The Ultimate Clock Essay

514 WordsDec 29, 20113 Pages
“The Ultimate Clock” by Charles Petit, Science News October 22, 2011 Volume 180 #9, pp. 22. The main focus of this article is to observe the keeping of precise time through the physics that have been studied over the years. The article addresses how the importance of knowing time is more important than understanding the definition. Chris Oates is a member of a worldwide cadre working with devices at the frontier of clockmaking. His team’s clock loses time at a rate of about one second every few hundred million years. The metrology of time is not holding still. In the April-June issue of Reviews of Modern Physics, experimental physicist Hidetoshi Katori of the University of Tokyo and theorist Andrei Derevianko of the University of Nevada, Reno declared dramatic ambitions for a record-breaking atomic clock based on emissions from mercury atoms. The goal formally was to lose or gain no more than one out of every billion billion seconds. That is one second in about 32 billion years, and is 10 to 100 times better than any existing clocks. Already, atomic clocks have come a long way. While experimental clocks are moving ahead, a device called the NIST-F1 is the official U.S. timekeeper. It’s accurate to a few parts in 1016. It occupies a large first floor room in Building One at NIST’s Boulder campus. The dominant feature is a shiny steel vacuum chamber 8 feet high. Inside is a laser-controlled fountain of cesium atoms chilled to near absolute zero. The atoms rise in clumps about as large as a man’s thumb and, responding to gravity, fall back through a cavity in a tunable microwave generator. NIST is now working on a successor, called F2. With an improved cooling system and superior way of moving the atoms through the microwave chamber, it will be about four times better and will beat out the current record for a long-term timekeeper, a clock in the United Kingdom

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