Sunday, May 5, 2013

Space-Time Crystals

This is a little far afield from what I usually blog about. But I couldn't resist.

Physics team proposes a way to create an actual space-time crystal
Earlier this year, theoretical physicists Frank Wilczek, of MIT put forth an idea that intrigued the research community. He suggested that it should be possible to construct a so called space-time crystal by adding a fourth dimension, movement in time, to the structure of a crystal, causing it to become an infinitely running clock of sorts. At the time, Wilczek acknowledged that his ideas on how to do so were inelegant, to say the least. Now another international team led by Tongcang Li has proposed a way to achieve what Wilczek proposed using a far more elegant process. They have posted a paper on the preprint server arXiv describing what they believe is a real-world process for creating an actual space-time crystal that could conceivably be carried out in just the next few years.

Wilczek thought that it should be possible to construct a space-time crystal because crystals naturally align themselves at low temperatures and because superconductors also operate at very low temperatures; it seemed reasonable to assume that the atoms in such a crystal could conceivably move or rotate and then return to their natural state naturally, continually, as crystals are wont to do as they seek a lowest energy state. He envisioned a rotation with a ring of ions that flowed separately rather than as a stream, likening it to a mouse running around inside of a snake laying as a circle. The bulge would flow, rather than the snake itself spinning and would just keep on going, potentially forever. The problem was, he couldn’t figure out how such a crystal structure could be created in the real world.

arxiv paper

H/T DeltaV

Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

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