Google claims it's figured out how to make a time crystal

In a new pre-publication scientific paper posted on July 28, 2021, researchers at Google say they have used quantum computing to demonstrate the "novel dynamical phases" of what's known as a discrete time crystal. That's some real sci-fi sounding shit, so here's how Quanta Magazine explains it:

A novel phase of matter that physicists have strived to realize for many years, a time crystal is an object whose parts move in a regular, repeating cycle, sustaining this constant change without burning any energy.


Time crystals are also the first objects to spontaneously break "time-translation symmetry," the usual rule that a stable object will remain the same throughout time. A time crystal is both stable and ever-changing, with special moments that come at periodic intervals in time.

The time crystal is a new category of phases of matter, expanding the definition of what a phase is. All other known phases, like water or ice, are in thermal equilibrium: Their constituent atoms have settled into the state with the lowest energy permitted by the ambient temperature, and their properties don't change with time. The time crystal is the first "out-of-equilibrium" phase: It has order and perfect stability despite being in an excited and evolving state.

Earlier in July, another group of researchers also claimed to have made a breakthrough with time crystals by, "demonstrat[ing] the characteristic long-lived spatiotemporal order and confirm[ing] that it is robust for generic initial states."

What are the implications of this? As I understand it, this could be a quantum leap for quantum computing — a path towards creating a computer processor that breaks beyond the limitations of naturally-occurring geometry in order to work faster while consuming less energy.

In other words: it's some real sci-fi-sounding shit.

Eternal Change for No Energy: A Time Crystal Finally Made Real [Natalie Wolchover / Quanta]

Image: Nevit Dilmen / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)