When you begin talking about amending the theory of time, you tend to get a few strange looks. Especially when you travel in very scientific circles. But that's just what Frank Wilczek did. And though his ideas are incredibly radical, he hasn't been met with widespread rebukes. That may be due to the fact that he's a brilliant, Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
Even Wilczek himself admits that he is out on a limb by publishing his work. "Most research in physics is continuations of things that have gone before," he admits. In fact, he adds that his work is "kind of outside the box."
What Wilczek has proposed, precisely, is nothing short of the possibility of creating pockets of crystallized time within which perpetual motion is possible. If you're like most physicists — and most of us are, in this matter — there were two points in the previous sentence that probably caused you to raise an eyebrow. Namely: "crystallized time" and "perpetual motion."
Murmurs of doubt were heard after Wilczek presented his research. No one knew what to think. After all, Wilczek is brilliant and could potentially be on to something here. He could also have cracked.
Then something remarkable happened. A technological advance made it possible to actually test Wilczek's logic by creating a time crystal themselves. Even Wilczek himself doesn't know if such a thing will be possible. He has no evidence that such a thing exists in nature. Yet he'd very much like to see a time crystal constructed. According to Wilczek:
"It's like you draw targets and wait for arrows to hit them. If there's no logical barrier to this behavior being realized, then I expect it will be realized."
The time crystal which has been proposed is meant to be a tiny, perpetually-rotating ring of atoms. One whose creation just might be imminent. At which point everything from quantum computing to the definition of time itself will be called into question. For now, we can merely wait with bated breath.
(Image credit: National Physical Laboratory/flickr)