Hello, let me explain this fascinating new concept called time crystals!

You may have heard about time crystals recently – but what even are they, and why do they matter? Time crystals are one of the hottest topics in physics right now because they promise new technologies like quantum computing advances down the line.

In this beginner‘s guide, I‘ll clearly explain what makes time crystals tick in plain English, no advanced physics degree required. You‘ll learn how these strange crystals work, their quantum properties, and why scientists are so excited about their applications. Let‘s dive in!

Overview: What are Time Crystals and Why are They Important?

Time crystals are systems of atoms or particles that repeat themselves in time as well as space. First theorized in 2012, time crystals exhibit perpetual motion that never decays, breaking symmetry laws in physics.

This new phase of matter could stabilize computer memory and unlock exotic new quantum systems. Applications in quantum computing prove why time crystals fascinate scientists today.

Now let me explain time crystals in more detail…

How Do Time Crystals Form and Maintain Perpetual Motion?

Time crystals display their signature perpetual jiggling motions due to two key features:

Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking

Time crystals spontaneously break symmetry all on their own and start oscillating without outside nudges.

Normal CrystalsTime Crystals
External force required to break symmetrySpontaneously break symmetry on their own

It‘s like a perfect sphere stretching itself into an egg shape for no reason! This spontaneous process kicks off the self-sustaining oscillations.

Non-equilibrium Self-organization

Standard crystals maintain stable low-energy states in equilibrium. However, time crystals self-organize into constantly rotating systems that never settle down.

Isolated from their environment, the atoms in a time crystal feed off their own motion in a loop. Like a perpetual motion machine, except on the quantum scale!

Thanks to spontaneous symmetry breaking and non-equilibrium self-organization, time crystals produce amazing perpetual oscillations. Their atoms jiggle in time in the same way normal crystal atoms align in space.

The Experiments: Scientists Successfully Create Time Crystals in Lab Settings

Creating time crystals in real life was thought improbable until recently. But in 2016, two teams of researchers cooked up short-lived time crystals in their labs through different methods:

Method 1 (University of Maryland): Arranged 10 ytterbium ions into an artificial crystal structure. Used lasers to trigger perpetual motions.

Method 2 (Harvard): Blasted diamond‘s nitrogen impurities with microwaves to induce time crystallization.

Although both approaches relied on different materials and techniques, they confirmed time crystals can in fact be engineered in a lab given the right conditions.

However, current man-made time crystals only persist temporarily before collapsing. More tinkering likely required to make them perfectly stable.

Do Time Crystals Violate Physics Laws or Produce Unlimited Energy?

At first glance, time crystals seem to defy physics. Wouldn‘t the perpetual motions violate the second law of thermodynamics requiring entropy/disorder to always increase?

And could these everlasting jiggles lead to unlimited clean energy? An infinite crystal-powered engine sounds too good to be true!

Well, here‘s the catch: while the crystal structures display perpetual order, they are closed systems that don‘t interact with the outside environment. No energy gets transmitted in or out of the isolated structure.

In other words, the motions stay self-contained in their own little bubble or chamber, not violating any scientific laws. No usable work or energy can be extracted from this closed system, even with parts jiggling forever inside it.

So time crystals don‘t break physics or generate any tangible power output despite their trippy perpetual oscillations. They exist in stable equilibrium as quantum perpetual motion machines.

Looking Into the Future: Practical Quantum Computing Applications

Commercial time crystal machines won‘t replace coal plants. But by providing clues for stabilizing computer memory, time crystals may indirectly revolutionize technology down the line.

Their blueprint for perpetual order can teach us how to maintain quantum computing memory units called qubits. Qubits often lose data by decaying easily over time.

By mimicking time crystals, qubits could persist for vastly longer times. This means much more stable long-term data storage as well as faster computing speeds!

So while time crystals themselves don‘t have immediate uses, the doors they open for quantum leaping our computational tech make them invaluable for research right now.

Conclusion: Time Crystals Usher in New Era of Physics

Hopefully you now understand what time crystals are all about! To quickly recap:

  • Time crystals exhibit perpetual atomic motion that repeats in time
  • This new phase of matter breaks symmetry laws spontaneously
  • Researchers successfully created time crystals recently
  • They sidestep physics laws by being closed systems
  • Applications involve stabilizing computer memory

And that concludes this beginner‘s guide to the game-changing physics concept of time crystals! Let me know if you have any other questions.

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