no theory to explain why the current crop of copper oxide rare-earth compounds displays superconductivity at temperatures of over 100 degrees above absolute zero. Schechter has talked to all the principals in the well-publicized race--with the exception of Paul Chu, who would not be interviewed; thus questions remain about priorities and credits, even as they did in Bruce Hazen's more personal and participant account, The Breakthrough (1988). Schechter concludes with a thoughtful account of the potential applications of superconductivity and the wonder that we have learned so much so fast. Super.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1989
ISBN: 671-65785-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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