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Time crystals confirmed as new state of matter


Posted on Thursday, 9 March, 2017 | Comment icon 65 comments

Time crystals could open up whole new areas of research. Image Credit: Public Domain
For the first time ever, scientists have successfully managed to create time crystals in a laboratory.
First proposed by physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, a time crystal is essentially a state of matter with an atomic structure that repeats not only in space, but also in time - allowing it to keep "ticking" indefinitely without heating up or creating entropy.

"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," said Andrew Potter from the University of Texas, Austin.

"Hopefully, this is just the first example of these, with many more to come."

A video explaining the concept of time crystals in a lot more detail can be viewed below.


Source: Science Alert | Comments (65)

Tags: Time crystals

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #56 Posted by Yamato on 11 March, 2017, 4:13
It definitely doesn't look like sugar crystals with green food coloring in an Erlenmeyer flask.  
Comment icon #57 Posted by sepulchrave on 11 March, 2017, 12:52
The theory behind electron shells and clouds is pretty clear-cut and generally in excellent agreement with experiment. The probability of charge distribution can be observed by high resolution X-ray diffraction or scanning tunnelling microscopy (well, technically the time-averaged charge distribution probability) and it is a good match to theoretical predictions. These things are taken ``on faith'' in college chemistry because learning the math and quantum mechanics necessary to calculate the atomic orbitals for hydrogen takes a full semester (or more). Calculating the orbitals for more compli... [More]
Comment icon #58 Posted by Yamato on 12 March, 2017, 1:36
Don't get me wrong.  I'm not challenging the theory or the accuracy or the good reason for newbies to take it on faith. Nevertheless yes we were taking it on faith.   We took nothing on faith in Calculus, a patronizing professor reminding us about the thousands of integrals and diff eqs we weren't smart or educated enough to solve, notwithstanding.  It's not "hard" until you put the math to it and even then in this case it's just a time averaged distribution probability.  As a practical matter if we could lead predictions with experiments confirming their accuracy, predictions would be obsolet... [More]
Comment icon #59 Posted by aka CAT on 12 March, 2017, 4:20
Looking for a well illustrated audio-video, I found, instead, one that explains in under 4 minutes the process whereby time crystals are created. Understanding how the first non-equilibrium matter was created with two lasers, one to flip the ions and another to create a magnetic field, helps one to understand representations of and graphics related to them.  An article with my favorite picture and diagrams no longer appears as did it once, but, in a secondary source, University Researchers Discover “Time Crystals”, Perpetual Motion ...   www.warrioressence.com/university-researchers-discove...... [More]
Comment icon #60 Posted by aka CAT on 12 March, 2017, 4:43
Sepulchrave is probably busy grading college lab reports and exams.   Key is that space-time crystals, asymmetrical, are the first non-equilibrium matter.   As such, there is talk about their 'crystalizing time' according to their oscillations (see last reference of previous post, #60, above).   That reminds me of an article, "The quest to crystallize time," http://www.nature.com/news/the-quest-to-crystallize-time-1.21595 wherein the conclusion might best answer your question at this time.
Comment icon #61 Posted by Yamato on 12 March, 2017, 7:12
Makes way more sense to me to call them "periodic equilibrium crystals" than "time" or "non-equilibrium". 10x easier to understand when I don't have to use the conventional scientific terminology.  Some of the claims I'm reading like "perpetual motion without energy" (or "suspending the laws of physics") sound way too optimistic.  How is there no energy?  You're nudging it with lasers!   Sure, turn the lasers off, and yet continue to observe the ions doing their periodic and asymmetrical dance anyway...so why isn't this motion just a reexpression of the energy that was introduced to the system... [More]
Comment icon #62 Posted by sepulchrave on 12 March, 2017, 12:52
 [Emphasis mine.] From what I've read on the subject, I think you are correct - there is energy required to keep the ``time crystal'' state. It is not perpetual motion. I think (could be wrong) that the ``time crystal'' state is the ground state energy-wise, but not entropy-wise - without the periodic addition of energy, and without necessarily losing any energy, the time crystal state will decay to a normal thermal equilibrium state. I agree with your other point as well; there is a lot of hype around this announcement - hype that is probably unjustified. I have yet to see an unambiguous demo... [More]
Comment icon #63 Posted by aka CAT on 12 March, 2017, 18:54
Distinctions have been made in regard to your first point.   Your second statement is true according to what I've read, though the rhythmic motion must continue long enough to have promising applications, e.g. in timekeeping and memory retention (as with quantum computers). One article or another aside, time crystals are replicable. Beyond what applications are foreseeable at this stage, it is the process whereby space-time crystals have been created that will influence much future experimentation with matter particularly in ground state.
Comment icon #64 Posted by aka CAT on 14 March, 2017, 2:09
Re: articles -  Sepulchrave: [...] the actual peer-reviewed article mentioned above did not actually involve creating a ``time crystal [...]'' A clarification is in order.  A favorite article of mine, dated October 4, 2016, announced the creation of time crystals prior to the topic article's confirming the discovery on January 28, 2017.  Another article, published last Wednesday, reiterates the fact, "Two groups of scientists report that they’ve observed exotic time crystals [...]"-- http://gizmodo.com/scientists-finally-observed-time-crystals-but-what-the-1793061377   Also somewhat at issue i... [More]
Comment icon #65 Posted by sepulchrave on 15 March, 2017, 12:54
Thanks, aka Cat; I guess I was very lazy searching the literature. Good to know time crystals have actually been made.


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