back to article Microsoft thinks time crystals may be viable after all

Microsoft researchers have teamed up with physicists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, to show how time crystals might be possible. First proposed by Nobel-prize winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek, time crystals are hypothetical systems that spontaneously break time-translational symmetry (TTS) – a …

  1. Richard Wharram

    Buh?

    I, err, what?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Buh?

      Dabbsie will explain it better - with a bacon sandwich analogy

      1. agatum

        Re: Buh?

        Dabbsie will explain it better - with a bacon sandwich analogy

        Probably. While waiting for his article I suspect it's about how all failing dynasties resort to magic. Romans did that and so did Numenoreans.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Buh?

        "Dabbsie will explain it better - with a bacon sandwich analogy?"

        Which might just be easier to understand?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Buh?

          Woosh!

          That was the sound of this article as it sped past my comprehension, not bothering to stop.

          Not a criticism as such and the words did make such pretty patterns on the page!

          1. Little Mouse

            Re: Buh?

            I think they're basically saying that Uri Geller has been right all along...

            Magic crystals. Crikey.

        2. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Buh?

          "Dabbsie will explain it better - with a bacon sandwich analogy?"

          ...Provided none of the bacon-holic el-Reg denizons actually eat the analogous bacon sandwich before Dabbsy gets the chance.

        3. Esme

          Re: Buh?

          @chivo243 - (addressing bacon sarnie) "Understand this, sarnie!" (chomp!)

    2. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: Buh?

      Indeed. I'm sure I recognised all the words but I'm no wiser now than when I started. I think we need a warning on these types of articles smiler to NSFW. I propose YBMM which stands for Your Brain May Melt

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: YBMM

        Surely some things might fit in both the NSFW and the YBMM categories ? Would some scale not be in order ? For NSFW one might use the feather to chicken scale, for YBMM the something to Hawking scale ? Put one on X and the other on Y, and I for one will skip all articles in the Hawking/Chicken section.

        1. Alan J. Wylie Silver badge

          Re: YBMM

          Rule 34?

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: YBMM

            Mornington Crescent?

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Re: YBMM

        I thought it stood for "Your Bowel Movement Moment".

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: YBMM

          My takeaway from this was that people have known about spontaneous asymmetry for a while, but have never actually seen it.

          These guys think they have come up with an experiment that actually proves it.

          Cool (although I also admit a lot of it did whizz past).

    3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Buh?

      I think you speak for almost all of us there! ('almost all' because there's bound to be a couple of Mekon-brainiacs reading this who actually understand it and can probably refute the mathematics)

      +1 for admitting ignorance. You are disqualified from standing for Parliament.

    4. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Buh?

      I think the author has overestimated her audience.

      My understanding of the article, based on the odd word I understood ( eg: "and" ) was perpetual motion. So that can't be right then. Anybody?

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: Buh?

        >My understanding of the article, based on the odd word I understood ( eg: "and" ) was perpetual motion.

        Me too and then at the end it was mentioned it doesn't break the second law of thermodynamics which means then probably the phenomenon if it exists won't be directly useful to our everyday life for quite some time if much at all. Still worth investigating I suppose or else another Syndrome will rule us all with his zero point energy devices.

      2. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Buh?

        "My understanding of the article, based on the odd word I understood ( eg: "and" ) was perpetual motion. So that can't be right then. Anybody?"

        Perpetual motion isn't actually impossible. For example, a simple two body system of a moon orbiting a planet will continue in motion forever in the absence of any other forces. In practice, such macroscopic inevitably do have other forces involved - friction in particular being a bit of a bugger - so things mostly come down to reducing them as much as possible and just getting really, really close to perpetual motion. And as it turns out, even in the absence of friction or any external force, relativity says such a system must emit gravitational waves and so over a very long time it will decay and not actually be perpetual.

        However, when we go to the quantum scale things, as usual, get a bit weird. An electron orbiting a proton (a hydrogen atom) is similar to the moon/planet system, but it turns out only discrete energy transitions are possible - an electron in the lowest energy state cannot lose any more energy and instead remains in "orbit" around the proton (the orbit analogy is obviously not actually correct, but the important point that the electron has energy and remains in motion is correct). That's what is called the "ground state", and it effectively means that every single atom, or indeed anything composed of more than a single particle, is in perpetual motion.

        What this research essentially says is that you can construct a crystal that also has a non-zero ground state energy and so behaves more like one of those quantum systems than a macroscopic system. The important part is says that the system "must never reach thermal equilibrium or radiate heat" - basically you set things up so that it can't ever lose energy, and instead remains in the non-zero energy ground state. In fact, even that isn't considered particularly strange in this field, the weird part is that it's not normally possible for a system in the ground state to spontaneously start doing something. An electron in hydrogen in its ground state was already "orbiting" and simply continues do so, while these crystals are the equivalent of taking a proton and electron with zero energy which spontaneously suddenly start orbiting each other. It's pretty weird even for quantum physics, but doesn't appear to actually be breaking any physical laws.

        Getting back to the perpetual motion thing, the reason this is generally the realm of the crackpot is that it's impossible to have perpetual motion and get energy out of the system at the same time. If you eliminate all losses you can have something in motion forever, but as soon as you take energy away it will stop moving. We can't use electrons in atoms as an infinite source of energy because the whole point is that it's impossible for them to lose any more energy. But understanding how electron energy states work has given us things like transistors and lasers, so even though these crystals won't give us any kind of free energy or useful perpetual motion, they could still lead to all kinds of useful things.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          Re: Buh?

          Thanks for the translation.

    5. thesykes

      Re: Buh?

      Phew... not just me then.

    6. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Buh?

      I think the gist of it is that someone with a Nobel to their name (and who therefore presumably knows how thin the ice is this far out) reckons they have identifed a system which *in its lowest energy state* is in some sense "in motion". This is apparently a novelty. Furthermore, a group financed by Microsoft is now going to try and create that system to see if the wacky idea is true.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Buh?

        I understood more of the words in your post than I did in the article, however not in the order you put them in.

        So, when it's still, it's moving? Does that mean movement without energy being input?

    7. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Buh?

      I got as far as crystals which break symmetry in both space AND time dimensions, then my mind started drifting off along a tangent of "do they mean dilithium crystals?" before my train of thought finally reached the terminus at "ye canna break the laws o'physics" and Microsoft having a 'Q' continuum.

    8. swm Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: Buh?

      OK, here is what is going on. If you have a liquid it looks the same in all directions but when you cool it and freeze it there are certain preferred directions in a crystal lattice. So cooling a liquid "spontaneously" breaks rotational and translational symmetry. Certain directions are preferred for crystal planes and the atoms are now regularly spaced so the probability of finding an atom at a particular place is no longer uniform but a "comb" function.

      A time crystal is a material that is not the same at different times. It is like an oscillator that repeats itself so the phase repeats regularly. This is done at the quantum level so that there is no lower energy state to decay into.

      This is significant but the term "time crystal" invokes images of time travel etc. but it is really just a quantum oscillator that is in the lowest state. In general, spontaneous symmetry breaking is achieved by cooling.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Devil

    In other news-

    Microsoft thinks Timecube is also viable.

    1. VinceH Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: In other news-

      Microsoft thinks Windows 10 is successful/popular/wanted/a good idea.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In other news-

        Microsoft thinks Windows 10 is successful/popular/wanted/a good idea.

        .. which pretty much annihilates any credibility they might have had :)

  3. Lee D Silver badge

    "and super uids break global gauge symmetry.”"

    Don't they just?!

    That's why you should never work as root.

    UID 0 is just dangerous.

  4. croaker
    Mushroom

    Microsoft

    Do we really want Microsoft fucking around with our time?

    They can't even get a web browser to work properly..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft

      "They can't even get a web browser to work properly.."

      ..or a mail service apparently. The new Namesco Demon replacement Office 365 email service's SMTP host blithely includes the BCC list in all the recipients' headers. Fortunately this was reported on a test email - so can be avoided for more sensitive future ones.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft

      I always though Microsoft had fucked around with time. Microsoft seems to waste so much of my time, with their bug ridden software updates.

      Microsoft 'Progress' seems to mean 90% software updates (rearranging the chairs, nothing new), 10% meaningful work of late (if I'm lucky) in between the waiting / diagnosing what just failed to update.

      Just to say. I understood this article more than Satya Nadella's keynotes.

    3. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft

      Maybe they plan to go back in time and fix IE6 before they broke it.

    4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft - Messing around with time

      They already do just that....

      Ever seen the time estimates for a copy operation?

      One second it is showing 3 days and the next 2 minutes then 30 secs later it is 1 day. If that ain't messing with time then....

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft - Messing around with time

        "Ever seen the time estimates for a copy operation?"

        You've got the wrong end of the stick. Messing around with the fundamentals of time is the only way they can think of to fix the problem.

      2. itzman
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Microsoft - Messing around with time

        I regularly get mails from Jan 1st 1970.

        I assiume time travel already exists.

        1. oldcoder

          Re: Microsoft - Messing around with time

          Of course it does - always forward. You will notice the message was sent before you got it.

          Now, getting one from 2970... :-)

      3. TeeCee Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: Microsoft - Messing around with time

        Ever seen the time estimates for a copy operation?

        You just outed yourself as a Vista User. That was brave.....and uncalled for.

    5. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft

      Maybe they've missed their true vocation all these years? Maybe they were never meant to be a software company - but a cutting edge physics lab?

      Be smart, kids - see your local vocational guidance counsellor before deceiding on the career you want to pursue!

      1. Paul 129
        Angel

        Re: Microsoft

        "Maybe they've missed their true vocation all these years"

        I find it oddly comforting that the company that can only get things to roughly work, is the one supporting the idea that fundamentally the universe, 'kinda works' too.

    6. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Microsoft

      Oh, not to worry, it is not time that they seem to be messing with, but more the energy state of a system. I am certain that if they accidentally create Ice 9 ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat's_Cradle ) then we will all be safe!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Microsoft

        I knew there had to be a cat (or a Cat) in here somewhere.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    "Software company invests in perpetual motion theories".

    Apart from that, I really can't make head nor tail of that article, and I have quite a good grasp of physics.

    And why Microsoft would care, I can't even fathom.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      And why Microsoft would care, I can't even fathom.

      Well, obviously, it's so they can improve the operation of their progress bars.

      As we all know, Microsoft employ their own custom time algorithms for calculating the time left for file transfers and downloads: who hasn't seen the "time left" value oscillate between "32 seconds" and "2 days eleven hours and 51 minutes" when copying a file.

      However, this is obviously not enough, and the ability to actually stretch and manipulate time to suite their algorithms is eminently more sensible to Microsoft than actually making their algorithms reflect reality.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >who hasn't seen the "time left" value oscillate between "32 seconds" and "2 days eleven hours and 51 minutes" when copying a file.

        Activity: copying [by drag n drop] a music folder from HDD to SD card, then dragging over several more folders.

        Expected behaviour: First folder is copied completely, then the second, then the third.... then the Nth.

        Observed behaviour: Windows attempts to copy files from all folders at once, so the HDD spends most of its time seeking data rather than reading it. "Time left" goes up to days.

        Work around: select all desired folders first (holding Ctrl).

        Is there a reason MS implemented copying in this way?

        1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          More on MS Copy

          Has anyone noticed that they copy the last selected folder first.

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: More on MS Copy

            It has been my theory for years that there is a well hidden rand() function somewhere - maybe not in the copy function itself, but certainly in the bit that generates the progress bar.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: More on MS Copy

              "[...] hidden rand() function somewhere - maybe not in the copy function itself, but certainly in the bit that generates the progress bar."

              Generating a progress bar is not as simple as one thinks initially. There are at least three variables for any file.

              1) the overhead of finding/creating each file in the directory and the resource handshaking needed.

              2) the amount of data in the file.

              3) the head movement to access the file's data if it is fragmented across the disk.

              Small files are particularly affected by 1 - with the actual data transfer being almost inconsequential. The same overhead on large files would be smaller compared to the time taken to transfer its data. However a seriously fragmented large file would then be slowed down by random head movements.

              As large folder copies have files that are rarely homogeneous in respect of 2 and 3 - then the above effects would make it difficult for any progress algorithm to extrapolate based on the total number/size of files it has already transferred.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: More on MS Copy

                4) any competition for cpu or disk access from other processes in the machine

              2. oldcoder

                Re: More on MS Copy

                Actually, the randomness of the copy shows the instability of the system - with apparent random amounts of overhead causing the estimated completion time to be useless.

              3. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                Re: More on MS Copy

                Not a programmer I take it?

                progress = byteswritten / totalbytes

                estimatedduration = totalbytes / byteswritten * elapsedtime

                For copying one or more files, that's it. The longer it runs the more accurate and stable it becomes. And it will never, ever go backwards. Fucking this one up is bad enough, but leaving it that way for twenty years is what really beggars belief.

        2. VinceH Silver badge

          I'm also unconvinced that their copying functions actually copy everything if a lot of folders/objects are included in the operation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "I'm also unconvinced that their copying functions actually copy everything if a lot of folders/objects are included in the operation."

            Depends what you mean by "a lot". I regularly back up 26GB worth of several thousand files in nested folders. It never seems to have missed any when I do a "properties" on the copied top level folder - in so far as the count/space tallies agree.

            1. VinceH Silver badge

              "Depends what you mean by "a lot". I regularly back up 26GB worth of several thousand files in nested folders. It never seems to have missed any when I do a "properties" on the copied top level folder - in so far as the count/space tallies agree."

              I have, in the past, occasionally discovered a given file wasn't in a folder I expected to find it, but I've never really thought much beyond "I wonder why that isn't there..." before seeking out the pre-copy location/version of the folder and finding the file there.

              A few weeks ago, however, I spotted the problem very directly. This was when I was setting up my new Windows 7 laptop and Linux desktop PC - given that I was going from a single Windows laptop to two different computers for different uses, I didn't want to just restore a backup; instead I wanted to split them as necessary between the machines - so I did so by copying from the old Windows laptop to the NAS, and from there to whichever machine was the intended destination.

              When I came to copy my pictures folder, I also wanted to some pruning/tidying - if I've made copies of particular sets of pictures to edit and use somewhere, I've typically not cleaned up after myself. And it was while doing this that I spotted the issue.

              Having copied the entire pictures directory tree to my NAS - which I left it doing while I went out, and came home to find it completed with no errors reported - I decided to do the pruning/tidying there, before moving the result to the Linux machine's hard drive. By sheer luck (or perhaps good sense and/or paranoia) before deleting the first folder of edits, I compared its contents with the folder of original pictures - and spotted one image amongst the edits that wasn't amongst the originals.

              It's possible that I'd cocked up when doing those edits, and moved that image instead of copying it - but I checked the Windows machine. And there it was, in all its glory, where it should have been. It just hadn't copied across to the NAS with the rest of them.

              I then called up the properties on the whole tree on the NAS and Windows machine - and there was a difference of several hundred files. I then went through it carefully, comparing and copying batches of folders at the lowest level (I organise my photos an a folder for each year, and within that a folder for each day and subject matter). There was anything from one to a dozen images missing from around half the folders.

              I can't say with any absolute certainty that this is Windows at fault - but as I say, I've noted the odd missing item in folders that had been copied in the past and never really given it any thought before. And the mass copy of my pictures and discovery of a lot of missing files is a bit of a one off that I haven't repeated (as in checked with other stuff that I've copied). So my position is as stated: I'm unconvinced at the reliability of their copy functions.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. RichardB

          cheapskate

          Get more disks on more channels...

  6. Axman

    Yep. Me too. Not a word.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      They used all the correct words. Just not necessarily in the right order for us to understand.

      (With thanks to Eric Morcombe)

  7. deconstructionist

    "The significance of our work is two-fold: on one hand, it demonstrates that time-translation symmetry is not immune to being spontaneously broken," said co-author Bela Bauer, a researcher at Microsoft Station Q.

    Really Nobel incoming then .......it demonstrates nothing until proven or at least until you submit a nice paper for peer review.

    @ El Reg you are missing a word from this sections title looking at some of the recent articles " fiction"

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Erm

      Presumably you think as clearly as you write?

  8. Crisp Silver badge
    Boffin

    Time Crystals?

    It sounds like they need The Doctors help...

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Time Crystals?

      It's all a bit wibbly wobbly timey wimey, isn't it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Time Crystals?

        I'm from The Register. Lots of planets have a Register.

  9. djstardust Silver badge

    Based on Windows evolution .....

    I'm looking forward to living the rest of my life in the 1620s

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Based on Windows evolution .....

      "I'm looking forward to living the rest of my life in the 1620s"

      Having just had a wisdom tooth extracted the other day with all the modern techniques of tools and anaesthetics, I wish you good fortune in your future 17th century life.

  10. 0laf Silver badge

    My. Brain. Hurts.

    Sometimes we all need article like this just to remind us we're not half as clever as we think we are.

    But next time maybe pick one not quite as effective as this.

    I'm off to weep quietly in the corner with a pile of Trivial Pursuit question cards.

    1. Small Furry Animal
      Pint

      Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

      I'm going for a few of these ------------------------------------------>

      ... then I'll try reading the article again

    2. Toltec

      Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

      I read physics about 30 years ago and up until recently I've been able to grok what most of these articles are about.

      I've also read a lot of science fiction and this stuff is definitely weirder and harder to believe.

      How long until science enters the realm of 'indistinguishable from magic' for most people?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

        "How long until science enters the realm of 'indistinguishable from magic' for most people?"

        I think it already has. About 50 years ago cars and electronic devices consisted of discrete components that could be easily taken apart and put back together. Nowadays they are effectively black boxes which even if they can be opened do not allow you to reverse engineer the way they function.

        I often find kids' electronic kits in charity shops that have never been used. Unlike switch/bell/light/motor/dynamo kits of old - the new electronic versions are less robust. They require parental/adult supervision and help that is generally not available.

        To most of my parents' generation - born in the early 1900s - anything electrical or electronic was akin to magic. Stories of people being afraid that electricity would leak out of sockets if there was no plug - were not apocryphal. A child gets that sense of mystery and wonder when they first explore it - as long as they haven't grown up taking the effect for granted as part of the natural world as surely as the sun rises and sets.

        Like the Wizard of Oz - even understanding what's behind the curtain does not necessarily diminish the effect something can have on our primitive emotions.

        1. TDog

          Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

          And they were right - if your Ethernet 10 base 2 wasn't properly terminated then the signal would, or could leak out of the plug! BNC - which I was taught stood for British Naval Connector (No idea what one did with foreign navels)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

            "[...] if your Ethernet 10 base 2 wasn't properly terminated then the signal would, or could leak out of the plug! "

            Shirley it was the opposite effect? The energy was reflected off the open end's brick wall of high impedance. That messed up any signals it met en route back down the cable - falsely signalling a collision condition. The terminator was a sponge to soak up the signal at the end of its first transit.

          2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

            "No idea what one did with foreign navels"

            You connected them of course :)

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

        "How long until science enters the realm of 'indistinguishable from magic' for most people?"

        At least 15-20 years...ago.

        Sad, isn't it.

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

        "How long until science enters the realm of 'indistinguishable from magic' for most people?"

        For "most" people? We've been there for years and years. Few people have much idea at all of how any modern tech works. Doesn't matter if we're taking 19th century steam trains, 20th/21st century computers or magic time crystals that can move without using energy, the vast majority of the population still think it's "magic" and can use the tech by following the incantations, but rarely have a clue about why it works.

        That's not to say they are stupid, or even incapable of understanding. They don't know, don't care and don't need to know. They have enough to worry about without bothering to learn about electrons and holes and why semiconductors do what they do.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

      "Sometimes we all need article like this just to remind us we're not half as clever as we think we are."

      No specialised knowledge field is comprehensible to a lay person when described in its own shorthand vocabulary. Human society has been successful because it relies on cooperation between overlapping specialists. That applies equally to science, technology, and any other field of human enterprise.

      It's all a matter of context. The test of what can be called intelligence - is whether you can grasp the principle when given enough understanding of the background. To fully understand the detail then takes immersion in that subject - to the exclusion of many other subjects.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

        "To fully understand the detail then takes immersion in that subject - to the exclusion of many other subjects."

        I am reminded of a modified Peanuts cartoon that did the rounds in ICL in the 1970s. It was based on a running gag of Woodstock learning to play the classical piano. The basis of the humour was how much time Woodstock could spend becoming an expert in the new VME OS - and still find time to become a classical pianist.

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
    5. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

      I'm off to weep quietly in the corner with a pile of Trivial Pursuit question cards.

      Take the pre-school version, a handful of easy answers might help you feel better. For advanced therapy, I suggest chemical advancement - alcohol is a good chemical - After a bottle or two and having gone through the entire pack - you'll be convinced you're ready for Mastermind or MENSA.

    6. deconstructionist

      Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

      Our that you can get funding based on fairy dust it seems or that smart people sometimes think they are smarter than real Math's and observation , although this seems just another story about boffin's with wacky ideas it is another lets pull science out my ass and ignore core tenants.

      I am sorry but I understand this and it is still bollocks.

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: My. Brain. Hurts.

        Mr or Ms (but I'm betting Mr) Deconstructionist, just because it is abstruse does not mean it is bollocks. It is mathematically correct and conforms to observation. It is 'tenets' BTW. If you want to demonstrate your bigger brain, it's useful to show you can also write well.

  11. RobertD

    Hmmm

    I think we need a new 'tumbleweed' icon.

  12. Lunatik

    Microsoft?!

    How about fixing Windows 10 search, Hyper-V desktop scaling and about a million other things that need doing instead of pissing about with stuff like this, eh?

    Time crystals indeed...

  13. JDX Gold badge

    Is there a practical application?

    For MS to be involved I assumed there was some application of this, but the article doesn't seem to mention anything beyond the abstract.

    Is it pure research or are there known theoretical uses of this?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Is there a practical application?

      Yes. No doubt something involving taxation rates.

  14. Red Bren

    Practical application?

    Are they hoping to create a backup solution like Apple's Time Capsule?

  15. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    WTF?

    Microsoft Station Q.

    Today I had the misfortune to be using* a Windows 8 laptop. Using "Search" for "Windows updates" or just "Updates" got no results, I had to Google how to find it. Maybe station Q can go back in time and fix that mess.

    *It now dual boots with Ubuntu

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Using "Search" for "Windows updates" or just "Updates" got no results

      That's strange. That's how I get to windows updates on my Win 8.1 laptop, just type "UPDA" and it's top of the list.

      How did Google say to do it?

  16. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Reference needed

    How many time crystals are required to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool? The Albert Hall?

  17. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Joke

    I know, I know!

    The whole article is basically gibberish, and is a result of Microsoft's experiments with AI to test the theory whether an AI could create a convincing press release without human input and on an arbitrary subject. Basically, research study in the similar direction to this (scroll to the bottom for musical analogy intended)

  18. Tom 7 Silver badge

    So for this to work

    you have to break a fundamental law of physics that no-one has broken yet?

    I've got a lot of inventions like that if MS would like to cough up a small sum to discuss them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there's more to understanding this than just reading the article

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-time_crystal

    Getting my head round this is a lot easier than getting my head round making ssh work on all the systems on my home LAN ...

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: there's more to understanding this than just reading the article

      Thanks for the wiki link. Forgive me if I am wrong, but the idea seems simple then.

      A "space-time crystal" is a theoretical atomic or other particle system that returns to a previous state, thus breaking time symmetry. Time symmetry involves being able to run a system backwards and forwards and getting the same results (but in reverse and visa versa).

      A "time crystal" would break this because when you set it up, it now "forever" runs like in a loop. So if you try to reverse it back to before you started the loop, you instead end up going in a loop again, but this time "backwards" in time.

      It is effectively the hope of setting up a loop of dominoes that knock themselves over again and again. Or perhaps like sticking both ends of a VHS tape and taping it into a loop so it plays forever?

      I would assume that to get something like a time loop, you would have to forgo any loops in space (space-time equivalence). Otherwise the entire idea is impossible.

      TL:DR you can have a roundabout in a playground that returns to the start position every rotation, but over time looses energy. OR we can have a roundabout that moves through time never loosing energy, but it can never move.

      These people want both and in effect, a Magic Roundabout. ;)

      1. John G Imrie Silver badge

        Re: Magic Roundabout

        So they have been talking to Dylon. It all makes sense now. Ommmmmm

      2. You aint sin me, roit

        Re: there's more to understanding this than just reading the article

        I'm confused. From Wiki...

        "In May 2013 researchers announced they will attempt to build a component of a space time crystal, by making a rotating ring of calcium ions. Their location will be confined by electric field, and rotation in a ground state will be forced by a magnetic field. Unwanted disturbances will be minimized by reducing the temperature to 1 μK by way of laser cooling. "

        Apply an electric field to constrain the ions and a magnetic field to provide the angular momentum...

        Isn't this just changing the definition of "ground state"?

  20. Bob Dole (tm)
    WTF?

    Calling it now..

    I'm calling BS on this whole article right now and say that we've been trolled by someone.

    1. Scott Broukell

      Re: Calling it now..

      Either that, or we are witnessing the results of some folk smoking a little too much of the old Crystal Maths.

  21. fLaMePrOoF
  22. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I got as far as "Wilczek considered a group of atoms in their ground state moving in perpetual circular motion, which is considered an impossible idea because ground states do not have enough energy to spontaneously move."

    If I skip everything else I didn't understand it seems to mean that Microsoft are proposing to go round in small circles.

  23. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Boffin

    "Crystals have a rigid arrangement of atoms that break translational symmetry."

    Arrrrrrgh! Crystals are pretty much defined as having translational (plus rotational) symmetry.

    /rage-quit

    1. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

      Re: "Crystals have a rigid arrangement of atoms that break translational symmetry."

      Yup, I choked on this one too.

      Then I did a bit of googling on this TTS malarkey, and found this article, which explains things a bit more clearly :

      http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/09/floquet-time-crystals-could-exist-and.html

      quote "ordinary crystals. Although the laws of nature are invariant under rotating or shifting (translating) space, crystals spontaneously break these spatial symmetries because they look different when viewed from different angles and when shifted a little bit in space."

      (not saying I'm much more enlightened, though...)

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: "Crystals have a rigid arrangement of atoms that break translational symmetry."

        But at what dimensionality? Might seem to break symmetry from one perspective, but does it from all? That's the error in their assumptions.

        As an example of where they can trip ideas up, see the failed predictions until relativity was added to the equation. Einstein showed a lot of assumed contradictions were fixed with relativity. Seems a similar problem here of assumed "breaks" in symmetry causing a contradiction in the possibility of perpetual motion/time symmetry/equivalence breaking systems.

      2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: "Crystals have a rigid arrangement of atoms that break translational symmetry."

        Not any wiser either. I do know what symmetry breaking is, but your quote doesn't describe it correctly (modulo I am wrong here): Symmetry breaking means in a system with a certain symmetry there can be physical phenomena (solutions of differential equations if you want) that do not have the (full) symmetry.

        Anyway, left physics long ago, as anything that interested me was beyond my grasp. ------ me ------>

  24. Mage Silver badge

    Perpetual Motion

    If you can extract energy from the "perpetual motion machine", and it doesn't radiate or influence environment, well, then it is not breaking laws of thermodynamics? But what use is it?

    Reminds me of Entangled "Instant" action at a distance. You can't break the barrier of light speed communications with it, but it is some use (in crypto systems)

  25. jonathan keith

    AHA!

    Apparently these are special four dimensional crystals too.

    (Obviously once I'd learned that, everything else just fell right in to place.)

  26. N2 Silver badge

    But what if...

    You get a BSOT - a blue screen of time? Go back to yesterday to fix it?

    & what about Clippy? Hello, it looks like your letter is so last year? would you like me to...

    What ever they are up to, its going to be messed up good & proper

  27. DubyaG

    Dr. WHO?

    Is the beginning of the road to a TARDIS?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Dr. WHO?

      A Microsoft TARDIS?

      Oh, just No.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Dr. WHO?

        The Blue Box of Death?

  28. TDog

    Sad

    30 years ago I would have found this exciting. 20 years ago I would have been sceptical. 10 years ago then RTFM / WTF would sort of handled it.

    Now I am both sad and aware that my first reaction was "And so what?"

  29. DougS Silver badge

    Why is Microsoft researching stuff like this?

    I didn't understand it well enough to know, but I assume it is part of some scheme to retroactively provide a forced upgrade of all Windows 7 & 8 PCs to Windows 10 last February 18th.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Why is Microsoft researching stuff like this?

      Well, it's the only way to fix the problem. Originally it was pencilled in on the MS Calendar app for Feb 30th, 2016 and so caused a time vortex instability in the wormhole generator. Now the coils need rewinding. Again.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    What they're trying to explain...

    ...is how Windows can be a perfectly chaotic, stochastic system exhibiting no signs of repeatable causal behavior whilst being hosted on a Turin-complete substrate that can be entirely defined by traditional logic.

    The researchers have agreed that, for Windows to act as it does now, it must break apart the lattice system of fundamental linear reality - time crystals - and cause the entire system to shift into a metacausal state where reality must adjust itself to explain how a company of approximately 10,000 staff (8,000 of who are managers) could spend so much time writing such complete shit and somehow get it simultaneously installed onto 95% of all extant PCs.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: What they're trying to explain...

      The proposed "Time Crystal" would be a system that never decays and never updates... which when integrated into Windows 10, would make it the last Windows ever!

  31. Nick L

    Anyone remember Steorn/Orbo?

    Steorn, around 10 years ago, claimed to have found an anomaly based on moving magnets around in certain ways. They then claimed they could recreate the anomaly using solid state devices. So far they've failed to reliably demonstrate this and have consumed something like $20Million in investment funding, but time variant magnetic fields and some sort of lack of symmetry was proposed as an explanation for what they claimed they occasionally saw...

    We seem to not really understand time much at all. There certainly seems more to know. Interesting times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone remember Steorn/Orbo?

      Yes I remember Steorn/Orbo.

      "something like $20Million in investment funding"

      Marvellous.

      Long before them, there was e.g. Imperial College's Professor of Heaby Electrical Engineering, Eric Laithwaite (inventor of the linear motor), and his fun with gyroscopes. Plenty on Youtube and elsewhere. At least he had a bit of credibility to work with. Steorn/Orbo didn't have quite so much.

  32. bep

    The good thing about this article

    is that you can't get hold of the wrong end of the stick, because you can't even find the stick.

  33. Winkypop Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Words on a page

    Arranged carefully so as to escape my comprehension...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send this article link to your bright young boss

    1. Tell them that time crystals are the future....get in now or be priced out forever.

    2. Observe

  35. tojb
    Boffin

    Its not complicated

    Just a system which spontaneously settles into collective oscillation (like the quartz crystal in your digital watch). As far as I can see from the article the cool part is that any "clock drift" will self-correct, and that energy leakage will be approximately (not exactly) zero. So much woo-woo about time-loops and tardises sheesh

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Its not complicated

      There's a difference. The quartz crystal in your watch doesn't spontaneously settle into oscillation. It requires forcing with some additional electronics which consumes energy.

  36. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    And that, ladies and gentlemen...

    ....is why I have chosen to resign from my position as Member of Parliament for Witney.

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Pint

      Re: And that, ladies and gentlemen...

      Topical. We'll done sir!

  37. Jonski

    Let's see if I've got this right...

    If I read this correctly, and there's a very good chance (p->1) that I didn't, what I think will happen is:-

    You throw some of the contents of your fridge, pantry and frypan onto a plate. It enters its resting state of a Bacon Buttie.

    After a while, with no intervention, no interim state and no eating of said buttie, it will morph into a vindaloo, or a small cat, whatever.

    Do not eat the vindaloo- or cat. Nothing in or out please, we're British.

    After another while, your comestible again transitions seamlessly into a buttie.

    You run screaming from the room.

    Unseen, a tardis warps in to remove the time crystal back to its proper dimension.

  38. Ahellno
    Pint

    The answer lies in Location.

    Microsoft is within buildings.

    Buildings are within Washington State.

    Weed is Legal in Washington State.

    Hey Satya; did you see that crystal MOVE?! Whoaaaaaaaaaaaa....

    Anyway there's plenty of writing out there about "symmetry breaking phase transitions". Freeze some water. My drink has never travelled through time to the exact point I actually first wanted it.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thiotomoline to the Stars !

    This is not the only recent comment on time-assymetric crystals I've seen lately...or maybe it is, just reported differently.

    So, anyway...

    All credit to Isaac Asimov. The Good Doctor had a name for these crystals, which also had endochronic properties.

    Thiotomoline, anybody ?

    With time+motion, we have an endochronic space drive material, giving both transluminal velocity + no time dilation...but perhaps only for something the size of a starwhisp...maybe....in a decade or less.

    Comments, o blogosphere !

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019