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World’s Most Precise Clock Coming?

First Posted: May 27, 2016 05:00 AM EDT
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Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado have created an atomic clock using the atoms of the element ytterbium. This redefines the meaning of the word "second," as the y say that everything you have ever known about the way time works is wrong.

In a study by Optica, there is actually a better way to keep time - and a more precise timekeeper could mean better directions, safer travel, and even more money in the stock market.

We already count to the millisecond, so how does this make a difference?

As reported by CNN, our understanding of a second was based on the technology developed way back in the 1940s, with an agreement among scientists in 1967. The clock is supposed to count in intervals that happen repeatedly, with as little variation as possible.

Today, a second is defined as 1/86,400 of the solar day, but because of the irregularities in the earth's rotation, the measurement can seem imprecise. Scientists realized they could get exact measures if they could gauge the movement from something more consistent, and according to Columbia University physics professor Isidor Rabi, a clock could be created from a technique called atomic beam magnetic resonance.

Rabi said that if it is possible to expose subatomic particles to frequencies of radiation, the electrons "jump" and their movement as they vibrate between two energy states could be more precise than pendulum swings from an old grandfather clock.

Why is such precision needed?

You'd probably be pissed at your friends for being an hour late to dinner, but high-tech gadgets depend on precise time measurement, such as the internet and modern telecom equipment require synchronization to a millionth of a second per day. Power grids and GPS systems are even more precise, needing about a billionth or a second per day.

In fact, GPS systems could be more precise and could even work inside large buildings, if the science could be more accurate with its time-keeping.

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