Google's scientists now rather excitingly say that their results establish a "scalable approach" to study time crystals on current quantum processors.
In a new research paper, Google scientists claim to have used a quantum processor for a useful scientific application: to observe a genuine time crystal.
If 'time crystal' sounds pretty sci-fi that's because they are. Time crystals are no less than a new "phase of matter", as researchers put it, which has been theorized for some years now as a new state that could potentially join the ranks of solids, liquids, gases, crystals and so on. Thepaper remains in pre-print and still requires peer review.
Time crystals are also hard to find. But Google's scientists now rather excitingly say that their results establish a "scalable approach" to study time crystals on current quantum processors.
SEE: What is quantum computing? Everything you need to know about the strange world of quantum computers
Understanding why time crystals are interesting requires a little bit of background in physics particularly, knowledge of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that systems naturally tend to settle in a state known as "maximum entropy".
To take an example: if you pour some milk into a coffee cup, the milk will eventually dissolve throughout the coffee, instead of sitting on the top, enabling the overall system to come to an equilibrium. This is because there are many more ways for the coffee to randomly spread throughout the coffee than there are for it to sit, in a more orderly fashion, at the top of the cup.
This irresistible drive towards thermal equilibrium, as described in the second law of thermodynamics, is reflective of the fact that all things tend to move towards less useful, random states. As time goes on, systems inevitably degenerate into chaos and disorder that is, entropy.
Time crystals, on the other hand, fail to settle in thermal equilibrium. Instead of slowly degenerating towards randomness, they get stuck in two high-energy configurations that they switch between and this back-and-forth process can go on forever.
To explain this better, Curt von Keyserlingk, lecturer at the school of physics and astronomy at the University of Birmingham, who did not participate in Google's latest experiment, pulls out some slides from an introductory talk to prospective undergraduate students. "They usually pretend to understand, so it might be useful," von Keyserlingk warns ZDNet.
It starts with a thought experiment: take a box in a closed system that is isolated from the rest of the universe, load it with a couple of dozens of coins and shake it a million times. As the coins flip, tumble and bounce off each other, they randomly move positions and increasingly become more chaotic. Upon opening the box, the expectation is that you will be faced with roughly half the coins on their heads side, and half on their tails.
It doesn't matter if the experiment started with more coins on their tails or more coins on their heads: the system forgets what the initial configuration was, and it becomes increasingly random and chaotic as it is shaken.
This closed system, when it is translated into the quantum domain, is the perfect setting to try and find time crystals, and the only one known to date. "The only stable time crystals that we've envisioned in closed systems are quantum mechanical," says von Keyserlingk.
Enter Google's quantum processor, Sycamore,which is well known for having achieved quantum supremacyand is now looking for some kind of useful application for quantum computing.
A quantum processor, by definition, is a perfect tool to replicate a quantum mechanical system. In this scenario, Google's team represented the coins in the box with qubits spinning upwards and downwards in a closed system; and instead of shaking the box, they applied a set of specific quantum operations that can change the state of the qubits, which they repeated many times.
This is where time crystals defy all expectations. Looking at the system after a certain number of operations, or shakes, reveals a configuration of qubits that is not random, but instead looks rather similar to the original set up.
"The first ingredient that makes up a time crystal is that it remembers what it was doing initially. It doesn't forget," says von Keyserlingk. "The coins-in-a-box system forgets, but a time crystal system doesn't."
It doesn't stop here. Shake the system an even number of times, and you'll get a similar configuration to the original one but shake it an odd number of times, and you'll get another set up, in which tails have been flipped to heads and vice-versa.
And no matter how many operations are carried out on the system, it will always flip-flop, going regularly back-and-forth between those two states.
Scientists call this a break in the symmetry of time which is why time crystals are called so. This is because the operation carried out to stimulate the system is always the same, and yet the response only comes every other shake.
"In the Google experiment, they do a set of operations on this chain of spins, then they do exactly the same thing again, and again. They do the same thing at the hundredth step that they do at the millionth step, if they go that far," says von Keyserlingk.
"So they subject the system to a set of conditions that have symmetry, and yet the system responds in a manner that breaks that symmetry. It's the same every two periods instead of every period. That's what makes it literally a time crystal."
SEE:Bigger quantum computers, faster: This new idea could be the quickest route to real world apps
The behavior of time crystals, from a scientific perspective, is fascinating: contrary to every other known system, they don't tend towards disorder and chaos. Unlike the coins in the box, which get all muddled up and settle at roughly half heads and half tails, they buck the entropy law by getting stuck in a special, time-crystal state.
In other words, they defy the second law of thermodynamics, which essentially defines the direction that all natural events take. Ponder that for a moment.
Such special systems are not easy to observe. Time crystals have been a topic of interest since 2012, when Nobel Prize-winning MIT professor Frank Wilczek started thinking about them; and the theory has been refuted, debated and contradicted many times since then.
Several attempts have been made to create and observe time crystals to date, with varying degrees of success. Only last month, a team from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlandspublished a pre-print showing that they had built a time crystal in a diamond processor, although a smaller system than the one claimed by Google.
The search giant's researchers used a chip with 20 qubits to serve as the time crystal many more, according to von Keyserlingk, than has been achieved until now, and than could be achieved with a classical computer.
Using a laptop, it is fairly easy to simulate around 10 qubits, explains von Keyserlingk. Add more than that, and the limits of current hardware are soon reached: every extra qubit requires exponential amounts of memory.
The scientist stops short of stating that this new experiment is a show of quantum supremacy. "They're not quite far enough for me to be able to say it's impossible to do with a classical computer, because there might be a clever way of putting it on a classical computer that I haven't thought of," says von Keyserlingk.
"But I think this is by far the most convincing experimental demonstration of a time crystal to date."
SEE: Quantum computing just took on another big challenge, one that could be as tough as steel
The scope and control of Google's experiment means that it is possible to look at time crystals for longer, do detailed sets of measurements, vary the size of the system, and so on. In other words, it is a useful demonstration that could genuinely advance science and as such, it could be key in showing the central role that quantum simulators will play in enabling discoveries in physics.
There are, of course, some caveats. Like all quantum computers, Google's processor still suffers from decoherence, which can cause a decay in the qubits' quantum states, and means that time crystals' oscillations inevitably die out as the environment interferes with the system.
The pre-print, however, argues that as the processor becomes more effectively isolated, this issue could be mitigated.
One thing is certain: time crystals won't be sitting in our living rooms any time soon, because scientists are yet to find a definitive useful application for them. It is unlikely, therefore, that Google's experiment was about exploring the business value of time crystals; rather, it shows what could potentially be another early application of quantum computing, and yet another demonstration of the company's technological prowess in a hotly contested new area of development.
- IonQ and University of Maryland Researchers Demonstrate Fault-Tolerant Error Correction, Critical for Unlocking the Full Potential of Quantum... - October 12th, 2021
- Quantum computing startups pull in millions as VCs rush to get ahead of the game - The Register - October 12th, 2021
- Zapata, University of Hull researchers take quantum computing to deep space - FierceElectronics - October 12th, 2021
- IBM and Raytheon Technologies collaborate on AI, cryptography and quantum technologies - Scientific Computing World - October 12th, 2021
- How science and diplomacy inform each other - SWI swissinfo.ch - swissinfo.ch - October 12th, 2021
- Digital Wealth Management Fees to Increase Threefold to $12.6 Billion By 2026 - Yahoo Finance - October 12th, 2021
- Is Neuromorphic Computing The Answer For Autonomous Driving And Personal Robotics? - Forbes - October 12th, 2021
- IonQ is set to make its public trading debut. Here's a look at the quantum computing company's 2021 highlights - Technical.ly DC - October 2nd, 2021
- Connecting the Dots Between Material Properties and Superconducting Qubit Performance - SciTechDaily - October 2nd, 2021
- Quantum Computing in Agriculture Market to Witness Stellar CAGR During the Forecast Period 2021 -2026 - Northwest Diamond Notes - October 2nd, 2021
- What is quantum computing? - September 21st, 2021
- Why quantum computing is a security threat and how to defend against it [Q&A] - BetaNews - September 21st, 2021
- 'This Is The Beginning Of A New Industry': College Park Looks To Quantum Computing To Spark Office Growth - Bisnow - September 21st, 2021
- Prepare for the next phase of digital transformation at The Quantum Computing Summit - UKTN - UKTN (UK Technology News - September 21st, 2021
- A Simple Equation Indicates Wormholes May Be the Key to Quantum Gravity - Interesting Engineering - September 21st, 2021
- Explore Trends and COVID-19 Impact on Quantum Computing Market 2021 Research Report and Industry Forecast till 2027 | Know More Stillwater Current -... - September 21st, 2021
- Australias nuclear submarines and AUKUS: The view from Jakarta - Brookings Institution - September 21st, 2021
- Research on Quantum Computing in Health Care Market 2021: By Growing Rate, Type, Applications, Geographical Regions, and Forecast to 2026 - Northwest... - September 15th, 2021
- Atomically-Thin, Twisted Graphene Has Unique Properties That Could Advance Quantum Computing - SciTechDaily - September 15th, 2021
- For The First Time, Scientists Have Entangled Three Qubits on Silicon - ScienceAlert - September 15th, 2021
- UChicago, Duality Teams to Pitch at 2021 Chicago Venture Summit - Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation - Polsky Center for... - September 15th, 2021
- View: Its the Spacetime to Quantum - Economic Times - September 15th, 2021
- IonQ Scores Quantum Computing Deal With University Of Maryland And Announces Its Tripling 2021 Bookings - Forbes - September 11th, 2021
- How Horizon Plans To Bring Quantum Computing Out Of The Shadows - Forbes - September 11th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Breakthrough: Entanglement of Three Spin Qubits Achieved in Silicon - SciTechDaily - September 11th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Theorist Vojtech Vlcek Receives Research Award from DOE - HPCwire - September 11th, 2021
- UMD, IonQ join forces to create the nation's first quantum computing lab in College Park - The Diamondback - September 11th, 2021
- Quantum computing breakthrough achieved, road to the future begins now - TweakTown - September 11th, 2021
- Leading Chinese researchers are looking at the coming quantum revolution - The Press Stories - September 4th, 2021
- Top 10 Data Center Stories of the Month: August 2021 - Data Center Knowledge - September 4th, 2021
- Large-Scale Simulations Of The Brain May Need To Wait For Quantum Computers - Forbes - September 3rd, 2021
- NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption - The Register - September 3rd, 2021
- IBM quantum computing: From healthcare to automotive to energy, real use cases are in play - TechRepublic - September 1st, 2021
- Quantum Computing in Manufacturing Market Rising Trends-Microsoft, D-Wave Solutions, Rigetti Computing, Intel UNLV The Rebel Yell - UNLV The Rebel... - September 1st, 2021
- Quantum computers could read all your encrypted data. This 'quantum-safe' VPN aims to stop that - ZDNet - August 30th, 2021
- Sumitomo Corporation Quantum Transformation (QX) Project Announces Its Vision and Activities at the IEEE Quantum AI Sustainability Symposium -... - August 30th, 2021
- Life, the universe and everything Physics seeks the future - The Economist - August 30th, 2021
- This Exotic Particle Had an Out-of-Body Experience These Surprised Scientists Took a Picture of It - SciTechDaily - August 30th, 2021
- Deloitte's quantum computing leader on the technology's healthcare future - Healthcare IT News - August 24th, 2021
- Experiments Prove Quantum Computing Errors Correlated, Tied to Cosmic Rays - SciTechDaily - August 24th, 2021
- Urgent Warning Issued Over The Future Of Bitcoin Even As The Crypto Market Price Smashes Past $2 Trillion - Forbes - August 24th, 2021
- Sumitomo Corporation Quantum Transformation (QX) Project Announces Its Vision and Activities at the IEEE Quantum AI Sustainability Symposium - Yahoo... - August 24th, 2021
- Energy Department Sets $61M of Funding to Advance QIS Research - MeriTalk - August 24th, 2021
- Quantum Takes the Scenic Route in Automotive - The Next Platform - August 14th, 2021
- Quantum computing: How BMW is getting ready for the next technology revolution - ZDNet - August 10th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Tech is Amazing. But What Does Business Think? - DesignNews - August 10th, 2021
- AWS leverages Singapore scientists to overcome the hurdles facing quantum computing The Register - Illinoisnewstoday.com - August 10th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Market 2021 with Top Countries Data Analysis by Industry Trends, Size, Share and Company Overview - Digital Journal - August 10th, 2021
- 'Magic Angle' Graphene and How it Could be a Magnet-Proof Superconducter - AZoM - August 10th, 2021
- Healthcare technology development is being accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic - Healthcare Finance News - August 10th, 2021
- From theory to reality: Google claims to created physics-defying 'time crystal' inside its quantum computer - Silicon Canals - August 6th, 2021
- T-Hub, HCL to collaborate on Quantum Computing and Deep Tech. - The Hindu - August 6th, 2021
- Google announces that it may have created a "time crystal" that breaks physics - Texasnewstoday.com - August 6th, 2021
- Why it's time to wake up to the quantum threat - Finextra - Finextra - Finextra - August 6th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Market 2021-2025Top Trends, Business Opportunity, and Growth Strategy The Manomet Current - The Manomet Current - August 6th, 2021
- Superconductivity Research: Researchers Develop New Material that Enables Quantum Information-Based Technology - Science Times - August 6th, 2021
- AI, quantum computing and other technologies poised to transform healthcare - Healthcare Finance News - August 5th, 2021
- Data Analytica Just Released Their New Quantum Computing Simulation Software - PR.com - August 5th, 2021
- Q-CTRL, University of Sydney Devise Machine Learning Technique Used to Pinpoint Quantum Errors - HPCwire - August 5th, 2021
- Q-CTRL: machine learning technique to pinpoint quantum errors - News - The University of Sydney - August 5th, 2021
- U.S. DoE sends another $ 73 million into the future of Quantum - Illinoisnewstoday.com - August 5th, 2021
- Harvard-led physicists have taken a major step in the competition with quantum computing - Illinoisnewstoday.com - July 18th, 2021
- Startup hopes the world is ready to buy quantum processors - Ars Technica - July 16th, 2021
- Covid isolation hits auto, Tom Tom's Virtual Horizon, BMW/Amazon quantum computing - the week - just-auto.com - July 16th, 2021
- Rigetti Computing Partners with Riverlane, Astex Pharmaceuticals to Advance Quantum Computing for Drug Discovery - Yahoo Finance - July 16th, 2021
- Quantum computing: This new 100-qubit processor is built with atoms cooled down near to absolute zero - ZDNet - July 10th, 2021
- This quantum computer with a 3D chip is heading into the cloud - ZDNet - July 10th, 2021
- French researchers on the verge of quantum computing milestone - RFI English - July 10th, 2021
- IBM partners with UK on $ 300 million quantum computing research initiative - Illinoisnewstoday.com - July 10th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Software Market worth $0.43 billion by 2026 - Exclusive Report by MarketsandMarkets - PRNewswire - July 10th, 2021
- African Education Minister Has Big Hi-Tech Dreams And Makes Music Videos Too : Goats and Soda - NPR - July 10th, 2021
- Why industry supports the government's $110 billion bet on technology R&D - Federal News Network - July 10th, 2021
- Quantum Computing Breakthrough: Unveiling Properties of New Superconductor - Analytics Insight - July 2nd, 2021
- The only answer to the quantum cybersecurity threat is quantum - Sifted - July 2nd, 2021
- Quantum computers are already detangling natures mysteries - Wired.co.uk - June 18th, 2021
- What Are the Quantum Computing Threats to Security? - Design and Reuse - Design and Reuse - June 18th, 2021
- Cutting-edge research into quantum computing: BMW Group and Technical University of Munich agree to create an endowed chair in Quantum Algorithms and... - June 18th, 2021
- Is quantum computing about to change the world? - BroadbandDeals - June 18th, 2021
- Clearing the way toward robust quantum computing - MIT News - June 16th, 2021
- Heres How Quantum Computers Will Really Affect Cryptocurrencies - Forbes - June 16th, 2021