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Physicists Attempting To Test 'Time Crystals' 231

ceview writes "This story at Wired seems to have lots of people a bit confused: 'In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of "time crystals" — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. ... [A] Berkeley-led team will attempt to build a time crystal by injecting 100 calcium ions into a small chamber surrounded by electrodes. The electric field generated by the electrodes will corral the ions in a "trap" 100 microns wide, or roughly the width of a human hair. The scientists must precisely calibrate the electrodes to smooth out the field. Because like charges repel, the ions will space themselves evenly around the outer edge of the trap, forming a crystalline ring.' The experimental set up is incredibly delicate (Bose Einstein Condensate), so it implies this perpetual motion effect can't really be used to extract energy. What is your take on it? It's unlike to upend anything, as the article suggests, because at a quantum level things behave weirdly at the best of times. The heavy details are available at the arXiv."
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Physicists Attempting To Test 'Time Crystals'

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  • by backslashdot ( 95548 ) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @02:22AM (#43598199)

    How the heck is it that Satyendar Nath Bose didn't get a Nobel prize?

    I guess back then they didn't know how awesome his ideas were?

  • by vistapwns ( 1103935 ) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:09AM (#43598381)
    Well, the galaxy is not spinning as you think of it with stars at a constant orbit. What happens is the galaxy's gravitational field is pulling everything towards everything else in the galaxy, very slowly, so it's more like water going down a huge drain, where it circles a few times then goes poof. Same principle with our sun and planets (or your golf ball example), it appears they spin forever at constant distance, but they are slowly being sucked into the sun. So yea the galaxy collapses into the black hole, but the black hole is just a manifestation of the gravity that caused the thing to circle in the first place, and then swallowed it all up so it spins no more. Point is, galaxies are not an eternal event no matter how it plays out, and it must always die and become useless. Where as this thing in the article, possibly does works forever.
  • Re:Wait. What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @03:26AM (#43598437)

    Reading TFA brought to mind phosphorescence []. Traditional thinking is that forbidden quantum states prevent rapid emission of stored energy. But (for example) very fine crystals of zinc sulfide with a copper activator might in fact be exibiting this "time crystal" effect. The break in the symmetry of time might be what allows the energy to escape.

    So in short, this research may lead to new phosphorescent chemicals or a better understanding of them.

  • by Grantbridge ( 1377621 ) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @04:55AM (#43598637)
    In all chemical bonds the ground state has non-zero energy which results in a vibration of the two atoms. They will vibrate backwards and forwards forever as there is no lower quantum state to lose energy to. This doesn't really seem all that different, other than they're making a rotating non-zero ground state.
  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @05:12AM (#43598681) Journal

    if runaway government spending gets you a nobel prize in economics, i shudder to think what kind of experiment is required to win the physics category

    I thought the trendy economists were all deranged fruitbat rightwing extreme free-marketeers at the moment? Or is Keynesianism coming back into fashion now that so-called austerity measures have been seen through by most normal people?

    In any event, the idea that economics is some sort of objective science outside politics is total crap. Whether you're left or right wing.

  • Re:Newton? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:22AM (#43599697)

    IANA Physicist, but I think you're mistaken. To observe a particle you are adding or taking away energy. Your measurement device is performing the work.

    I'm going way out on a limb now becuase I don't know what the hell I'm talking about but...
    I think the idea here, though is that they are going to be applying the continuous, uniform magnetic field, the initial application of which which should cause the rings to move through their channel in the device. Ddespite what the article says, it won't be the motion, but the variations of the motion that they'll attempt to prove. An increase or decrease in rotation when the field's strength and uniformity has not changed, for instance.
    I am having a hard time understanding how this experiment can be done on earth though. It would seem to me that at such a small level, the slightest variation of the density of mass of anything around them would affect space-time and throw everything off.
    But then again, I don't understand quantum mechanics and can say I only barely have a real understanding of general relativity thanks to my college roommate physics major, who left his books out a lot.
    ( Any PhD's out there that want to correct me, I'd appreciate it, I'm merely a fan and follower of science )

  • Re:Newton? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Wednesday May 01, 2013 @09:54AM (#43599955)

    Your measurement device is performing the work.

    If you perform work on an object, it must perform work back to give your measuring device something to read. Action-equal-opposite-reaction.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie