Scientists have discovered signs of a time crystal in the most unlikely place: a kid’s toy.
Physicists from Yale University have spotted signs of a time crystal in a crystal-growing kit for kids. While the crystal seems like something that only exists in science fiction, scientists claim that it is real.
Back in 2012, an MIT researcher proposed the concept of the time crystal. Typically, crystals have atoms with repeated patterns. They usually repeat across space and form a lattice structure.
However, a time crystal has atoms that repeat across time. This means that the atomic spins of the crystal flip back and forth in what appears to be a “ticking” motion which is locked to a specific frequency.
Read More: Time Crystals are the Newest Form of Matter
Since it is new, researchers have rarely observed a discreet time crystal (DTS). In fact, it has only been seen once in a solid crystal by Harvard physicists Phil Richerme who created it from a nitrogen-vacancy diamond.
“Our crystal measurements looked quite striking right off the bat,” Sean Barrett, principal investigator on the research, said. “Our work suggests that the signature of a discrete time crystal (DTC) could be found, in principle, by looking in a children’s crystal growing kit.”
The team of researchers reportedly conducted a “time crystal echo” experiment to probe the hidden quantum order found in the system. The test was successful but only led to more questions like how these crystals form naturally.
“It’s too early to tell what the resolution will be for the current theory of discrete time crystals, but people will be working on this question for at least the next few years,” Barrett said.
Researchers said that time crystals could potentially have many applications. And, no, we’re not talking about pocket time travel.
These crystal could improve practical things like our current atomic clock technology which already keeps the most accurate time in the world. These crystals could also be used to enhance other technologies like gyroscopes and GPS.