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Government Funded Atomic Clock On a Chip

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the let's-get-small dept.

Communications 134

An anonymous reader writes "Today most applications that require accurate atomic clock readings — from sorting separately routed telecommunications packets to timing simultaneous demolition charges — usually refer to signals from global positioning systems (GPS). For applications where GPS is unavailable, such as indoors, underground, undersea or on the battlefield where electronic jamming is present, large, heavy, power hungry hardware atomic clocks were needed. Now an atomic clock-on-a-chip is available that is the result of 10 years of government-funded research and development. The chip is not cheap — $1,500 — but it costs less than conventional atomic clocks and the price is sure to go down as manufacturing gears up to meet demand from military applications."

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Thanks but no thanks! (-1, Troll)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097010)


We have radiation oozing in Japan, radiation still in Nevada at the nuclear test sites, and radiation bombarding us from our smoke detectors. Now they want radioactive clocks in our chips?! When will this madness stop?

Cancer, tumors, subluxations, autism... Thank you for your radiation, Madam Curry!

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097064)

Psst... don't look now, but there is radioactive material in your smoke alarm.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097138)

He mentioned that, but he's trolling anyways - look at his sig.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097242)

I didn't even notice that he mentioned smoke detectors. And, nah, I'm pretty sure he's legitimately nuts.

Failed humor not troll ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097906)

Trolling? I'd say it was a failed attempt at humor. Now whether the writer or the audience failed I can't say ... on second thought, it is the author's failure if the audience does not get it. "Thank you for your radiation, Madam Curry!" was perhaps too subtle. :-)

Re:Failed humor not troll ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097952)

Read his post history and profile.
Quack Chiropractor (redundant?)

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097156)

> ...there is radioactive material in your smoke alarm.

But none in this clock.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097264)

I would have guessed as much.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097276)

I've managed to block the radiation from beaming down into my head. Is there anything tin foil can't do?

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (3, Funny)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097348)

This orange represents your head. This tinfoil represents... well, tinfoil. This microwave represents... well, just watch.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (2)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097126)

From TFA:

The secret to the new atomic clock on a chip is a solid-state laser illuminating a tiny container holding normal non-radioactive cesium vapor

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (2)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097144)

But it's ATOMIC!

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097542)

That just means we can't interrupt it.

Ever.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097428)

atomic == NUCLEAR == WILL GIVE LIMITLESS ENERGY NOOOOOOO!!!!! Shouldnt happen == NOOOOOOOO NUCLEAR

just to avoid the caps filter
Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.
Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.
Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097446)

Also from TFA:

The laser interrogates the cesium gas, causing its atoms to vibrate at a precise frequency that can be sensed and used to keep the clock accurate within a millionth of a second per day.

So the laser simply asks the cesium what time it is.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (3, Funny)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097776)

So the laser simply asks the cesium what time it is.

...millions of times per second. Sort of like the world's most annoying child:

"What time is it? Are we there yet? What time is it?"

Laser implies interrogation ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097948)

So the laser simply asks the cesium what time it is.

No, I'd say that when someone is pointing a laser at you then you are being interrogated. :-)

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100420)

Anything that is ATOMIC is likely to explode and kill us all, according to all the news reports. If these become cheap, we are going to be seeing cities blowing up on a daily basis! They had to get rid of the Nuclear part of MRI machines to avoid this same situation.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097248)

pssst.. You naturally produce 4000 radioactive particles per second.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097756)

More when you eat beans.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (4, Informative)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097320)

Umm, not all smoke detectors are of the electrostatic variety. There are types that use an IR laser to check for particulates and smoke based on occlusion.

Also, for some fun facts, see The XKCD Radiation Dosage Chart [xkcd.com] ! If you worry about smoke detectors, you'll be surprised at how much radiation you get from living in a brick house...

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097696)

IR laser-based smoke detectors work really well in combination with the kind that detect combustion, but they both trigger based on different signals, and it's not uncommon for one to go off and the other to not go off. So you really can't get by with just the IR-based detectors, unfortunately. But as you say, the exposure is quite low. You're more likely to die of a fire than a cancer caused by the radioactive material encapsulated in a smoke detector.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

lucifuge31337 (529072) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100098)

So you really can't get by with just the IR-based detectors, unfortunately.

Quick! Somebody tell the International Code Council and the 95% of business and home owners that have had smokes installed in the last 10 years!

Where are you getting this idea from? The standard coverage accepted smoke is a photoelectric and has been for quite some time.

Why, yes, I am a part time code enforcement official who's jurisdiction just happens to be fire.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (4, Informative)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097432)

(1) most atomic clocks don't use anything radioactive, they use vibrations of cesium atoms. Given how up tight you are, something that vibrates might be useful to you.
(2) don't eat bananas.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (2)

longacre (1090157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097434)

"The secret to the new atomic clock on a chip is a solid-state laser illuminating a tiny container holding normal non-radioactive cesium vapor."

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (2)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097452)

Atomic == Nuclear

Be afraid of it !!

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098840)

Atomic == Nuclear

Be afraid of it !!

Also, neither of those things necessarily means "radioactive".


BUT THEY'RE ALL TRYING TO KILL YOU WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099794)

I wonder what would happen if you overclocked it? :)

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097522)

Your post is emitting more radiation than those chips will.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097568)

Yeah, and I put my geiger counter in the microwave to make sure it wasn't bugged, lo and behold it went wild with radiation warnings. I think they are storing old nuclear waste in new microwaves!

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

rarel (697734) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097592)

I thought she was Polish, not Indian... *confused*

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100468)

Is she a non-wax based polish? The wax based ones always seem to leave a build-up that's hard to remove.

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097614)

lol

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097682)

Thank you for your radiation, Madam Curry!

Does this mean I should stop eating Thai and Indian food?

Re:Thanks but no thanks! (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097742)

Don't go outside. "They" have made the atmosphere full of radioactive particles.

"They" being all those damn stars. Other parts of the cosmos are in on the conspiracy too! They are out to get us.

Old news (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097114)

The original press release [symmetricom.com] is from January 18th 2011. Just sayin'. Of course this is a very nifty device and all that.

OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097140)

For those of us who need accurate clocks and don't have $1500 to spend, highly stable temp controlled oscillator chips are cheap and common right now. (Search eBay for OXCO)

For example, this one [ebay.com] (which I'm using) is accurate in the PPB range:

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (2)

imlepid (214300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097370)

Yes, you can use OCXOs, but they aren't technically atomic clocks. Further, an OCXO (like the one you showed) requires 1.5W, which doesn't sound like much, but the unit linked to above needs only 100mW. A true atomic clock (a rubidium oscillator [ebay.com] , for example) is significantly larger than this unit and also draws much more power (11W, steady state).

All things told, though, a OCXO or rubidium frequency standard from eBay should be good enough for most users.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097400)

Well, that claims 20 ppb, so that's ~ 1 part in 10^8. If the article mentioned the stability of this chip, I missed it, but other cesium atomic clocks are stable to 1 part in 10^14. So they're literally orders of magnitude more precise.

But if you 10^8 is good enough, then $20 sounds like a great deal!

I'm figuring they wanted to develop this chip for applications where currently caesium or other atomic clocks are required, though.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (2)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097458)

The chip from the article is ~100x more accurate and consumes 1/10th the power and is similar size of smaller for ~75x the price.

Pretty big leap if you ask me, and I know lots of people that will be looking to utilize these. I expect in the near future that the pricing will drop significantly, since that pricing was just for the initial batch run.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097626)

I know lots of people that will be looking to utilize these.

For what?

I don't know of much that needs timing precision better than a few ppb. If it does, it probably needs a redesign. Because even with a few ppb, the chances the clock is simply set wrong will be higher than the chance the drift will take it out of the valid range, and being robust enough to handle either case is probably worth the $1500.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097652)

I guess that most people requiring these clocks are not really interesting in having a correct absolute time, but rather a very low drift to allow measuring intervals at really high precision.

And if absolute time matters, you can always calibrate it with another atomic clock, or GPS signal.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097734)

They're really handy for detecting time dilation caused by variations in the gravitational field. It wouldn't surprise me if, when the price comes down, people start using them to survey construction sites for geological stability. Try doing that with some wimpy OXCO that's only accurate to a few parts per billion.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097840)

They're going to need a thermometer that goes to parts per trillion, then, too, because the Earth reacts to the heat of the sun in a way that looks just like low-level geological instability.

As for time dilation of any kind, there are maybe five people (all of them Doctors of some sort) who care in anything other than a merit-badge sort of way.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (4, Funny)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098012)

As for time dilation of any kind, there are maybe five people (all of them Doctors of some sort) who care in anything other than a merit-badge sort of way.

Who's one of them?

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098202)

Who's one of them?

Yes, that's right, Dr. Who.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098314)

The people who design GPS satellites for a start. And I imagine other satellites requiring precise timing information out beyond the Earth's gravitational field.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098528)

They should just pull that info out of the Vortex. I take no responsibility for unforeseen events, such as future satellites showing up violently on your doorstep. :)

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098652)

Also, the key to my post is in the intonation.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098760)

Yes, he is.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36099746)

Matt Smith, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy. That's five - I can give you six more.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Twisted64 (837490) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100322)

As for time dilation of any kind, there are maybe five people (all of them Doctors of some sort) who care in anything other than a merit-badge sort of way.

Who's one of them?

Who's all of them!

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36100372)

BZZZZZZZZZZZZT!

Thank you for playing!

You're wrong, though.

Time Dilation must be accounted for in GPS systems! If you use GPS, you're using systems that need to account for time dilation. Here's an explanation

Because of relativistic effects, clocks on-board each GPS satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45-7=38).

This sounds small, but the high-precision required of the GPS system requires nanosecond accuracy, and 38 microseconds is 38,000 nanoseconds. If these effects were not properly taken into account, a navigational fix based on the GPS constellation would be false after only 2 minutes, and errors in global positions would continue to accumulate at a rate of about 10 kilometers each day! The whole system would be utterly worthless for navigation in a very short time. This kind of accumulated error is akin to measuring my location while standing on my front porch in Columbus, Ohio one day, and then making the same measurement a week later and having my GPS receiver tell me that my porch and I are currently about 5000 meters in the air somewhere over Detroit.

The engineers who designed the GPS system included these relativistic effects when they designed and deployed the system. For example, to counteract the General Relativistic effect once on orbit, they slowed down the ticking frequency of the atomic clocks before they were launched so that once they were in their proper orbit stations their clocks would appear to tick at the correct rate as compared to the reference atomic clocks at the GPS ground stations. Further, each GPS receiver has built into it a microcomputer that (among other things) performs the necessary relativistic calculations when determining the user's location.

Re:OXCOs are cheap and common right now (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097880)

They're really handy for detecting time dilation caused by variations in the gravitational field....

And the dilation caused by motion. Note that one of the organizations developing this is Draper Laboratories - home of the world's best inertial navigation systems. This would be a crucial component for a new compact, low cost (as military equipment goes) ultra-accurate inertial guidance system for weapons that is NOT dependent on GPS. Ever heard of GPS jammers?

Waiting for the trolls (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097160)

Expect the "nigger socialists wasting teh taxes pirate^Wprivate is teh better" trolls in 3...2...1

Re:Waiting for the trolls (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097588)

CmdrTaco, can we please add a feature that automatically blocks any post with that word in it? There is absolutely no useful context for that word in 2011.

Re:Waiting for the trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098936)

01101110 01101001 01100111 01100111 01100101 01110010

Decode the binary to win the prize...

(yes, there is a point to my post; the magic "feature that automatically blocks any post with that word in it" is called your amazing brain... if you can't deal with a sequence of ASCII, you have problems.)

Re:Waiting for the trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36100184)

I can see your point that basically all, if not all posts containing the word are trolls / spam, but I can't imagine the trolls / spammers would take more than 27 seconds to ommit/replace/obscuvate it were it blocked, unless done very subtley.

frequency hopping and better navigation. (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097198)

I can think of two to uses off the top of my head. The first is for really fast frequency hopping radios. The rate at which they can hop from one to the next has got to be in some measure limited to how accurate the clock they use is.
And the next one would be improved navigation. You could use these with ground stations and provide extremely accurate navigation and you could use more powerful transmitters so they would be harder to jam.
Now if they could uses these to put a time signature on every radio, tv, and cell tower You could improve navigation in areas where GPS doesn't work so well. Like in buildings. cites with lots of tall buildings, or areas with lots of tree cover.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097570)

i wonder (and I am NOT saying anything educated but I wonder) if you could simplify the GPS signal (which currently has to send time, and that is used to get distance) if you had an accurate clock in the receiver. If you could simplify the signal, could you make GPS more accurate or have much better reach in terms of reception?

i'm sure there are tons of uses for a good atomic clock, but this leapt to mind. If someone can say why i'm wrong, it would teach me much :)

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (3, Informative)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097622)

Having a local known good time would reduce the GPS error by itself. It would also allow 3D position to be determined with 3 visible satellites instead of 4.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097974)

That makes sense! I appreciate slashdot for these little things. I have read about GPS, but didn't derive these two characteristics. I remember something about quantum entanglement one day allowing for a more sensitive read of when the signal arrived, I have read about WAAS.. and when the prices of atomic clock chips come down I hope they are used in just this way.

//Satnav has always fascinated me. I use a Miomap-Digiwalker flashed with a WinCE shell featuring IGO8 (best nav soft on standalone GPS's in my opinion) and am always looking for even better solutions. I don't want to rely on 3G for maps as I've used them on roadtrips far from cell towers, so that rules out many newer devices.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (3, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098310)

Yup. One of the barriers to postprocessing is local clock inaccuracy - so having a local atomic clock would be great for survey-grade GPS units.

And as you stated - if receiver clock offset is 0, then you don't need to solve for it, and can get 3D position with 3 sats instead of 4. The actual effect of an inaccurate clock on the error is harder to determine - I have a feeling that with a reasonable quality local crystal oscillator (good enough not to cause cycle slips in the measured carrier phase, etc.) it's insignificant compared to ionospheric error and RF noise in the pseudoranges, along with multipath. The new L2C civilian signal will help some of these issues.

A highly accurate local clock might also make dead reckoning in a blockage situation (urban canyons, tunnels, etc) and signal reacquisition after blockage goes away faster.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099284)

If I understand the math right, it'd also let you almost determine 2D position with two rather than three, which means faster locks. I say almost, because the equasions would actually provide two solutions - but you can handle that in software, by using the last-known-good measurement to determine which of those two is correct.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

woolpert (1442969) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099834)

Except this isn't a problem that needs solved.

Kinematic GPS solves position using the carrier instead of the (time) code. Since the carrier length is ~19cm you're instantly much tighter than is possible solving with the time code.

And, as others above me have said, (regardless if you're carrier or code locked) a 3D solution needs four birds visible because of the receiver's inaccurate clock. At best an atomic clock on the receiver means one less variable to solve for = one less bird needed. Today when we have a full constellation that is just about never a problem unless you're in absolutely horrible terrain with very high horizons, and in that situation your PDOP is going to be so bad as to render moot any positional accuracy gains seen by better clocking.

Not to mention the Russian GLONASS birds up there, and Europe's if they ever get their act together, and the L2C frequency... point is there are lots of inexpensive ways to increase accuracy which don't rely on an expensive clock chip.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097706)

At some point "really fast frequency hopping" becomes its own modulation trope. I.e., you aren't using the frequencies you're hopping on as the carrier, you're using the pattern of your hopping. So maybe. And I call dibs on the prior art if frequency-hopping-modulation works. We just can't call it FHM or nobody will get any work done when googling for the literature.

DGPS takes the slop out of GPSS, and I'm not sure if one of these chips could possibly improve on it, though maybe, by providing a base reference.

I'm not sure how having a transmitter on a tower is going to help when you can't read a GPS satellite. If you're among buildings, you might as well just use a map.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098386)

GPS uses a signal that has poor penetration and is also very weak. TV, Radio, and Cell signals are lower frequency and penetrate buildings better.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36100452)

At some point "really fast frequency hopping" becomes its own modulation trope. I.e., you aren't using the frequencies you're hopping on as the carrier, you're using the pattern of your hopping. So maybe. And I call dibs on the prior art if frequency-hopping-modulation works..

I've got an idea for what to call it: CDMA

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097766)

Your message raises one philosophical question though: what was first, your message or your signature ?

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097928)

Not being very familiar with relativity and all that, at what precision and time frame might relativistic effects cause this to become unsynchronized?

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098074)

Not being very familiar with relativity and all that, at what precision and time frame might relativistic effects cause this to become unsynchronized?

Hmm, rough estimate says 10E-14 scale error will be detectable at >150 km/hour.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098152)

unsynchronized in relativity to what? GPS sats are moving pretty fast and don't get unsynced.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (2)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098680)

The also do have a relativity correction build in. Something of the order of micro seconds per week IIRC.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098234)

As long as you know your speed, it's not a problem to compensate for relativistic effects. GPS systems must already do that anyway.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098816)

If the accuracy stated in the article, one microsecond error per day is something to compare with, similar drift requires you to move roughly 5.2 kilometers per... second. So, not awfully big risk in practice. Sure, much smaller speeds can be observed through sufficient measurements, but analysing this all and understanding real-world behavior of different time sources have gets pretty complicated for a layperson pretty quickly.

Re:frequency hopping and better navigation. (0)

lip_spork (939597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099592)

Well here's another...

Navigators on the open ocean will be able to accurately determine their longitude by syncing a clock with Big Ben back in London. Latitude can be known with a good astrolabe, but longitude has always been a problem.

Can I Harvest the U-235 In The Chip (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097208)

for sale to Israel [youtube.com] ?

Yours In Islamabad,
Kilgore Trout

Re:Can I Harvest the U-235 In The Chip (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097392)

Since there's no U-235 in it, you certainly may do so. Just like you can harvest the Unicorns in the chip and send them to meat processing plants [thinkgeek.com] . (which otherwise would be illegal due to the Unicorn horn trade that's been depleting the stocks of wild Unicorns)

There goes the neighborhood.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097278)

Sounds like all of our children will be asking what they mean in "old" movies when they say "Synchronize watches!"

Re:There goes the neighborhood.... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097538)

WTF is a 'watch', gramps?

Government-Funded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097304)

Government Funded Atomic Clock On a Chip

Is a hyphen too much to ask for? The headline states that in the past the government funded an atomic clock on a chip. It should read "Government-Funded" i.e. funded by the government.

Re:Government-Funded (2)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097524)

Only if the entire headline is simply a noun phrase: an atomic clock (on a chip) that is government-funded.

If, on the other hand, the headline is saying that the government funded the development of an atomic clock (on a chip), then the lack of hyphen is acceptable.

Both are acceptable, since in order to produce a government-funded clock, at some point, the government must have funded the clock.

Cheap once mass produced (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097336)

"The chip is not cheap--$1500--but it costs less than conventional atomic clocks and the price is sure to go down as manufacturing gears up to meet demand from military applications start using it."

For the price to come down we'll have to wait for the Chinese to finish tooling their new plant.

Re:Cheap once mass produced (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097744)

How long do we have to wait?

Please express your answer to 15 significant figures.

NIST announced a smaller version in 2004 (3, Informative)

borbetomagus (852370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097436)

No! not Symmetricon! (3, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097464)

Symmetricon has been buying up all the other precision clock makers, and is now a monopoly. They can and do charge whatever they like for such products.

Re:No! not Symmetricon! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097598)

Symmetricon has been buying up all the other precision clock makers, and is now a monopoly. They can and do charge whatever they like for such products.

Goddamnit. Do you have to go do this? Here we have an interesting, techy article and you go rain on everybody's parade by trotting out some little factoid that either makes the tech responsible for the imminent demise of the planet or at the very least points out some totally unsavory bit about the company that manufacturers it. Can't you just leave it at Apple, Microsoft and Google?

Give us a break for just a bit, will you?

Such progress! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36097580)

- Takes a lickin' and keeps on clickin' (for those with geiger counters)
- Indiglo feature added at no cost
- First watch to be seen on restricted-exports list
- #1 excuse for tardiness changes from "My watch was slow" to "I've got radiation sickness"
- Watch is very compact, but power source is prohibitively large (and requires ~20 years to permit)

(yes, I realize the thing isn't actually radioactive)

Has to be said... (1)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097596)

It's an ATOM processor.

Cheaper than a Chronograph (1)

theJML (911853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097604)

Seriously, this is much cheaper than some of the Wrist borne Chronographs... Tag Heuer look out!

Seriously though, I mean, sure you'll need a few more electronics and such to get it to show time, but over all, it wouldn't be a stretch to have a fully functional wall clock run off of atomic precision. Even better yet, it should have a SoC that'll hook it to your wifi network and advertise the time to anything in the area, and be accessible as part of the ntp pool.I know entire data centers that would be happy with something like that as a 1/2 U server, and I'm guessing it won't add much over and above this price, though someone will charge a premium for it anyway.

Re: Relate article, does NOT obsolete GPS (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36097674)

The title of the other submission "Submission: Atomic Clock-on-a-Chip Obsoletes GPS" is inaccurate. This does not obsolete GPS at all. It makes GPS unnecessary as a precision time source in some applications, but GPS = Global Positioning System, and this doesn't provide any positioning information, it's just highly accurate and stable time source. GPS also provides that, but it provides that from multiple satellites with well defined locations. Using the time differences from 3 or more GPS satellites, you can calculate a position on the earth. So, this is an alternative to GPS for systems that only need a highly accurate and stable time source, but not for those that need the positioning information you can get from GPS.

That it's small, non-radioactive, relatively inexpensive (for an atomic clock), and relatively low power offers many new possible uses. However, it's still far more expensive than a GPS receiver, so it won't replace GPS (or WWV/WWVB) as a time source for mainstream purposes until the cost comes down by at least a factor of 100, more likely it'll have to come down by a factor of 500 ($3) before it sees any mass adoption.

Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098032)

We have an number of network connectivity points at various telco hotels around the world, and in each we run an ntp server for various reasons. We had initially planned to use GPS clocks, but when you're in someone elses building, getting roof access is difficult/impossible. that leaves us Dependant on external providers for time, when we would much prefer to have a source for ourselves.

It would be great to be able to buy a 1u device with an atomic clock in it for each of our presences - I can't find any commercial products built around this yet, but I'll be keeping an eye out.

Re:Interesting (1)

rzoss (668174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099572)

(I work @ Symmetricom) 1u time source? They've got that in a few configs. Call Symmetricom's sales for info. The CSAC is about 1"x1"x.5" and optimized for more mobile applications. You probably want a Rubidium clock of some flavor.

Gubermint no!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36098542)

Why is the Gubermint doing this?!?!?! Let the market decide!!!!!

Good news for TOF (1)

werepants (1912634) | more than 3 years ago | (#36098818)

I imagine an uber-accurate clock like this could have big implications for proximity sensors that rely on time-of-flight (sonar, some lasers) and also for local, non-GPS positioning systems.

Re:Good news for TOF (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36099362)

Good for measuring distance - there will be applications in surveying, building stress monitoring, geological measurements. Sonar doesn't go fast enough to benefit from the increased precision (Not even in water), but with this you could more easily check the placement of equipment on large construction sites via laser measurement.

How is this special? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36099640)

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-09/oonr-oon090203.php

Atomic clock that fits in your hand, but not quite a chip, from 2003. How is this a giant leap ahead?

Yeah, but can it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36099856)

Imagine a Beowolf cluster of these clocks!

TV (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#36100558)

Remember all those old TV shows where a group of people got together and sychronized their watches?

Ok, set your watch .... now! ... Hold it, Jimmy is 3 picoseconds fast! We have to do it again!

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