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A more accurate way to measure time than ever before has been developed – PCW

A more accurate way to measure time than ever before has been developed – PCW

New optical atomic clocks could slip one second every 30 billion years.

Although the observation of the passage of time and its cyclicality is almost as old as humanity, the development of the current system of measuring time dates back to the Sumerian civilization. This, instead of the decimal-based number system used in most aspects of life today, uses division by sixty.

Throughout history, it has been a long journey through the sun, water, and hourglasses to the timekeeping devices used today. Since 1955, the mechanism for measuring time accurate to millions of years per second has been known to be the vibration of the cesium-133 atom, and it is the most accurate mechanism to date. However, it has recently faced a competitor in terms of accuracy, which will be difficult to employ in the future, but perhaps not necessary.

While previous structures used microwaves to determine the length of a second, this innovation illuminates the atom with visible light to obtain information about the vibration of the elementary particle. As a result, the structure is able to determine the elapsed time with a precision never achieved before.

Putting all this together, it seems that, compared to the past few million years, the error can only be one full second every 30 billion years. This is due to the fact that the frequency of light waves is higher. However, this requires extreme precision, as the clock must also be able to measure fractions of a second.

According to a recently published study, researchers at the Gila Institute used a so-called optical lattice instead of a beam of light to measure tens of thousands of atoms at once. According to the experts involved in the research, gravity affects everything, that is, the passage of time, according to Einstein's theory of relativity.

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The clock they use also counteracts this effect by using a sub-millimeter scale. Among other things, the new structure will be of great use in space research, as it keeps time reliably even over long distances. The next few decades will be important in space research, so a more accurate timing structure to coordinate the necessary maneuvers will be useful.

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