Time Crystals in 90 Seconds.

2 years ago
3 min read
531 words

This post annotates my submission for the 2022 Breakthrough Junior Challenge.


In the video, I introduce the concept of symmetry, the notion of spontaneous breaking of symmetry, and how these ideas when extended to the time dimension open up new possibilities with the creation of a ‘time-crystal’.


A list of the background music I have used in my video.

[00:00 - 00:50] Cipher

LEMMiNO - Cipher
CC BY-SA 4.0

[00:54 - 01:29] Encounters

LEMMiNO - Encounters
CC BY-SA 4.0


Continued links to all the footnotes in the video.

[00:07] 1. Vitruvian Man Image

https://openclipart.org/detail/311353/vitruvian-man Author: Manuela - https://openclipart.org/artist/Manuela License: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

[00:07] 2. Snowflake Image

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowflake#/media/File:Snowflake_macro_photography_1.jpg Author: Alexey Kljatov License: CC BY-SA 4.0

[00:08] 3. Lizard Painting

https://www.pinterest.ru/pin/579205202050578362/ Author: Sabe - https://www.pinterest.ru/sabe0818/_saved/ License: Public Domain

[00:25] 4. Timelaspe Sky

https://www.pexels.com/video/time-lapse-video-of-night-sky-7714718/ Author: Jake Houglum - https://www.pexels.com/@jake-houglum-52374682/ License: https://www.pexels.com/license/

[00:34] 5. Crystal Image

Adobe Stock License: https://stock.adobe.com/enterprise-conditions

[01:08] 6. Spinning Coin

https://www.pexels.com/video/spinning-coin-853779/ Author: Free Videos - https://www.pexels.com/@free-videos/ License: https://www.pexels.com/license/

[01:15] 7. Atomic Clock Image

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_clock#/media/File:Ytterbium_Lattice_Double_Clock_with_Photons_at_NIST.jpg Author: N. Phillips/NIST - https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2016/11/nist-debuts-dual-atomic-clock-and-new-stability-record License: Public Domain

[01:18] 8. Quantum Computer Image

https://news.mit.edu/2022/new-language-quantum-computing-twist-0124 Author: Graham Carlow/IBM License: Public Domain


Symmetry underlies our sense of proportions, intricate harmony, aesthetics and beauty.
Structures that transform and yet remain unchanged. You flip them, you rotate them.
Or you translate them. ‘Transformed, yet the same’.

Science defines symmetry more precisely. Any experiment should yield the same result
no matter where it is conducted. We call this ‘spatial symmetry’. Or when it is conducted.
That’s ‘time symmetry’. ‘Translated in space and time, yet the same’.

Some physical structures are more symmetric than others. The linear density of a liquid,
say, water is invariant at different points in space, whereas for a crystal like ice,
the linear density is constant only at discrete lattice points. We say
‘symmetry is spontaneously broken’ when water freezes to ice.

Like in space, what if symmetry is broken in the dimension of time? Scientists showed
that when a delicate arrangement of atoms in crystals are excited with lasers and microwaves,
they spontaneously break into oscillating time crystals. Unlike a spinning coin, the
quantum scale time crystals continue to oscillate even at their lowest energy state giving
us a brand new phase of matter.

Time crystals and this new phase of matter may give us ever more precise clocks, better
quantum computers, and could fundamentally alter our understanding of this infinite universe
and its never-ending tapestry of spectacular symmetry.

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