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Condensed-matter town

The Cathedral of Learning

By Hamish Johnston

This year’s APS March Meeting is in Pittsburgh — a city with a history that is intertwined with the solid-state of matter, just like the conference itself.

This is Steeltown and home to the Steelers. And even though the region’s steel industry is a shadow of what it once was, the city is full of reminders of the vast fortunes that were made from digging rock from the ground and forging it into the engines of industry.

The best place to catch a glimpse of this wealth is the neighbourhood of Oakland, home the the University of Pittsburgh’s glorious Cathedral of Learning — a gothic revival skyscraper that was built in the 1920s. Sadly, I don’t think the physics department can be found there.

Just down the road from the Cathedral is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which rather fittingly houses a fantastic collection of minerals. Many of these are housed in glass cases in a mirrored room — and the light reflecting from all the polished surfaces is dazzling.

I can’t think of a better place to appreciate the solid state of matter.

Crystals in the Carnegie Museum

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