Time Crystal DesignedCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 10, 2012 03:25PM
Scientific theories and laws do not always have happy endings, as our current understanding of the Universe predicts its eventual heat-death. According to the laws of thermodynamics, the entropy of the Universe can never decrease, and in simplest terms, entropy is waste-energy. This implies that eventually if the energy of the Universe is limited, then eventually it will all be lost as unusable entropy. At this point, nothing happens because no action can occur without decreasing the entropy of the Universe. Despite this though, it may be possible to have a computer survive this and continue operating, though the Universe has stopped.
First proposed by a theoretical physicist at MIT, researchers at University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Tsinghua University in Beijing have devised a time crystal which can continue its internal motion past the Universe's demise. Remember, thermodynamics only says entropy cannot decrease, but that still allows actions that do not change the entropy of the Universe. By holding ions in an ultra-cold trap and applying a weak magnetic field, the ions can be made to revolve in a ring. Thanks to quantum mechanics, even at the lowest possible temperatures, the ions will keep moving, even without the electric and magnetic fields present to hold and propel them. This allows the ions to continuously repeat their movement in the ring, without changing the entropy of the Universe. By combining multiple rings, and assigning values to certain states, an entire computer could be built that would outlive the Universe.
The researchers designed this time crystal to be something that could feasibly be built in a lab, so we may see one constructed in the future. Unfortunately, we cannot expect it to continue on past the heat-death of the Universe. Though the time crystal could continue on, the laboratory that keeps the crystal near absolute zero, will have died, causing the crystal to warm up, and stop functioning.