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Woodstock of physics

The term "Woodstock of physics" is often used by physicists to refer to the marathon session of the American Physical Society’s meeting on March 18 1987, which featured 51 presentations concerning the science of high-temperature superconductors. The name is a reference to the legendary 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Festival.

Before a series of breakthroughs in the mid-1980s, most scientists believed that the extremely low temperature requirements of superconductors rendered them impractical for everyday use. However, by March 1987, a flurry of recent research on ceramic superconductors had succeeded in creating ever-higher superconducting temperatures, including the discovery by the University of Houston's Paul Chu of a superconductor that operated at minus 139 degrees Celsius (minus 283 degrees Fahrenheit), above the temperature of boiling liquid nitrogen. The scientific community was abuzz with excitement.

The Society added a last-minute session to their annual meeting to discuss the new research in superconductors. The session was scheduled to start at 7:30 PM in the Sutton ballroom of the New York Hilton hotel, but excited scientists started lining up at 5:30. Key researchers such as Chu and Karl Alexander Müller (who would win the 1987 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in superconductors) were given 10 minutes to describe their research; other physicists were given five minutes. Nearly 2,000 scientists tried to squeeze into the ballroom. Those who could not find a seat filled the aisles or watched outside the room on television monitors. The session ended at 3:15 AM, but many lingered until dawn to discuss the presentations.

The meeting caused a surge in mainstream media interest in superconductors, and laboratories around the world raced to pursue breakthroughs in the field. After a few years, however, research stalled, and press enthusiasm for superconductors died. On March 5, 2007, many of the original participants reconvened in Denver for a 20-year anniversary.


  • Chang, Kenneth (March 6, 2007). "Physicists Remember When Superconductors Were Hot". The New York Times. Retrieved on March 7, 2007.
  • Fishlock, David (April 3, 1987). "A Ceramic Goldmine At The Electronics Frontier; Superconductivity". The Financial Times.
  • Fishlock, David (March 17, 1989). "Superconductivity Hits A Quieter Note Since The 'Woodstock Of Physics'". The Financial Times.
  • Lemonick, Michael D. (May 11, 1987). "Superconductors!". TIME. Retrieved on March 7, 2007.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Woodstock_of_physics". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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