Science: Mighty Crystal

The erudite science of solid-state physics can predict from theory how strong a metallic crystal should be if all its atoms were arranged in a perfect, regular pattern. The figure is usually so high that the real metal seems like mush by comparison. Crystals formed in ordinary ways, e.g., by cooling from a liquid, are full of imperfections and irregularities that reduce their strength. Crystals of pure iron, for instance, should, in theory, be a hundred times stronger than they actually are.

Last week General Electric announced that two of its scientists, Dr....

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