It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
First proposed by Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, time crystals are hypothetical structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state.
This ability violates a fundamental symmetry in physics called time-translation symmetry, but physicists have now demonstrated that it might actually be possible for time crystals to physically exist.
If none of this makes sense to you, don’t worry, we’ll run you through the backstory.
In 2012, Wilczek and a team of theoretical physicists at MIT suggested that it could be possible to add a fourth dimension - the movement of time - to a crystal, imbuing it with the ability to act as a kind of perpetual 'time-keeper', or clock.
In basic terms, Wilczek envisioned an object that could achieve everlasting movement by periodically moving and then returning to its original state over and over again in its lowest-energy state - known as its ground state.
As the energy of the ground state is known as the zero-point energy of a system, it means movement should theoretically be impossible - but perhaps not for time crystals.
As Bob Yirka explains for Phys.org, Wilczek proposed that it could be possible to construct a time crystal using a low temperature superconductor, because crystals naturally align themselves at low temperatures.
"[I]t seemed reasonable to assume that the atoms in such a crystal could conceivably move or rotate and then return to their natural state naturally, continually, as crystals are wont to do as they seek a lowest energy state," says Yirka.
The idea was that a ring of ions inside the crystal could be made to move independently inside the crystal - like a mouse exploring the inside of a snake's stomach - but he couldn't figure out how to build such a thing.
FlyInTheOintment: What a curious analogy..!!!
Within months, a separate team of physicists from Purdue University jumped in and said Wilczek’s plan could work - they just needed better ion traps, which was something that would conceivably be developed within the next few years.
Fast-forward to now....
"We're gonna need a bigger Ion Trap..."(paraphrased)
Reply to Seeker1963
That's one of the reasons when I hear someone say "It's settled science" I just immediately extricate myself usually from the debate.
Two separate research teams managed to create what looked an awful lot like time crystals back in January, and now both experiments have successfully passed peer-review for the first time, putting the 'impossible' phenomenon squarely in the realm of reality.
"We've taken these theoretical ideas that we've been poking around for the last couple of years and actually built it in the laboratory," says one of the researchers, Andrew Potter from Texas University at Austin.
"Hopefully, this is just the first example of these [FITO - examples of theory-busting science?], with many more to come."
Time crystals are one of the coolest things physics has dished up in recent months, because they point to a whole new world of 'non-equilibrium' phases that are entirely different from anything scientists have studied in the past.
For decades, we've been studying matter, such as metals and insulators, that's defined as being 'in equilibrium' - a state where all the atoms in a material have the same amount of heat.
Now it looks like time crystals are the first example of the hypothesised but unstudied 'non-equilibrium' state of matter, and they could revolutionise how we store and transfer information via quantum systems.
lol... With the advent of quantum advances, even intel is scaling back and placing more attention on technology most people don't even know exists; because intellectual property is so closely guarded and profit is the prime motivator.
Sorry you were late to the time crystal party! But then again, with time crystals, are you ever late?