Monday, September 11, 2006

When Time Is Important, Go Atomic . . .

Seems that atomic clocks are getting more precise.

Atomic Clocks Are Getting More Precise.

Some physicists are creating a revolution in the arcane world of ultra-precise clocks. And among them is a researcher who has trouble getting anywhere on time. "I do tend to be a little bit late," said Jim Bergquist, 58. "Quite a bit late."

Of course, the time he focuses on professionally is far removed from the world of dinner dates and planes to catch. Bergquist, who is with the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., works with extremely accurate devices that rely on the behavior of atoms to measure time. In fact, he is working on what could be the world's most accurate such timepiece.

In Bergquist's world, a 10-billionth of a second is just too long a time between ticks of a clock. And it really makes a difference that a clock in mile-high Denver ticks faster than another at sea level. (Time itself passes more quickly when gravity is reduced.)

In his line of work, the focus isn't on producing the highly accurate clocks that report the official time of the world. It's on producing the even-more-precise devices that are used to judge the accuracy of those clocks.

Such devices are also used to sharpen interplanetary navigation. Ultimately, they should also help reveal fundamental secrets of the universe, and perhaps help in sending secure information over the Internet.

That was the easy part of the article, the fun stuff is in the details. Read the rest here.

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