Time Crystal Experiment May Conjure New Theory of Time

A group of physicists intend to build a time crystal, a theoretical structure of particles that moves in a perpetual pattern (like a circle) without radiating energy, in hopes of constructing a better theory of time.

“Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion.”

The idea comes from Nobel-prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek, who agrees that it’s “kind of outside of the box.”

But when has that stopped science? An international team of physicists led by UC-Berkeley plan to carry out an experiment that may prove (or disprove) Wilczek’s idea. It involves an ion trap, a “small chamber surrounded by electrodes,” that will hopefully allow them to build a “regularly repeating lattice in time that breaks temporal symmetry,” or a space-time crystal.

Such a discovery would drastically alter our understanding of space-time, and probably lead to a better theory of time itself. Don’t hold your breath, though; apparently, the completion of this experiment might take “anywhere between three and infinity years.”

Its potential rewards, however, are worth the wait.

“The hope is that time crystals will push physics beyond the precise but seemingly imperfect laws of quantum mechanics and lead the way to a grander theory.”


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions. Might be a robot.

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