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Linus, 11, solves long-running chemistry riddle

31 May 2012, 18:29

Published: 31 May 2012 18:29 GMT+02:00

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Linus Hovmöller Zou is eleven years old and he is smart.

So smart in fact, that his brainy insights helped his father, Sven Hovmöller, a chemistry professor at Stockholm University, crack a scientific problem that had vexed the elder Hovmöller for eight years.

"I was happy, but I think he was even happier because I didn't realize how big this was," Linus told the TT news agency about his father's feelings when Linus helped him find the solution at the family's kitchen table last summer.

Sven Hovmöller specializes in structural chemistry and had been asked to write an article for publication in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A about the structure of approximates – types of “quasicrystals” which until recently had not been thought to exist.

"It's a really hard problem that I've been working on for eight years without being able to solve," professor Hovmöller told TT.

But after Hovmöller noticed his son's skill at solving Sudoku number puzzles, he invited Linus to help him and his wife Xioadong Zou, also a professor, in their efforts to solve the quasicrystal riddle.

"We solved a Sudoku the day before and I realized then that Linus was smarter than me," said Hovmöller.

And sure enough, Linus's sharp eye was able to discover the quasicrystal patterns on the electron microscope images.

"We tried to solve this puzzle and in the end we did. It was fun for me," said Linus.

Hovmöller attributed Linus's discovery in part to his untainted perspective.

"I have so much information in my head that things can get muddled. But Linus came in with a fresh and unspoiled mind," he said.

Story continues below…

The paper detailing the findings of the father-son team was published in the prestigious journal and listed Linus, who was only ten at the time of the discovery, as a co-author, making him among the youngest to ever be listed as the author of a paper in the Royal Society's 352-year history.

“Ten years old is very young to be published in a scientific journal and particularly for such a difficult subject," Nicola Kane, a spokeswoman for the Royal Society, told the Times of London.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

19:09 May 31, 2012 by bcterry
Way to go Linus, excellent, well done.

Hope you go on to use your intellectual talents in the future for the benefit of mankind.

There is no greater calling.

Great minds are a rarity.

All the best to you and your family.
21:33 May 31, 2012 by JulieLou40
Well done to Linus-fantastic achievement!
21:34 May 31, 2012 by HenryPollard
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
22:33 May 31, 2012 by dizzymoe33
A very nice story for a change. I think this is wonderful what an achievement.
01:58 June 1, 2012 by rolfkrohna
Not so strange at all, but well done. Once I was lecturing at a university. The dumbest student in the class was to solve a standard maths problem in front of the class, he got the right answer, but not the right way. I could not find what he did wrong, and copied it and asked the professor, who asked me to come back the next day. Then he told me, this is actually correct, but I have never seen this solution before. Soooo, the dumbest man had discovered a completely new solution to a problem nobody had seen before. Well done too.
10:41 June 1, 2012 by gpafledthis
#3 good try at being "cranky" but WHO are his people ?? Your very grudging "applause" just might be the best !! Good support dad !!
10:56 June 1, 2012 by Da Goat
yep the father said it all, Linus will do well in science if he avoids the crap that "scientists" shove down everyones throat . There is a huge difference between real science and what scientists beleive.

there are none so blind as those who refuse to see!

well done Linus!
12:14 June 1, 2012 by karex
Well done! Einstein always said that his intellect often got in the way of his creativity and it takes imagination and creativity to solve the trickiest issues. New discoveries are rarely made based on the application of the rigid parameters of intellect but more often "thinking outside the box". Of course, a high IQ always helps which this boy seems to have plenty of!
22:29 June 1, 2012 by struthiocamelus
Guys, look around and see a doting elderly father who only wants to give his well-groomed son the limelight on some very dubious grounds. Please note the article says absolutely nothing about what the slopy-haired youngster actually did. Father is so desperate to give his son the credit that he's willing to acknowledge that his 8-yr quest was in vain until his sudoku-playing son turned up with zero knowledge of the subject matter to show him what a thicko he was. There, dad, see how they line up!! Ooo, er, thanks son. Now how do you play sudoku again?
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