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Science & Technology

New optical clock is most accurate ever built

By T.K. Randall
May 26, 2016 · Comment icon 11 comments

Could the optical clock bring about a timekeeping revolution ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Derek Key
Scientists have come up with a clock so accurate that it could even redefine the length of a second.
Currently, time is measured on the idea of a pendulum, or in the case of an atomic clock, the natural back-and-forth rhythm of a caesium atom. Similarly, the length of a second is defined as the time that passes during 9,192,631,770 cycles of the microwave signal generated by this process.

There is however another, more accurate, way of keeping time.

The optical clock, which unlike regular atomic clocks works using strontium atoms in place of caesium, operates at the visible, as oppose to the microwave, part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Optical clocks offer a much higher level of accuracy than any other type of clock to the extent that, if had you started one running at the beginning of the universe, it would have only lost two minutes.
The disadvantage is that optical clocks are awkward to maintain and frequently break down, but now scientists in Germany believe that they have found a practical solution to these problems.

Their new optical clock concept, which could one day replace the atomic clock, may even serve to redefine the length of a second - albeit by such a small amount it would be generally unnoticeable.

This more accurate definition would however offer benefits in many different areas such as GPS navigation where it could improve accuracy on the ground from meters to centimeters.

"We want to improve the timekeeping infrastructure all over the world by building better and better clocks and integrating them into the time-keeping infrastructure," said Dr Christian Grebing.

"What we demonstrated is a first step towards a global improvement of timekeeping."

Source: Independent | Comments (11)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by A_Maine96 8 years ago
You compare it to another clock
Comment icon #3 Posted by BiffSplitkins 8 years ago
It's some kind of paradox. Just like this photo of the 'Making of the world's first camera'... how the heck was this photo taken?
Comment icon #4 Posted by Child of Bast 8 years ago
But who determines which of the two is more accurate?
Comment icon #5 Posted by A_Maine96 8 years ago
My original post was an attempt at humor (clearly a failed one), but honestly I don't know. A sundial maybe since time is based on the orbit and rotation of the earth, so I'd guess which ever more closely represents the  time in a day.
Comment icon #6 Posted by BeastieRunner 8 years ago
Oh no ... my time is changing! Again ...
Comment icon #7 Posted by pallidin 8 years ago
The second, similar camera was built, and used to photograph the first?
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin 8 years ago
I think it's done mathematically, by knowing the physics of different devices, maybe?
Comment icon #9 Posted by universal skeptic 8 years ago
I set my clock 15 minutes fast, that way I'm never late.  
Comment icon #10 Posted by pallidin 8 years ago
Off OP topic.. OK. I will say that my roommate has set her clock 15-min ahead for years and it doesn't work. She is ALWAYS just leaving the house when she should be at work.
Comment icon #11 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
Get ISO and NIST to control the "standard"

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