Web edition: December 12, 2012
Sometimes amazing results turn out to be just too amazing to be true. It’s an embarrassing truth that physicist Moses Chan of Pennsylvania State University and his colleagues have just had to acknowledge publicly.
In 2004, Chan reported remarkably strange experimental results. He'd found a solid material that when chilled to supercold temperatures flowed without slowing down. This material appeared immune to friction — something that should not be possible. (Imagine how fast you'd slide down a hill without friction to slow you somewhat!) Scientists began referring to such friction-free materials as supersolids, and before long some researchers were trying to make their own.
But now Chan reports that his team’s 2004 results were indeed too strange to be true. After repeating his experiment, Chan failed to confirm friction-free motion. What he thought had been supersolidity was actually just the test material becoming stiffer.
A. Witze. Supersolidity loses its luster. Science News Online, October 12, 2012. [Go to]