Characteristics of mysterious time crystals have been found in the most unexpected place you’d ever think to look – a compound found in fertiliser and those crystal-growing kits you can buy for kids.
That compound is monoammonium phosphate (MAP), and the physicists from Yale who made the discovery are now scratching their heads, because this raises questions about how time crystals even form in the first place.
In normal crystals, the atoms are arranged in a fixed grid structure, like the atomic lattice of a diamond or quartz crystal. These repeating lattices can differ in configuration, but they don’t move around very much – they only repeat spatially, but not in time.
To the naked eye, they look like ordinary crystals. But their atoms are actually oscillating – spinning first in one direction, and then the other, when exposed to an electromagnetic pulse that flips the spin.