Researchers Invent New Hyper-Accurate Atomic Clock

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Scientists invented a new atomic clock that keeps time precisely and accurately with a ticking rate that varies by only 0.000000000000000032 percent over the course of a single day.

Physicist Andrew Ludlow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and his team developed the hyper-accurate clock, which they believe will enable scientists to probe the mysteries of the cosmos. The clock is so accurate that it won’t gain or lose more than one second in 14 billion years, which is equivalent to the age of the cosmos.

The atomic clock could be used to measure gravitational waves, detect dark matter, and determine the exact shape of Earth’s gravitational field with extraordinary accuracy.

“It turns out that if you have all these digits of precision for making a measurement, it can give you a microscope onto our very universe,” said physicist Andrew Ludlow of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo. The research work was published in the journal Nature in the issue of November 2018.

The new optical lattice clock oscillates over 9 billion times over a second of the so-called atomic clocks that use the natural oscillations of a cesium atom as a pendulum. The atomic pendulum swings about 10,000 times faster, at a speed of 500 trillion times per second.

Since the last 15 years, optical lattice clocks have been undergoing some improvement, where scientists increasing its accuracy with each new adjustment. The new improvement of creating a heat shield protects ytterbium atoms from the effects of heat and electric fields, which can interfere with its natural oscillations.

Moreover, “the new clock can detect changes in just 1 centimeter of elevation, a measurement far more precise than was previously possible,” added Ludlow.

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Curt Reaves started working for Plains Gazette in 2016. Curt grew up in a small town in northern Iowa. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. He has been a proud Texan for the past 5 years. Curt covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for the Washington City Paper, The Hill newspaper, Slate Magazine, and ABCNews.com.