The TARDIS Among Us

September 25, 2012



Earlier this year, MIT's Nobel Prize winning physicist proposed a crystal that exists throughout space and time. That's right. I'll give you a second to wrap your head around that.




Frank Wilcze stood out among his peers when he outlined a crystal that still maintained the normal characteristics of atoms repeating in an orderly three-dimensional pattern, but added that it would project into the fourth dimension of time. Even though he was able to mathematically prove that this could exist, even he had to admit that he wasn't sure how to build it. Physics is funny that way. 


This isn't a completely unheard of theory. Doctor Who's TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) is a big blue box that exists throughout space and time. This, however, was the first time that anyone was able to prove that something of this nature could actually exist. The only problem we have to answer now is: How can we actually make it happen?




The U.S. DOE's (Department of Energy), not to be confused with the <I>other</I> DOE (Department of Education), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a team of international scientists (cue sci-fi music)  have stepped up to the bar...and raised it. The mechanical engineer Xiang Zhang and his team introduced their wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey experimental design with lots of big words attached to it. By using an electron-field ion trap and the Coulomb repulsion of particles that carry a similar charge (told you), the team has crafted plans for a structure that exists in both time and space.


In a recent release, Zhang speaks further: 


"The electric field of the ion trap holds charged particles in place and Coulomb repulsion causes them to spontaneously form a spatial ring crystal. Under the application of a weak static magnetic field, this ring-shaped ion crystal will begin a rotation that will never stop. The persistent rotation of trapped ions produces temporal order, leading to the formation of a space-time crystal at the lowest quantum energy state."




Zhang's team later added the distinction between his proposed construct and a perpetual motion machine (we follow the laws of thermodynamics in this house) by saying: 


"While a space-time crystal looks like a perpetual motion machine and may seem implausible at first glance, keep in mind that a superconductor or even a normal metal ring can support persistent electron currents in its quantum ground state under the right conditions. Of course, electrons in a metal lack spatial order and therefore can't be used to make a space-time crystal."


The machine does, however, seem a lot like a perpetual motion machine. What they propose is a clock that moves forever and has no external output. The fact that it has zero output is the key. The machine should move with a cloud of beryllium ions trapped in a magnetic field.


That's right. We are living in a world where these things are possible. True story.


Scientists have officially proposed a 4D Space Time Crystal that operates like a clock and can live long past the universe's inevitable heat death. 


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