Time crystals – what are they? Possibly an artifact of a lost alien civilization or the critical component that powers a time machine. Time crystals are actually something subtler: a curiosity about the laws of physics.
A bog-standard crystal is one whose atoms are arranged in repeating patterns in space. Examples of such crystals include diamonds, emeralds, and ice cubes. A fourth dimension, time, is added to the three dimensions of space. Thus, physicists wondered if the atoms of a crystal could be arranged in repeating patterns over time.
That is what happens in practice. Atoms start in a single state in a crystal. When you blast that crystal with a finely tuned laser, those atoms might change state-and then change state again-and so forth, without actually absorbing any energy from the laser.
Taking a step back, what you’ve just created is a state of matter that’s perpetually in motion, without absorbing any energy.
Not an easy task. This is in direct opposition to the second law of thermodynamics, one of the tenets of classical physics. There is a law that states that there will always be an increase in entropy, or disorder. You might compare it to a vase that is teetering on the edge of a table. There is an urge in the universe to knock down that vase and make it scatter across the floor. You need to direct your energy into putting it back together.
It was physicist Franck Wilczek who first proposed the idea of time crystals in 2012. Scientists at the time did not agree with that theory, as some believed that the second law of thermodynamics would take effect.
Has Google’s quantum computer ever been used to create a “time crystal”? That seems to be the case. Crystals of time exist perpetually in between two states of matter, i.e., they never lose energy.
Time crystals: what makes them so mysterious?
Time crystals defy an important tenet of physics like something from a Rick and Morty episode. Physics’ second law of thermodynamics states that for a matter to become more structured it must put more energy into it. This implies that chaos and disorder (“entropy”) must always increase.
The most astonishing thing about these time crystals is that even though they are constantly in motion, they remain stable. Google’s research was published on a preprint database, arXiv, on July 28 in collaboration with the University.
Scientists created a time crystal inside the Google Sycamore quantum processor using qubits (which is essentially the smallest unit of quantum information).
New matter phases have emerged from the time crystal, eluded physicists. Nine years ago it was posted that there could be a time crystal.
What method was used to create a time crystal?
Unlike other objects, these time crystals do not appear to be affected by entropy, since they alternate between two states. Time crystals are only possible with quantum mechanics.
A quantum mechanical object can act as both a particle and a wave at the same time. It becomes more likely that you will find a particle in a region with a greater number of waves. The qubit’s randomness, however, causes a particle to become localized and remain in one place.
This localization resulted in the emergence of what we just called time crystals – phases of matter that remain stable over time. It is possible to learn more about time crystals and the secrets of physics through analysis of the Google quantum computer.
A time crystal is now a reality
The concept of a time crystal is a novel phase of matter that physicists have been working towards realizing for years. A time crystal is an object whose parts move in a regular, repeating cycle, sustaining the constant change without burning energy.
The first time crystals also spontaneously broke the “time-translation symmetry,” the rule that a stable object will remain the same throughout time. The periodic moments of a time crystal are both stable and ever-changing.
The concept of a time crystal is an extension of what is meant by the term phase. Water and ice are in thermal equilibrium: Their atoms have settled into the state that has the lowest energy under the ambient temperature, and their properties don’t change over time. As the first phase of “out-of-equilibrium” systems, the time crystal shows order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state.