Superconductivity Formula Gets Frigid Reception In The Field

Nobel laureate Philip Anderson was shocked when he picked up the New York Times last month. There on the front page was an article announcing a bold new theory in his field. The story said that Caltech chemist William Goddard had come up with a simple explanation for high- temperature superconductivity—probably the hottest mystery in materials science today. Not only that, the article reported, but calculations based on Goddard’s theory showed that the idea of room-temperature su

Christopher Anderson
Nov 13, 1988

Nobel laureate Philip Anderson was shocked when he picked up the New York Times last month. There on the front page was an article announcing a bold new theory in his field. The story said that Caltech chemist William Goddard had come up with a simple explanation for high- temperature superconductivity—probably the hottest mystery in materials science today. Not only that, the article reported, but calculations based on Goddard’s theory showed that the idea of room-temperature superconducting materials was no more than an impossible dream.

To Anderson, that Times article made for a fascinating story, but one that simply didn’t compute. Indeed, after polling many of the top superconductivity researchers in the United States, The Scientist was unable to find a single scientist off Caltech’s campus who thinks the theory is right.

The September 26 article by Times science writer Malcolm Browne appeared on the first day of the American...

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