# And OUR kids argue about who plays ANGRY BIRDS next.. :)

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10-year-old solves science riddle and co-authors paper

First he assisted his father with Sudoku, then helped him crack a chemistry problem that had puzzled him for years. Meet Linus Hovmöller Zou and his dad Sven

You cracked a puzzle about the structure of strange crystals called approximants that had gone unsolved for eight years. Tell us more.

Sven: Approximants are related to quasicrystals, which are ordered atomic structures but with symmetries that were believed to be impossible – for example, 5-fold symmetry. The approximants we studied have 5-fold and 10-fold symmetry.

The result was Linus's name on the paper he wrote with his father, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A this month.

What did you make of that?

Linus: It's rare and strange and cool. I don't know how many other 10-year-old kids have done this.

How did this father-son collaboration begin?

Linus: Me and my father did some Sudoku. He was like, "Let's put this number here and this number here," but I said that he was wrong. Then he was like, "You're better at puzzles than me," and he asked if I wanted to help with this thing that he'd been working on for a few years. We sat down and found the solutions to some of these crystals.

Sven: We cracked it together. We cracked four structures out of six remaining. It was pretty much a 50/50 effort.

Is there a similarity between solving Sudoku puzzles and piecing together diffraction patterns and electron micrographs to solve approximant structures?

Sven: Quite a lot actually. Linus's main contribution was coming at it with an absolutely clear mind, being smart and able to put the puzzle together. I sort of knew too many things and when I tried to do it myself, your brain just gets exhausted by all the different things you keep in your head at the same time. With a fresh, empty brain so to speak, you can do something. When solving problems, it is always good to have someone to discuss it with.

Linus: What we did was to solve a set of puzzles, where the pieces were "wheels" that could be connected in different ways.

Did it take long?

Linus: It took two days to find the solutions.

Linus is obviously exposed to a lot of science. Does a career in research beckon?

Sven: Because of our interest in the quasicrystals, we had Daniel Shechtman [winner of the chemistry Nobel for discovering quasicrystals] here for dinner after he got his prize. He talked a little bit with Linus and said he could become an excellent scientist. But we are not pushing him, he can be what he wants.

Linus: I don't know what I want to do yet.

When you're not solving crystal structures, what do you like to do?

Linus: I like to play computer games with my friends. I have met a lot of people in different countries when I play games; for example, Cyprus and Denmark. I also like to watch videos on YouTube.

Linus Hovmöller Zou, now aged 11, is the son of Sven Hovmöller, a structural chemist at Stockholm University in Sweden. The paper they co-authored is in June's Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.

Steve

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