New Type of Clock Could Change How We Measure Time
Currently, 500 atomic clocks – accurate to tens of quarillionths of a second – that are scattered around the world are used to determine the time. They measure atomic oscillations and have been considered “our standard timekeepers for the better part of the past half-century,” according to Popular Science.
But now, German reserachers have announced a new way of using optical clocks “to tell time with unmatched accurary.” Their findings, published in the Optical Society of America’s journal, Optica, describe how, now, optical clocks function in the same manner as microwave atomic clocks – by measuring the oscillation of the cesium atom, which naturally jiggles at a frequency within the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. However, these optical clocks can measure ions that are oscillation at frequencies 100,000 times higher than cesium. Because of these faster vibrations, these optical clocks “tick” faster.
While these clocks may be more accurate, in order to implement them we would have to literally redefine the second. However, lead researcher Christian Grebing and his team, were still able to compare their optical clock and its frequency to the current definition of the second “and deciphered the timekeeping machine to have the lowest measure of uncertainty of any clock ever attained. This clock would only ever end up 100 seconds off if it ticked for 14 billion years, or for the entirety our universe has been alive.”