College of Liberal Arts & Science

Arizona State University, Goldwater Building

650 E. Tyler Mall, RM 516 Tempe AZ 85287

Office: (480) 965-7381

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© 2017 Frank Wilczek, All Rights Reserved

Time Crystals

Time Crystals are systems or phases of matter that manifest spontaneous activity.   Frank, in collaboration with Al Shapere, introduced and named this concept in 2012.  At present is intense, exciting ferment, both theoretical and experimental, in this area. 

 

The Story: 

 

It's a wonderful feeling to see an adventurous idea take shape in something real and important. It's like seeing your child flourish! For this particular case, it is particularly gratifying because the idea of the crystal of time goes against common sense in physics. I had to struggle and also evolve in my conception of things before it was comforted.

 

The Idea:

 

I taught group theory [a branch of mathematics to describe the crystallographic families of solids] and wanted to make it attractive to my students by including something new. I began to think about classifications of patterns ordered in space-time. I spoke with my former student Al Shapere, with whom I often collaborate. He then challenged me to design a mathematical framework to analyze how these concepts can become valid in physics. It gave me new and fruitful ideas.

The famous American physicist Richard Feynman [ Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965] said that the best physics requires "the imagination in a straitjacket." This is an excellent description. Presenting an idea that is both new, fair and important in physics is not easy because you have to deliver solid results that have been proven for a long time. It is much easier to shake up the physics framework if you do not take into account what has already been shown and known, but it never brings any relevant results.


To a certain extent, the Big Bang, which marks the beginning of the evolution of the Universe, constitutes a breaking of symmetry of time since, according to this theory, its present differs from its past. Even if other models, today in loss of speed, preserve this temporal symmetry. This is particularly the case of the stationary universe which considers that it is eternal and immutable, and therefore that its past is identical to its future. But for the moment I do not yet see how we could connect the crystal of time to cosmological time. It is possible that one day a deep relationship between the two can be demonstrated, but we are far from it! (excerpts taken from Sciences et Avenir)

 

Time Crystals - News from Sweden


Frank was the centerfold in Sunday’s Dagens Nyheter (Swedish newspaper). And, the Swedish children’s Advent science series this year will be a search for time crystals! Swedish TV has a special science series for kids during every Advent, and this year the theme is “tid kristallen,” Swedish for time crystals. Frank has been interviewed for local papers about this. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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