Moses Chan backtracks on search for supersolids

Published in Physics World, 16 Oct 2012

In 2004 Moses Chan and his graduate student Eun-Seong Kim thought that they had made one of the most exciting condensed-matter discoveries of the new century. It was the supersolid – a mysterious substance that could float through ordinary solids, like a ghost through walls. Now the Penn State University physicist has published a paper arguing that his initial interpretation was wrong – a mundane materials effect rather than supersolidity was the cause of their anomalous experimental results. “It would have been nice if the supersolid [interpretation] was correct,” he says, “but Mother Nature had her own way.”

The paper comes after Chan and others struggled for eight years to produce conclusive evidence for the effect. Although the experiments have been a disappointment, they were not done on a whim. The supersolid concept has a long history and theoretical physicists – including Nobel laureate Philip Anderson – have developed compelling arguments for its existence. […]

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