Time is already trippy as fuck. Like, what makes a second a second. I get years, sort of, and I do understand days, but anything beyond that is past my comprehension. Who made a second one second long? Or a minute a minute. Honestly, I feel like I’d need all the acid in America to develop anything even remotely close to an Einstein-esque comprehension of time.
Or I’d just fry my brain, which would be dope, too.
So bear with me as I struggle with this post about a clock so accurate that it may change exactly what a second is.
First off, the clock. It’s called an optical clock, which is similar in nature to atomic clocks, currently the most precise instruments on the planet.
Atomic clocks use the movement of cesium atoms to tell time. They are astoundingly accurate. About once a month, they become off by about a nanosecond. That’s one billionth of second, or what one second is to 30 years. Imagine if your life up to today was one second longer or shorter. No biggie, right?
Right. These things are amazing. But they’re about to be blown away in accuracy by the clock just invented by physicists at the National Metrology Institute of Germany.
If that clock had started running at the beginning of the Big Bang, some 14 billion years ago, it would be off today by 100 seconds.
It derives its accuracy from strontium atoms.
Via The Independent:
A paper published in the journal Optica describes a new clock that uses strontium atoms, which “tick” much faster than cesium. And they do so in the optical, rather than the microwave, part of the spectrum.
If a second was defined in terms of strontium, the equivalent SI unit would be about 429,000 billion cycles. This method of calculating the length of a second reduces the error to less than 0.2 nanoseconds in 25 days, the researchers said.
Now, a second, since 1967, has been defined by the cesium atom. One second is “the time that elapses during 9,192,631,770 cycles of the microwave signal produced by [the cesium atom’s] oscillations.
If these optical clocks become mainstream, they could become the new definition of a second. And it will be different. Imperceptibly different. But different.
If the length of a second was redefined, the idea would be to make it as close as possible to the current second, but it would be likely to produce a tiny change, Dr Christian Grebing, of The National Metrology Institute of Germany, added.
“If you change the definition, you want a very smooth change to minimise the change in the length,” Dr Grebing said.
“Probably the change would be less than the current uncertainty of a second defined by caesium atoms.”
So maybe like one ten thousand of a nanosecond longer or shorter, but still fucking cool.
And if that blew your mind, check out this video about what a kilogram really is. It ain’t 2.2 pounds.
That one is fucking trippy.