OPINION

Demystifying Science — March 21, 2017

What are time crystals?

To put it simply, they are hypothetical structures that have movement without expending energy. First proposed by Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek in 2012, time crystals are structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state. This ability violates a fundamental symmetry in physics called time-translation symmetry, but physicists have now demonstrated that it might actually be possible for time crystals to physically exist. Earlier this year, two separate teams of physicists described ways of actually creating such structures. Because they passed a preliminary peer review earlier this week, the scientific community is excited about it. Being able to create them would mean a leap forward in creating quantum computers, said to be the next evolutionary step in data storage. The newly created matter joins a host of other exotic states of matter, such as superconductors, quantum-spin liquids and superfluids.

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