Physicists “Open Portal To Extra Time Dimension” Using New Phase Of Matter

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In what sounds like a story that would be breaking in 3023, a team of experimental physicists has not only created a new phase of matter but in doing so, also learned how to make this matter exist in a different dimension of time.

It’s a complicated concept for those of us far from familiar with the subject of physics—let alone quantum physics—but the discovery has fascinating implications and lends a lot of power to research tools that can be used to find out more ways matter can interact with the universe.

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Not Your Everyday Computer

A quantum computer is a hyper-advanced form of the ordinary computer you likely have in your home, possessing much greater processing power and using the complex science of quantum mechanics to function.

A pair of glasses set in front of a computer screen that's displaying many running programs.
Unsplash / Kevin Ku
Unsplash / Kevin Ku

The goal of these computers is not to be mass-produced and replace the ones we already own but to help multiple fields of study perform highly complex tasks that an ordinary laptop could never dream of accomplishing.

In a fascinating experiment involving new phases of matter, a team of researchers might have discovered a way to make these computers even more powerful.

The Old Made New

The Scientific American article about the discovery compares the team’s project to a ‘quipu’, an ancient Incan device that archived tax and census records on pieces of string by tying knots in them.

A purple and teal string rope against a black background, both featuring frayed knots.
Unsplash / David Clode
Unsplash / David Clode

This far more modern version the team is creating uses a new phase of matter that’s created within a quantum computer, which is already an amazing, fantastical concept for those who don’t study this field of science.

The new phase they made is just one in a family of what are called ‘topological phases’, which were first discovered in the ’80s. These phases don’t display their contents based on how they’re arranged like other visual representations of matter, but rather on how they move and interact with each other.

Human Control

These movements can be measured, timed, and manipulated using a quantum computer, allowing scientists to manipulate them and create new phases by inducing ‘time symmetries’ in the phases’ atoms.

A visualization of an atom being affected by energy.
Unsplash / Hal Gatewood
Unsplash / Hal Gatewood

These symmetries are hard to see, but can be expressed mathematically. This new phase of theirs manifests itself in a strand of ions, and they can calculate its symmetries by theoretically ‘placing’ it in a higher dimension reality, which allows them to apply it to a broader scope of experiments.

Whole New Worlds

This remains pretty high concept, but believe it or not, it goes even further than that.

A vintage white clock hung on a wall.
Pexels / Pixabay
Pexels / Pixabay

Not only did they create a new phase of matter that can only exist on another reality dimension, but it can also exist within two different time dimensions.

Going back to the quipu comparison: the string on which the data is stored are atoms, and the knots containing the data are “generated by patterns of laser pulses that effectively open up a second dimension of time.”

A Happy Accident

As Phillip Dumitrescu from the Flatiron Institute told Scientific American, “It is very exciting to see this unusual phase of matter realized in an actual experiment, especially because the mathematical description is based on a theoretical ‘extra’ time dimension.”

A silhouette of a woman writing out equations on a white board.
Pexels / thisisengineering
Pexels / thisisengineering

This wasn’t actually their intention, though. “We were very much motivated to see what new types of phases could be created,” explained study co-author Andrew Potter, a quantum physicist at the University of British Columbia. His team just so happened to find a phase that could correct errors and protect data being processed on quantum computers, a phase that opened itself to another time dimension.

Practical Application

The concept alone is fascinating, something existing and changing on a plane of time that is not our own, but it’s not the grand revolution science-fiction movies would make you think it is.

Unsplash / Misael Moreno
Unsplash / Misael Moreno

There’s no accessing this dimension directly, and there’s nothing scientists can do at the moment to explore it further. It just so happened to come to fruition in the context of this one specific phase. While continued research is likely to happen, especially considering how useful it is for improving quantum computers, we won’t see humans stepping through a portal into another dimension any time soon.

Small Improvements

They’ve already been conducting some experiments about how to use this phase they’ve discovered to better protect quantum data, an effect initially discovered via a fluke.

A gold motherboard.
Unsplash / Manuel
Unsplash / Manuel

Using a series of non-repeating laser frequency pulses, they managed to protect the computer, named Quantinuum, for a whole five and a half seconds.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot in seconds, but it’s a really stark difference,” says Justin Bohnet, study co-author and quantum physicist. “It’s a clear sign the demonstration is working.”

Narrowing The Scope

Now, what does this all mean for the rest of us? Not much, if we’re being honest. At least, not much yet.

A futuristic building with a completely windowed wall, show from below, the sun cresting over the edge of the roof.
Unsplash / Scott Webb
Unsplash / Scott Webb

Quantum physics is exceptionally high-level, theoretical stuff that, while affecting the literal makeup of the world and universe around us, doesn’t trickle down in a way that affects our daily lives very often. Not when it comes to experiments like this one, anyway.

That doesn’t mean it’s not utterly fascinating though. Researchers creating materials on a different plane of existence, being able to move atoms in a completely separate realm of time, that’s incredible! It sounds straight out of a space opera, but it’s happening here on Earth.

A Dream-Filled Future

There’s no guarantee this discovery will ever be something those of us in non-science fields ever really think about again, but for now, we can appreciate this magical-sounding discovery for what it is: an immense leap forward for physicists that will allow them to conduct better, safer, more efficient research.

Fragmented reflections of neon colors in a pool
Unsplash / FLY:D
Unsplash / FLY:D

Who knows, maybe this one experiment will eventually evolve into the consumer rockets and laser guns of the far future, when we’ll be teleporting across the planet to receive occular cybernetic enhancements.

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Daniel Mitchell-Benoit

Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.

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