Time Crystal – A New Take on Perpetual Motion

Update: Here’s the link to Wilczek time crystal paper

Not a time crystal but perpetually moving at room temperature. (Illustration of Nitrogen-inversion).

It is a given that at room temperature there is plenty of perpetual chaotic and truly perpetual motion to be had.  And sometimes this motion takes on some more organized forms as is the case with Nitrogen inversion.

Also it is well established that unexpected movements can occur close to absolute zero, when for instance superfluid liquids climb up the walls of their containment.

In general, unperturbed quantum systems develop in a unitary manner (i.e. a kind of movement) and will do so perpetually, until measured.

In case of super-sized Rydberg atoms you can also approach an almost classical orbit (and that should hold at very low temperatures as well).  But to have sustained, detectable perpetual motion in the ground state of a system at absolute zero would be a new quality.

That is what “Time Crystals” might be adding to the quantum cabinet of oddities.  The idea that lead to this theoretical prediction, formulated by Frank Wilczek, is indeed quite clever:

“I was thinking about the classification of crystals, and then it just occurred to me that it’s natural to think about space and time together, (…) So if you think about crystals in space, it’s very natural also to think about the classification of crystalline behavior in time.”

It’ll be up to some creative experimentalist to determine if the resulting theory holds water.  If so, this may open up an interesting new venue to tackle the frustrating problem of getting General Relativity (where space and time is a combined entity) and QM to play together.

8 thoughts on “Time Crystal – A New Take on Perpetual Motion

  1. Quax

    You sure do pick some great topics. Your post comes 8 hrs after I watched a science show explaining various concepts of a ‘multiverse’. After watching that it felt as if there was some clarity the nature of our expanding universe adjacent to other similar universes(ii) all frothing & bubbling away in an even bigger primordial soup.

    All this within weeks of tripping over cubits and quantum entanglement – but it seems (IMHO) easier to absorb than trying to 2nd guess Andrea Rossi with his global inveterate(ly) warped but characteristic behavior.

    What a great learning month April has been & now it caries on into May – thankyou 🙂


    1. Thank you Doug! Much appreciated.

      The multiverse crowd is pretty cocksure that there’s is the only correct QM interpretation, I am not buying it unless there is concrete experimental evidence that allows to rule out the other interpretations.

  2. I have to confess that I don’t understand what is so special about these time crystals. We have more things that are in perpetual motion, like the earth is revolving around the sun. If anyone would care to explain why this could yield new insights…

  3. “So if you think about crystals in space, it’s very natural also to think about the classification of crystalline behavior in time.”

    Hmm, isn’t that what we call very dull and repetitive music?


      Who knew 🙂

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