Scientists Just Discovered a New State of Matter, Called 'Time Crystals'

Monday, 30 January 2017 - 2:04PM
Weird Science
Physics
Monday, 30 January 2017 - 2:04PM
Scientists Just Discovered a New State of Matter, Called 'Time Crystals'
Image credit: Dr. Wolfgang Beyer
In what may represent a unique breakthrough in how we understand the universe, scientists have uncovered the existence of a new form of matter known as a 'time crystal'. The concept, which was first floated in a major publication in 2012 by Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Frank Wilczek, essentially boils down to this: time crystals are forms of matter that exist in a state other than solid, liquid or gas. These crystals are said to exist in a non-equilibrium state, meaning they move not just in space but in time as well, all without using energy for the action. Thus, they exist without ever stopping to settle into one of the understood forms of matter and can be classified as one all its own.

It has long been believed that for matter to move, it must expand energy. Time crystals refute this belief as even in its "ground state," meaning its lowest and most restive period, there is still movement.

As the lead researcher from UC Berkeley, Norman Yao, described it, think of time crystals like a piece of Jello-O, in that you can touch it and it will jiggle, except time crystals might not jiggle right away—or they might be jiggling before you go to touch it at all. According to Yao, the unpredictable nature of time crystals' movement is essential to its existence in the universe.

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What has gotten the science world so excited is that these theories and formulas put forth by Yao have been used to actually create time crystals at two separate institutions using two different methods. One, at the University of Maryland, involved using lasers to keep the crystals in motion as their atoms were made to move in a constant state of imbalance and thus kept out of equilibrium. Using different lasers and timings, they were also able to create changing states in the crystals, including their own version of a solid, liquid and gas state. The other method, from Harvard, involved creating time crystals in a densely packed nitrogen setting within a diamond

Both experiments, as well as Yao's initial blueprints for them, have been submitted for official review. While it often takes time for new scientific discoveries to become widely accepted in the international community, discoveries such as these could represent a leap forward in our understanding of the mysteries of the universe.
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