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New Most Precise Clock Based On Aluminum Ion

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the many-stitches-in-time dept.

Science 193

eldavojohn writes "The National Institute for Standards and Technology has unveiled a new clock that will 'neither gain nor lose one second in about 3.7 billion years,' making it an atomic clock twice as precise as the previous pacesetter, which was based on mercury atoms. Experts call it a 'milestone for atomic clocks.' The press release describes the workings: 'The logic clock is based on a single aluminum ion (electrically charged atom) trapped by electric fields and vibrating at ultraviolet light frequencies, which are 100,000 times higher than microwave frequencies used in NIST-F1 and other similar time standards around the world.' This makes the aluminum ion clock a contender to replace the standard cesium fountain clock (within 1 second in about 100 million years) as NIST's standard. For those of you asking 'So what?' the article describes the important applications such a device holds: 'The extreme precision offered by optical clocks is already providing record measurements of possible changes in the fundamental "constants" of nature, a line of inquiry that has important implications for cosmology and tests of the laws of physics, such as Einstein's theories of special and general relativity. Next-generation clocks might lead to new types of gravity sensors for exploring underground natural resources and fundamental studies of the Earth. Other possible applications may include ultra-precise autonomous navigation, such as landing planes by GPS.'"

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So I guess this means (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036418)

that I've got very little hope of the clock at work running fast, anymore, eh?

Re:So I guess this means (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036770)

eh?

You Canadians keep your hands off our clock.

Even Better (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036918)

For those of you asking 'So what?' [ ... ]

Do you have any idea how many Slashdot articles could benefit from such an explanation?

Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (2, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036426)

I unplugged the atomic clock by mistake. I was just brooming around and I knocked out this here plug. Anyone know what time it is?

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036544)

Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036606)

It's taco time!

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036790)

Nooo...

IT'S Peanut butter and Jelly Time!

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

HoboCop (987492) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036822)

Wrong again. It's clearly Hammer Time.

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037282)

It's Morris Day and the Time. Everybody walk your body....

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037570)

After traveling 88mph in a Delorean, it's once again hammer time!

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (3, Funny)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036962)

Sorry, but it's Friday, and it's five o'clock somewhere.

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

BigDXLT (1218924) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036942)

Peanut butter jelly time!
Peanut butter jelly time!
Peanut butter jelly time!

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (2, Funny)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037350)

Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

25 or 6 to 4...

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

nih (411096) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036664)

Its time yous gots a whooping!

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036740)

According to Derek Webb, you never know

Re:Ah, I unplugged the atomic clock... (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037466)

Been there, done that. The critical element of the device fell out. The only question is, "How long until the planet disappears"? [wikipedia.org]

Extraordinary claims (3, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036442)

The National Institute for Standards and Technology has unveiled a new clock that will 'neither gain nor lose one second in about 3.7 billion years' Sure, they say that now, but just TRY tracking them down to get your money back 3.7 billion years from now when you find out they were lying!

Re:Extraordinary claims (2, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036698)

Or if they move it. Once they do general relativity takes over and the time is now 'wrong' according to a stationary observer.

Re:Extraordinary claims (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036824)

And we're ALL moving through the universe at alarming speed.

Alarming, immeasurable speed.

We will never know our true velocities, only our velocities relative to other objects.

Re:Extraordinary claims (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037124)

but just TRY tracking them down to get your money back 3.7 billion years from now when you find out they were lying!

If they were lying, then presumably you'd be aware of it before the 3.7 billion years had passed.

I, for one, (-1, Offtopic)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036452)

Welcome our new overly-precise timekeeping overlords.

Re:I, for one, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036550)

Time lords, you say?

You're late (3, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036832)

You should have been here to welcome us .0000000001 seconds ago. Your membership in the Committee to Welcome Our New Overlords has been revoked.

Assuming We're still around (1)

bobwrit (1232148) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036472)

This kind of assumes that we're around in 3.7 billion years, doesn't it? I think the human ace will probably kill itself before then...

Re:Assuming We're still around (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036580)

Uh, I think what they really mean is that it is accurate to about one four-billionith of a second per year, which beats the heck out a Timex. I don't think anyone seriously believes the device itself will last long enough to lose or gain even a microsecond.

Re:Assuming We're still around (1)

LarrySDonald (1172757) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036884)

'Sok. My timex syncs to Colorado. Now I just need to either get people to care or cure my OCD to the point where 1s/week isn't unacceptable.

Re:Assuming We're still around (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037178)

Long-distance low-frequency radio syncing is actually quite inaccurate, at least as far as atomic timekeeping goes. There's the simple propagation delay based on your distance from the radio source, plus the possibility of getting waves that were reflected from the ionosphere, possibly more than once, likely varying from sync to sync, and no good way to know how much additional delay that adds even if it were consistent. Not to mention the issues with synchronization itself -- once you get the correct time code you wait for the next "beat" to start counting, but there's some delay between when the beat is received and when counting starts, or there's anticipation of the beat and possible imprecision due to that anticipation.

And there's the issue of non-continous correction. While your watch indicates approximately the correct time after a sync, there's likely some jump in the notion of local time after each sync, and between syncs there's no guarantee that timekeeping is accurate at all -- if you design a clock to sync every 12 hours it can be off by almost 2 seconds/day without displaying the wrong second-accurate time, and that doesn't lead to very consistent timekeeping on intervals shorter than the sync period.

All in all, it's plenty accurate for a wrist watch, but it's not really a high-precision time or frequency source.

I'm no genius, but... (1)

N1tr0u5 (819066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036540)

I imagine that being able to measure one of the basic elements of reality, time, in a more precise manner is a great boon. Wouldn't this be akin to finding out how to measure much smaller spaces? Great!

Re:I'm no genius, but... (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036586)

I don't know.
I'll get back to you in SQRT(h bar x G / c^5) seconds.

Re:I'm no genius, but... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036872)

Is time a basic measure of reality, or only an illusion? I mean, time only looks basic from inside. The actual moments that make up a timeline may form backwards, all at once, or randomly, yet from the inside we would still perceive them as happening in a linear fashion, because there are references to the past in each present moment.

Re:I'm no genius, but... (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037094)

Is time a basic measure of reality, or only an illusion? I mean, time only looks basic from inside. The actual moments that make up a timeline may form backwards, all at once, or randomly, yet from the inside we would still perceive them as happening in a linear fashion, because there are references to the past in each present moment.

You can really drive yourself nuts trying to figure this out. Personally, I tend toward the viewpoint of some non-theistic Eastern philosophies which state that there is only really the Eternal Present or the Here and Now. Memory or "past" is like a track record of how this Now has changed. Furthermore, much human stress and misery and worry is caused by living in your head's notion of the future or the past rather than the Now.

In an attempt to deter the more naive and shortsighted interpretations of this, it is not a rejection of preparedness or planning. If you are building a house, you have to draw up plans (i.e. blueprints), so in the Here and Now you are planning a house. But while you do so, you're fully present to experience planning a house. You're not caught up in past regrets or future worries so you can actually enjoy what you're doing.

Another interesting idea I have heard is that this is like a roll of film. The entire movie is contained there, all at once, in a single package. But it's not very useful in this form. You need the element of time, of one frame of the film after another, in order to watch the movie. The movie has a beginning and an end and it has events in-between, yet the entire movie has already been decided and is present in its whole form. Our consciousness could be something like the projector that animates the movie by introducing a framerate or time element.

Re:I'm no genius, but... (1)

spun (1352) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037200)

Your film analogy falls down because, in this way of looking at things, we are in the film, not watching it. Our consciousness is part of the film, another track on the film, like a sound track. As far as I can tell, there isn't anyone watching the film. But in each frame, the consciousness track has all kinds of echoes and reflections of previous frames. Those echoes and reflections are the things that make time appear to move.

Re:I'm no genius, but... (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037236)

It's interesting that it's kind of like what the Bible always said about God.

Marketing angle (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036548)

For the domestic market they can use the marketing angle that aluminium is safer than mercury, and that it will case less pollution when you come to trade it in.

In fact, I think I'll order one now.

Re:Marketing angle (3, Funny)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036650)

For the domestic market they can use the marketing angle that aluminium is safer than mercury, and that it will case less pollution when you come to trade it in.

In fact, I think I'll order one now.

Everyone knows that aluminum is an intermediate material in terms of durability and weight reduction. Wake me up when it is replaced with carbon fiber.

People too preoccupied with their clocks! (0)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036864)

Stop the clock envy, dont be a bunch of clock-blockers dammit!

Single ion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036568)

Who wants to bet that they lose the aluminum ion before the cesium clock accumulates an error of a millionth second?

Re:Single ion? (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036648)

Now this is finally a bet worthy of http://www.longbets.org/ [longbets.org]

Not my fault! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036996)

It was YOUR aeon to watch the aluminum atom. I did it LAST aeon. It was there safe and sound when I finished!

It's about time (3, Funny)

Switchback (6988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036574)

Well this is money well spent. I mean, having to correct my clock every 100 million years was becoming just too laborious.

Plane landings? (4, Insightful)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036576)

If you need a clock that's accurate to 8.6 x 10^-19 seconds in order to land a plane, you're probably doing it wrong.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036666)

Or Doing it incredibly right. ;)

Re:Plane landings? (5, Informative)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036738)

You need that kind of precision to do it from several hundred miles away (As is what happens with GPS). The Satellites all have clocks on board that are synchronized and constantly transmit the time. A GPS receiver simply needs to listen to a few of the satellites, and compute the difference between their times to determine the location. The kicker of it is that since the satellites are moving at fast speeds (relative to us), the time of their clocks are different from "our" time. So special relativity is used to counter those relativistic effects. So basically, GPS is only as accurate as the clocks that form its backbone. That's one of the reasons why unaugmented GPS is limited in accuracy to a few meters. Improving the accuracy of the clocks (by orders of magnitude) has the potential to cut down a few meters to potentially tens of centimeters... You'd need that level of accuracy to land a plane... Planes "flare" during landing (slowing the rate of decent to nearly 0 just as the wheels touch down). Plus or minus even one meter in any direction (up, down, forward, back, side to side) could be catastrophic. So current "autoland" autopilots use radar altitude and ground based ILS (radio based navigation) to gain the necessary precision. If GPS accuracy gets good enough to where you don't need those aux systems (or need them as primary at least), complexity of autopilots would drop significantly...

Re:Plane landings? (1)

spleen_blender (949762) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036766)

Mod up. The relationship between space and time is very interesting and parent has a good explanation. GP is doing it wrong.

Re:Plane landings? (3, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037266)

But his assumption that clock error is responsible for all of the current lack of precision is wrong. Clock error is responsible for probably less than a third of the current error. Atmospherics, multipath reflections, and ephemeris errors account for the bulk of the error.

Sure, every improvement is an improvement. But these clocks are not a magic bullet that will magically grant centimeter precision.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037442)

That's why I said:

So basically, GPS is only as accurate as the clocks that form its backbone. That's one of the reasons why unaugmented GPS is limited in accuracy to a few meters. Improving the accuracy of the clocks (by orders of magnitude) has the potential to cut down a few meters to potentially tens of centimeters...

I did acknowledge that it's not the only part of the accuracy equation. However, since it (as you say) accounts for somewhere "less than" 33% of the error, it's indeed blocking the progression to sub-meter resolution. Currently, GPS is limited to around 3 meters or so (IIRC). So 33% of that 3 meter "error" would be 1 meter... So that implies, that unless we improve the accuracy of the clocks, sub-meter accuracy would be impossible (using unaugmented systems). Installing these clocks on the GPS satellites won't in itself increase the accuracy to 10cm, but it would make it technically possible (which it would not be without them)...

Re:Plane landings? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037464)

Correct. Until aluminum ion clocks can compensate for issues in the ionosphere, radar altimeters, WAAS/LAAS, and ILS are still going to be in style.

Re:Plane landings? (1, Redundant)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036842)

Um no. You can do guidance without a GPS reference that is pretty darn accurate. In fact, using the various marker transmitters around an airport you can easily detect if you are lined up and on the glide path.

I remember my IFR training, there is a whole lot of other info for landing an airplane that you have outside a GPS.

Re:Plane landings? (5, Informative)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037018)

Correct, which is why I said in my post that ILS and radar altitude are needed at the present time. Radar altitude systems are prohibitively expensive and big (pretty much only usable on commercial airliners and in military applications). ILS is good for approach, but you can't land off it. It'll get you down to 50 feet AGL (or less in certain areas), but it won't get you though the flare. That's because the glideslope portion of the ILS signal is set a 3 degrees. So it can only tell you your relation to the 3* slope, not distance above the ground (which is what's really needed when you're over the threashold). ILS gets you aligned with the runway, and onto the proper approach path. It's an approach system, not a landing system (and was never designed as such)... For an ILS system without a radar altimiter, the pilot always must handle the actual landing. (hence the classes of autopilot, and existence of a decision height -- The height which you need to either be able to proceed visually, or abort the approach)... That's why autoland based on GPS is such an interesting thing. It would enable cheaper autoland systems which are a lot smaller than present systems (Basically business jets and light aircraft could potentially be equipped) and don't depend on airport infrastructure. So you could theoretically autoland on a small General Aviation airport...

I do have my Private Pilots license with Instrument rating, but I also love physics...

Re:Plane landings? (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037120)

But then you would have to have the height above sea level (or some other reference) of a lot of spots on the runway for every runway that you may try to land on with the same accuracy. Could be done, but seems like a lot of trouble for something that can be accomplished easier by other means.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037300)

I would think the primary issue with using civilian GPS for an application like this is that it is a degradable, government-controlled signal. A warning of a terrorist attack could suddenly lead to the signal turning to degraded mode, and then a plane in process of landing might think it's several meters away from where it actually is. That could lead to something bad happening I imagine.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037492)

The US can selectively degrade GPS by geographic region. If they degrade it intentionally over US soil because of an attack, I'm far more concerned over other issues than GPS being degraded.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037542)

...and continuing this line of thought, the "flying cars" we hear about from time to time could use such an auto-land feature. Making the technology cheaper is part of what has to happen for that technology to "take off".

Re:Plane landings? (2, Informative)

Burdell (228580) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036870)

The relativistic speed means their clocks run slower than clocks sitting still on Earth, according to special relativity. Another source of GPS time difference is that they are farther away from the center of Earth's gravity than we are, so according to general relativity, their clocks run faster than clocks on Earth. Both factors have to be taken into account.

Re:Plane landings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036922)

Since the aluminum ion clock uses ultra violet frequencies to measure time, what happens when the I have this clock on my spaceship traveling at light speed? Does the time drift due to the red/blue shift of the ultra violet rays in my uber clock shift a) forward to say I'm faster than light, b) slow down to the point to tell me that time is standing still or going into the past?

Re:Plane landings? (1, Informative)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037216)

There's a simple answer. The speed of light (in a vacuum) is the absolute speed limit. The red and blue shifts you are talking about are when an object with mass goes faster through a specific medium than light can. But the key point there is that it's through a specific medium. Even if you were inside of a space ship that was going through a dense cloud faster than light could go through it, you'd still be going far less than C. Plus, the light that's measured here is presumably passing through a vacuum inside of the clock... That's without taking relativity into account. Once you add special relativity, the effect that time slows as you approach C causes everything to work itself out. Note that there's no absolute clock. There is no such thing as absolute time. There's only time relative to a reference frame. So while the clock on a space ship going 0.5*C relative to earth will go significantly slower than one on earth, it'll still be just as accurate within that reference frame (So two ships with the exact same velocity (vector) which have these clocks will be as accurate as they would be if sitting on earth).

Even if time did stand still or go backwards, you wouldn't be able to tell since our perception is dependent on time going forwards. Since time must be constant in any non-accelerated reference frame (gravity asside), if a clock was stopped by the slowing of time, so would your heart, and cells, and brain, and electrical impulses, etc...

I would recommend a pair of books for you written by Richard Feynman. Six easy pieces [amazon.com] and Six Not so easy pieces [amazon.com] ... They provide a good "foundation" if you've never had a college level calculus based physics series before...

Re:Plane landings? (3, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037566)

Red and blue shift are not caused by moving faster than the speed of light in the local medium (though Cherenkov radiation is), but rather by motion of the emitting object relative to the observer. (Not to mention cosmological and gravitational shifts.)

Re:Plane landings? (1)

Dynedain (141758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037194)

Funny, this car [slashdot.org] is already accurate to 2cm using GPS.

1m in plane landings may be catastrophic, but 2cm certainly is not. And GPS can pinpoint your location, but gives you no information on up-to-date ground conditions. For this, local sensing ability (like radar) will always be necessary.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

ElSupreme (1217088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037272)

Yeah but you get lots of error in transmission losses, and reflections. The clocks are accurate enough, the actual positions of the satelites, and the reflections, and absortions of the signals are what gives you error.

Re:Plane landings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037376)

The kicker of it is that since the satellites are moving at fast speeds

Or for those of us who don't work in the Department of Redundancy Department, "the satellites are moving fast".

Re:Plane landings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036794)

TFS said something about autonomous plane landing with GPS (not getting into the specifics of why that would be needed, but let's just assume that the communication between the pilot and the control tower is broken or something, and the visibility is too low to allow ground crew to signal the landing strip to the pilot without endangering their lives).

The GPS has to have very accurate time in order for the coordinates returned by triangulation to be accurate. Drift is very critical here. You don't want a GPS satellite drifting the triangulation so much that the pilot lands on a city.

Disclaimer: I am not an aviator, and I do not know the complete specifics of GPS triangulation when even the altitude is an unknown factor. I do know that it makes triangulation less precise than on land, where it's precise to the dozen of meters in most circumstances.

Re:Plane landings? (1)

Eternauta3k (680157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037034)

I, for one, want my planes landed to a quarter of a nanometer [google.com.ar]

Aww shoot, he is on H1B (0, Troll)

anand78 (832850) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036588)

"NIST postdoctoral researcher James Chin-wen Chou" How come no one is bitching about American jobs and H1B.

Re:Aww shoot, he is on H1B (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036948)

Maybe he is an American? Just because his last name is from a different ethnicity, doesn't necessarily mean he is not from the US.

Sensitivity (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036600)

Forget the 3.7 billion year thing. What's important is this thing's accurate to one part in 10^17. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it'll probably run faster or slower depending on how close you stand to the thing.

On toppa that, it never needs winding.

Re:Sensitivity (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037370)

I was thinking the same. Housing the device so it would be unnafected by gravitational anomalies would be quite challenging...

Re:Sensitivity (1)

orient (535927) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037462)

The more accurate we measure the time, the more accurate we measure the speed. According to Heisenberg, this leads to less accurate info on position. So a perfect clock would create a meltdown around it, wouldn't it?

Don't we already have this? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036614)

Other possible applications may include ultra-precise autonomous navigation, such as landing planes by GPS.'

IIRC, not only do we already have this capability, but they had to design in some wiggle room because the precision touchdowns were hammering runways on the same spot until they started to break.

feedback loop? (1)

antimatt (782015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036630)

The extreme precision offered by optical clocks is already providing record measurements of possible changes in the fundamental "constants" of nature ...

Hang on. Those bits of matter we're using to determine potential changes to physical constants are governed by physical constants. If every 1-meter rod in the world suddenly became a 1.0001-meter rod while we weren't looking, how would we know?

Re:feedback loop? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036856)

It shouldn't shock you to learn that the fundamental constants that influence the behavior that drives the clock are different from the fundamental constants whose change they're interested in measuring.

Re:feedback loop? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037020)

Think one step further: would it matter? No, because length is already relative. As long as all meter-rods change for all observers, in all frames, it would not make any difference. For all we now they change five times per minute, there is no way to know.

Real atomic wristwatch (1)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036642)

If you just wanted an atomic wristwatch here is the first real atomic wristwatch. Not those fakes which use radio reception

http://www.leapsecond.com/pages/atomic-bill/ [leapsecond.com]

Useful for deep-space navigation? (1)

jpedlow (1154099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036644)

Would this be useful for things like XNAV? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XNAV [wikipedia.org]

I could forsee it being handy for things like deep-space navigation. And THAT would be extremely interesting!

For making ultra precise time and distance calculations? I guess when you're talking several thousand AU or even lightyears, if we can get a clock to such precision, then we would be able to hopefully narrow down accuracy of such systems to say....a few meters in a lightyear? (just as an example, probably more like a few meters in an AU, but I havent done the math)

Ofcourse, I'm not well versed in such things, I'm sure someone with more knowledge than me about this could readily correct me. :)

Re:Useful for deep-space navigation? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037504)

It's be pretty cool if this was our first step (and we didn't know it) towards deep-space navigational systems for interstellar travel.

3.7 billion years from now ... (4, Funny)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036670)

neither gain nor lose one second in about 3.7 billion years

Location: 3.7 billion years from now, early December, Planet Earth

Doomsayer: "The ancient "Scientific Community" civilization was so certain a great cataclysm would come in the following months based on their long-lost primitive yet poweful and mythical calculations that they even deemed unnecessary to keep track of time correctly starting this age! The end is near my friends! A new age will come!"

Re:3.7 billion years from now ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036836)

These people you speak of, they don't happen to be related to Mayans do they?
3.7Bil - the new 2012.

Re:3.7 billion years from now ... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036902)

And, wouldn't you know it, the clock was off by 1.00037 seconds. What a crappy clock!

Re:3.7 billion years from now ... (1)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036992)

The end is near my friends! A new age will come!"

Well, when the atomic _alarm_ clock goes off, hitting the snooze button will not be an option.

It's always (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036688)

5 O'clock somewhere

Oblig. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036726)

...possible changes in the fundamental "constants" of nature, a line of inquiry that has important implications for cosmology and tests of the laws of physics...

"Ye canna change the laws of physics, Cap'n"

I predict (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036752)

I predict another flood of reference standards to hit e-Bay soon. I've been waiting to find a good (affordable) cesium / rubidium standard for a while now. :P

Re:I predict (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037146)

You're that guy from Leap Second [leapsecond.com] , aren't you? ;-)

Setting it? (1)

OfficialReverendStev (988479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036764)

Ok really curious here: If this new clock is twice as precise as the previous clock... how do they know they've set its time right?

Re:Setting it? (1)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036914)

There is no real interest in measuring absolute time here. What these clocks really are is ultra-stable oscillators and by (carefully) counting their oscillations, they can be used to measure intervals.

Re:Setting it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037398)

This gobblegooky hogwash is simply a canard to hide the fact that NOBODY knows whether our clocks are right! Imagine if, ten thousand years ago, the first clock was set to the wrong time? We could all have our clocks wrong, and this so-called "atom" won't make an iota of difference!

Re:Setting it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31037324)

They don't, and they don't care.

There is no absolute time. You can only measure an interval between two points in time. So they switch on this new expensive egg-timer and start counting from that point in time.

Nothing could go wrong, right? (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036768)

A single atom they say? Que random decay in 4 3 2 1 ...

Re:Nothing could go wrong, right? (1)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036898)

A single atom they say? Que random decay in 4 3 2 1 ...

But just think--that will give us a new excuse:

"Sorry I'm late for work, boss--the aluminum atom in my alarm clock decayed..."

Re:Nothing could go wrong, right? (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037432)

A single atom, that seems like a terrible idea, they'd have to have at least 4 clocks like that running simultaneously so they can replace the atoms in them if any one fails...

Well... (1)

Phizzle (1109923) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036812)

... its about time!

Drop some science on me (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036834)

How do you measure how precise a clock is? How do you go about defining the reference for time?

Re:Drop some science on me (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037544)

Compare it to a sundial.

I Love You! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31036846)

Your love is what keeps me going.
My heart beating, my blood flowing.
The precious words I yearn to hear.
Losing you is the only thing I fear.
I have faith god will do us right.
We will not give up with out a fight.
Together we can conquer it all.
Just keep your head up and stand tall.
So many others care so deeply for you.
Don't get discouraged, you know what to do.
Pray to God and keep love inside.
You can't lose your almighty pride.
Because I love you with all of me.
With out you I just can't be.
You're in my heart forever, were never apart.
Our souls were latched from the start.

Can someone explain how... (1)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31036886)

accuracy to 1 second in 100 million years is not adequate for landing a plane via GPS?

Good Science and All, but... (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037066)

Saying you're keeping precise time with an aluminum clock just doesn't sound as cool as saying you're using a cesium fountain clock. The proper Mad Science(tm) approach should involve things like ytterbium lasers and liquid helium, not just aluminum.

Thank goodness... (1)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037140)

I can sleep better knowing that my atomic clock will only lose 1 second in 3.7 billion years instead of 2. My life has been forever changed.

Ultra precise autonomous navigation (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037298)

Other possible applications may include ultra-precise autonomous navigation, such as landing planes by GPS.'

As soon as they fix the unintended acceleration and unresponsive braking in earth bound vehicles, they will take the next step, is landing the plane by GPS.

Planes can already land with GPS ... (1)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037378)

the author needs a lil update on the capabilities of military-grade GPS :
"Other possible applications may include ultra-precise autonomous navigation, such as landing planes by GPS." omits one fact: the present accuracy of mil GPS is +/- 1cm
easily within the range to accomodate landing on a deck ..

Too bad it will only be used for another 461 days (1)

maddogmiller (319644) | more than 4 years ago | (#31037482)

When Christ comes back, time will cease. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

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