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Australia Science Technology

Single-Ion Clock 100 Times More Accurate Than Atomic Clock 169

Posted by timothy
from the so-now-you're-really-late dept.
New submitter labnet writes with this excerpt from news.com.au: "University of New South Wales School of Physics professor Victor Flambaum has found a method of timekeeping nearly 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks. By using the orbit of a neutron around an atomic nucleus he says the system stays accurate to within 1/20th of a second over billions of years. Although perhaps not for daily use, the technology could prove valuable in science experiments where chronological accuracy is paramount, Prof Flambaum said."
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Single-Ion Clock 100 Times More Accurate Than Atomic Clock

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  • Eventually... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:35AM (#39337947)

    Eventually you'll be so accurate that walking by the thing will cause enough relativistic distortions that you can no longer claim to have any accuracy at all.

  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:36AM (#39337967)

    Although perhaps not for daily use, the technology could prove valuable in science experiments

    You kidding me? The prospect of GPS-guided bullets accurate to the millimeter will have the US military pursuing this in next-gen GPS satellites as soon as the technology is viable. Hell, this'll be the most valuable update to military hardware in decades.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:40AM (#39338011)

    Wouldn't "reading" the time change the orbit of the neutron?

  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:43AM (#39338043)

    And here I was, thinking that neutrons were inside the nucleus and electrons were orbiting around it. What's going on here? How can a neutron orbit a nucleus? It's an actual question, I know the atomic models I was once taught are way out of date (by a couple of centuries, probably), but I never heard of neutrons orbiting nuclei.

  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:05AM (#39338303)
    That's precisely what hyper-accurate atomic clocks allow you to correct. The distortions manifest in less accurate clocks. The more accurate your time, the better your algorithmic corrections between the ground and the satellites.
  • How can you tell?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mooingyak (720677) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:06AM (#39338319)

    I've always wondered, with regard to the accuracy of clocks like this, how can you actually tell how accurate it is?

  • by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:08AM (#39338343)

    The term "making sense" is, I believe, misapplied here. The quantum world is pretty much unavailable to our senses, neither do they exactly teach this stuff to kindergartners. So we have no early-life experience of any sort here, thus there's no common sense about the world at quantum scale. It won't ever make sense, and there's no reason for it to make any sense. It's just how the world happens to work, and there's nothing at all that we can do about it. This is in stark contrast to, say, bureaucracy, where certain ways of doing stuff are not how Nature works, but how humans happen to work -- very changeable if you can pull it off.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:47AM (#39338717)

    Yes, because being off by 2 seconds every billion years is something to worry about. I am sick of having to adjust my watch for the inaccuracy of atomic clocks.

    a OC-192 fiber line transmits 10 gigs/sec, roughly.

    If you stuck one of those "2 secs/gigayear" clocks on each end, instead of regenerating the clock off the line, I think the circuit would lose line sync and drop every:

    365*24*60*60 /10 /2 / 6/60/60/24 = every 18.2 days. Bummer.

    Lets check. 10 gigabits/sec at 18.2 days is 18.2*24*60*60*10*1e9 is 1.57e16 bits. 2 secs/gigayear is an error rate of 1e9*365*24*60*60/2 is 1.57e16 bits per clock framing failure. Seems likely.

    That is why now a days you get your clock off the line instead of internal clocking at each site. In ye olden T-1 era, a clock that good at each CO would mean you'd probably never experience a clock slip between COs in the lifetime of the equipment... Even in ye olden days we internal timed quite a bit (and some of our DEXCS only could do internal, so we had to)

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