Beyond crystals: the dialectic of materials and information

Editors: Julyan H. E. Cartwright and Alan L. Mackay

How does biology build materials that we can't, like wood, nacre (mother of pearl), or silk? And can we learn to make them? Understanding biological materials implies understanding the link between structure and information; information that in a biological system is contained in its genes. Mankind is little by little understanding the structure of materials. Crystals, with their geometric facets, proved to be the way into comprehending how atoms are arranged in space; Kepler 400 years ago compared crystal structure to the ordering of the pips in a pomegranate. As the discovery of quasicrystals -less regularly ordered crystals- has just led to a Nobel prize, now is a good moment to look to where crystallography is heading. We argue that we need to think beyond crystals to understand how nature makes complex materials that we see and use everyday, but that we cannot yet make.


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The issue, a Festschrift for the 85th birthday of Alan Mackay (a pioneer of the crystallographic field), also includes a paper co-authored by10-year-old Linus Hovmöller Zou [FREE until the end of June].

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