Khatyrka

Khatyrka

Valerie was found in the Russian Mountains of Siberia as a young child. At the time, Valery Kryachko, a Russian mineralogist was panning for platinum when were saw her. Unable to communicate with the toddler or locate any signs of parents or a home, Kryachko took the girl and the few rocks he had collected back to his home. Under mysterious circumstances, the rocks made their way to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florence. The rocks were placed in storage at the museum. Valerie was placed in the Russian orphanage system.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, American adoptions opened to Russian children and Valerie, at the age of 10, was adopted by Paul Steinhardt, a physics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Valerie had a fairly normal upbringing despite a few peculiar occurrences, Of course, growing up the teenager daughter of one of the world’s leading scientist was challenging as well – but served her well. When her father got a job as a professor at Princeton University, Valerie was able to earn a Ph.D. in psychology there.

In the early 2000s Professor Steinhardt called on a worldwide search for a natural quasicrystal – one had never been known. Quasicrystals defy the previous though that matter could only be either a crystal or random in form, but had only been produced under lab conditions. To help her father on his quest, Valerie visited museum after museum looking for any evidence of the impossible substance. She found the work dull, but was eager to see her father happy. However, when she arrived at the Natural History Museum in Florence, she was greeted by a handsome scientist named Luca Bindi.

He escorted her around the museum with easy conversation, and his warm smile made Valerie feel at home. On her last day at the museum, which happened to be the day before her thirtieth birthday, Luca showed her the basement storage room. He didn’t think anything of value could be found, but told her she was welcome to have a look. While Valerie walked the aisles of old, dusty boxes, Luca nervously wiped his glasses thinking of the perfect way to ask Valerie to dinner that night. A box caught Valerie eye – it was labeled “khatyrkite” – the name reminded her of something she had heard before, a long time ago. She brought the box to Luca and asked him to examine the contents- a few rocks.

Most of the rocks were relatively common elements, but the last rock – the last rock seemed different. Luca ran the rock through a battery of tests and under every microscope he had – and then he saw it. It appeared to be made of ordered but not periodic crystals – a quasicrystal! The discovery was amazing for the scientific community, but Valerie couldn’t help shaking the feeling she got from the word “khatyrkite” what did it meant and why was it so familiar……

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