This effect of diamagnetism is very similar to the Meissner effect, although it requires much stronger magnetic fields. Nevertheless, levitation is the simplest first sign of possible superconductivity; and, in fact, the only one available for testing without specialized equipment. Other confirmatory measurements (say, zero resistance of direct interest to us) require great accuracy and special methodology. And levitation, besides, also looks cool!
In general, the whole world held its breath somewhere at this moment: will there be independent confirmation of the Meissner effect – or will everything, like in previous times, stop at the stage of too loud and too hasty statements from the Korean team of scientists? It is here that the heroine of our story enters the stage …
“That Russian Anime Profile Pic Girl” comes into play
While people on Twitter were speculating about how many weeks (or months) it would take for the world’s leading laboratories to replicate LK-99 and confirm its superconductivity, a little-known account @iris_IGB with an anime girl on the avatar, I decided to take the initiative into my own hands. To summarize the essence of shieldposting from Iris, it boiled down to something like this: “You are all stupid and not being treated; and if you had at least a little understanding of physics and chemistry at the level of an advanced Soviet schoolchild, you could easily synthesize the right substance yourself!” (I’m exaggerating a little – but, to be honest, not too much).
The most epic viral thread from Iris is literally starts with the words “my girlfriend has a carpet cleaning today, and we can’t watch Kin-dza-dzu together … so it’s time for room temperature superconductors!” What follows is an extremely informal description of the theoretical calculations on the theory of superconductivity, and after them – a step-by-step receiving process analogue LK-99 with pictures in less than a day.
Several things added to the epicness of everything that happened at once:
Firstly, Alexandra Iris does not specialize in superconductivity physics at all, her area of expertise is soil molecular biology (!).
Second, how writes she herself, Iris, did not aim to replicate the entire process from the Koreans’ original paper – she immediately tried to improve their approach, based on her understanding of the likely nature of the observed effects.
And thirdly: it seems as if she succeeded! In her posted slightly jackal photos, a small grain of some material (“speckle of shit,” as the author writes) is visible, which “levitates” above a magnet inside a hollow tube.
Then everything developed exactly as it is customary on the Internet: they began to show Alexandra for the dumb quality of the photo and for not wanting to record a video – she snapped in response in the style of “and you open any Soviet textbook, synthesize the same thing from it – and shoot your own fanservice in whatever format you want!!”
Regular references to the USSR in Iris’s tweets are not accidental here: she herself firmly takes the position that the Soviet scientific school simply hides, without getting up from the couch, everything else that is going on in scientific laboratories around the world. And all this mess with the LK-99, they say, is an ideal illustration of this!
After all, Lee and Kim (the authors of LK-99 – in fact, it was their names that formed the title of the material) in the 1990s worked with the Korean professor Tong-Seek Chair (Choi?), who had previously worked together with Professor Galashevich in Poland – and he, in turn, was a student of the Soviet scientist Nikolai Bogolyubov, who created his own theory of superconductivity in the 1950s. In the scientific mainstream, this theory did not take root much, losing the battle for the minds of this most popular Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer theory, but … Perhaps there is something in it after all was? At least that’s how it seems thinks Alexandra Iris herself.
Epilogue: it seems that the miracle did not happen
Right after @iris_IGB Slowly, other independent checks began to arrive. Somewhere the samples levitated, somewhere they did not; but each new video and photo was met with another wave of delight. Serious scientists reacted to them, trying to explain that these observations do not yet prove anything – such reactions also went viral, and the public was again disappointed.
The swing between delight and disappointment has led to the fact that the story began to be followed far from the scientific community – like a cool series, stocking up on popcorn. Added fuel to the fire was the fact that the original preprints themselves came out with drama: co-authors accused each other in violation of scientific ethics – they said that the articles were posted without the permission of the co-authors, quietly. At the same time, the preprints themselves contained visible errors in the graphs and a lot of inaccuracies, which somewhat complicated the replication process (go figure it out – did you get exactly what you need, or some other material?).
Soon, the pebbles were already “flying” in several laboratories, and everyone completely did not care about all the problems of preprints. A week later, theoretical articles were published with numerical calculations of the structure of the material, which turned out to be close to that expected from a superconductor. Although many other materials could have such a structure, the new burst of hype was unstoppable: not only did the stones fly, but the “theory proved everything” already!!
But then everything went a little downhill: last week began to appear more serious new material research, and so far none of them shows the desired properties of a superconductor. Yes, it flies in a magnetic field – but just like an ordinary ferromagnet. If in earlier articles it was possible to say that the material was “wrong”, “it was synthesized in the wrong way”, then here the structure has already been confirmed with accuracy.
In one very recent research scientists made pure LK-99 without any impurities – and it turned out to be not only not a superconductor, but also an excellent insulator! And all the properties that made it look like a superconductor were actually due to impurities of copper sulfide that got into the manufacturing process (why these impurities have such an effect is explained in separate article).
In general, while many tries reproduce observations none showed superconductivity. There is a feeling that this opening can be closed – at the moment there is a consensus that there is no smell of superconductivity in LK-99. Of course, we can wait for more independent checks, publication of results in peer-reviewed articles and other things – but there are still not so many reasons for optimism…
However, Alexandra Iris herself does not seem to lose optimism: she continues to tweet reasoning about his thoughts on the LK-99, and trolling his critics with rebuke, stylized as visual anime novels. If I understand correctly, she believes that by itself LK-99 is not superconductor; however, at the same time speaksthat she observed the Meissner effect in a grain synthesized by her with her own eyes and … I don’t know, here I’m already confused what specific conclusions should be drawn from this – but personally I don’t exclude that in half a year we will see a new interesting scientific article from a certain Moscow Research Institute.
In the end, something like this is happening on the selfie published by Alexandra – enthusiastic people are sawing some kind of prodigy in the laboratory …
If this article gets a lot of likes, Mikhail Korobko and I will try to make a follow-up to it with comments from Alexandra Iris herself, as well as with the opinion of some specialist physicist directly in the field of superconductivity. If you don’t want to miss the following materials on the topic, then we invite you to subscribe to the authors’ TG channels: Homeostatic Universe Mikhail Korobko (for those who want to fumble for physics and science) and Rational Answer Pavel Komarovsky (for those who are for a rational approach to life, but prefer a little simpler).