On April 8, 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes was analyzing the impact of low temperatures on solid metals. While examining pure mercury, he used liquid helium to lower the temperature to 4.2 kelvin. Suddenly, the mercury wire changed into a superconductor…and forever altered the face of science.
The Chaos Book Club
Today is Day 20 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:
The Discovery of Superconductors
So what happened to Onnes’ mercury wire? Well, at 4.2 kelvin, its electrical resistance vanished.
“Mercury has passed into a new state, which on account of its extraordinary electrical properties may be called the superconductive state.” ~ Heike Kamerlingh Onnes
And thus, the strange science of superconductors was born. A superconductor is a substance that shows zero electrical resistance at very low temperatures. This occurs because the low temperature causes atoms to cease random vibrations. Thus, electrons can flow freely from one atom to another with no resistance. This allows an electrical current to flow continuously through the superconductor with no power source.
Superconductors and the Meissner Effect
In 1933, Walter Meissner and Robert Ochsenfeld discovered that superconductors also exhibit something that has come to be known as the Meissner Effect. When the right substance is cryogenically cooled, it expels its internal magnetic field. This allows it to perfectly repel a magnetic field aimed in its direction. This turns the superconductor into “a mirror image of the magnet.” In practice, the Meissner Effect allows a superconductor to float endlessly above a powerful magnet.
Superconductors & Chaos
Suffice it to say that superconductors remain a source of great interest and mystery for physicists. They are expected to provide future opportunities in electric power transmission, transformers, power storage, and even magnetic levitation devices.
Superconductors are a fascinating field of research. As those of you who’ve read the novel know by now, they also inspired me in my creation of die Glocke, or the Nazi Bell. Hmmm…I wasn’t going to give this away but…well…okay. If you haven’t read Chaos yet, don’t read this next part! I don’t want to spoil it for you.
I knew Beverly was behind me, but I could no longer feel her presence. The blanket dominated my attention. While unremarkable on its own, it carried heavy symbolism for me.
It was the last remaining barrier between the Bell and me.
I walked over to it. As I grasped its coarse edge, I wondered what secrets I’d find on the other side. Would the Bell look the same as I’d imagined it? Could we destroy it?
I pulled the blanket out of the way. My beam lifted, casting into the space.
The flashlight fell from my fingertips. It bounced on the floor and rolled. I felt a sudden reverence as if I stood before the Almighty Himself.
“Oh my God,” Beverly whispered. “Is it…?”
“It’s not touching the ground,” I replied dumbly. “The damn thing’s floating. It’s floating in mid-air.” ~ David Meyer, Chaos
You can probably guess what keeps the mysterious Bell floating in mid-air. But Cy Reed’s journey is just beginning. He has to figure out a way to destroy the Bell. The fate of the world depends on it. You can read more about his thrilling adventure by getting a copy of Chaos at one of the links above.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow is the last day of the Chaos book club. For those of you who’ve stuck with me for this long, I’ve got a little treat for you. We’re going to take a look down the road at the coming sequel to Chaos. Stop by tomorrow to check it out…you won’t regret it!
Chaos Book Club
- October 17: Chaos has Arrived!
- October 24: The Story of Chaos
- October 25: The Great Train Robbery?
- October 26: Is Treasure Hunting Immoral?
- October 27: What was Operation Paperclip?
- October 28: Nazi Treasure & ODESSA?
- October 29: Do the Mole People Exist?
- October 31: FDR’s Lost Subway Car?
- November 1: Do Alligators Live in New York City Sewers?
- November 2: The Mysterious Minamata Disease?
- November 3: Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?
- November 4: Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?
- November 5: The Strange Case of Red Mercury?
- November 6: The Island of Stability?
- November 7: The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
- November 8: The Nth Country Experiment?
- November 9: Why did America really bomb Hiroshima?
- November 10: New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?
- November 11: Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?
- November 12: The Strange Science of Superconductors?
- November 13: What’s Next for Cyclone Reed