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Virtual Event
1. The Second Kind of Impossible & 2. Start of our Solar System
03 Jun 2024



Presented by the Lyceum Society

Welcome and Introductions: 11:30 am to 11:45 am 

Initial Presentation: 11:45 am to 12:45 pm 

Speaker: Fred Cadieu

Topic: Start of our Solar System: Earth Biased Illusions

Everybody has some innate feelings about the start of Earth.  Today we want to maybe expand those views and feelings by considering some basic physics points that have generally been neglected.  One of these relates to the basic opposite rotation that the neighboring planet, Earth’s twin, Venus exhibits.  Another relates to the mysterious fact that our Sun exhibits a maximum number of sunspots that peaks approximately every eleven years, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little less, but on the average about every 11 years over the relatively short time of several hundred years for which sunspots have been counted.  Two recent publications provide background, but I think the talk can be readily appreciated without prior research.  (Readily searchable under WJCMP Cadieu 2002 and WJCMP Cadieu 2024.)

Fred Cadieu is Emeritus Professor in the Physics Department of Queens College of the City University of New York.  He received BS, MS, and a PhD from the University of Chicago.  Research efforts have been to a certain extent concentrated in the areas of the synthesis of magnetic and permanent magnet films.  Over the last two decades Professor Cadieu has taught astronomy with the application of physics—what is currently known as the fast-moving subject of astrophysics with modern tools such as the James Webb Space Telescope.  One recent publication is titled “Just A Bit of Physics Can Tell So Much: A Unique Story of the Start of the Earth-Moon System” (World Journal of Condensed Matter Physics, Fred J. Cadieu, 2020).  Other publications have hinged upon the application of very basic, but often overlooked, physics concepts such as the topic of today’s talk.  Research Gate lists about 140 publications.

Main Presentation: 12:45 pm  to 2:30 pm

Speaker: Paul J. Steinhardt

Topic: The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter

(video of lecture by Paul J. Steinhardt, published on

A crystal structure is characterized by periodicity and symmetries. That is, it has repeated units and remains the same when rotated or translated in particular ways. For example, table salt has a repeating cubic form and remains the same when rotated 90 degrees along three axes. Mineral structures can be observed microscopically and by x-ray diffraction patterns. In two dimensions, crystals are called tilings, and the same principles apply. For crystals or tiles to fill space, there are limitations on shapes. For instance, pentagons will not tile without gaps.

In 1974 Roger Penrose introduced an aperiodic tiling of two shapes using a “matching” rule, with local pentagonal symmetry. His method can be generalized to three dimensions as “quasicrystals,” so named because it was considered impossible for aperiodic crystals to occur naturally. A quasicrystal is ordered by a rule, but not periodic.

Dan Schechtman created metallic quasicrystals in 1982. Independently, Paul J. Steinhardt, now at Princeton University, hypothesized their natural existence and searched for them in collections of geological samples. A single instance led to a remarkable expedition to a remote region, where more natural examples were discovered. They turned out to be of primordial extraterrestrial origin.

Steinhardt’s 2019 book “The Second Kind of Impossible” narrates the entire project. This lecture, recorded at Harvard University c. 2000, outlines the science, the expedition, and the discovery.

Synthetic quasicrystals have been put to use, notably in superconducting graphene experiments, in non-stick cookware, and in LED lights. The theory of quasicrystals and aperiodic tilings is also an important area of mathematical research today.

Reference: Paul J. Steinhardt, The Second Kind Of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter. (

Paul J. Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science at Princeton University, where he is also on the faculty of both the Department of Physics and the Department of Astrophysical Sciences.

Steinhardt received his B.S. in Physics in 1974 from Caltech, where he worked with Richard Feynman, Barry Barish and Frank Sciulli. He received his M.A. in Physics in 1975 and Ph.D. in Physics in 1978 from Harvard University….

Steinhardt’s research spans problems in particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and condensed matter physics. He is one of the original architects of the inflationary model….In 2001, Steinhardt and collaborators proposed that the big bang might instead be a big bounce, and that the key events shaping the large-scale smoothness, flatness and density variations of the universe may have occurred before the bounce….

In condensed matter physics, Steinhardt and Dov Levine (Technion) first introduced the concept of quasicrystals in 1983, a new phase of solid matter with symmetries that are forbidden for periodic crystals (such as five-fold symmetry in two dimensions or icosahedral symmetry in three dimensions). Throughout the more than three decades following that theoretical breakthrough, Steinhardt has continued to make contributions to understanding quasicrystals’ unique mathematical and physical properties.

Steinhardt is a Fellow in the American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He shared the P.A.M. Dirac Medal from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in 2002…, the Oliver E. Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society in 2010 for his contribution to the theory of quasicrystals; and the John Scott Award in 2012 for his work on quasicrystals…. In 2020, he was awarded the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honor for his contributions to science and the Carl Friedrich von Siemens Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Professor Steinhardt is the author of over 200 refereed articles, 100 reviews, sixteen patents, three patents pending, three technical books, and numerous popular articles. His is the author of The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter , (2019), a popular account of the remarkable decades-long story of quasicrystals…. He is also co-author (with Neil Turok) of Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang (2007), a popular book on contemporary theories of cosmology.

The Lyceum Society is a collegial venue promoting fellowship, education, and discussion among retired members of NYAS.  


This event has been completed.