Japan clocks to keep time for 16 billion years

  • AFP, Tokyo
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 00:10 IST

Japanese researchers have built a pair of clocks that they say are so accurate they will lose a second only every 16 billion years — longer than the Earth has been around.

“Cryogenic optical lattice clocks” are not pretty — they look like giant stripped-down desktop computers — but they are so precise that current technology cannot even measure them.32131 The research team led by Hidetoshi Katori, a professor at the University of Tokyo, believes it has taken the technology way beyond the atomic clocks that are currently used to define the “second”.

A caesium atom clock, currently used to define “one second” can develop a one second error every 30 million years.

The new clock uses special lasers to trap strontium atoms in tiny grid-like structures and then measures the frequency of the vibration of the atoms, using them like “the atomic pendulum,” according to the study. The system is so delicate that it must operate in a cold environment, around -180°C to maintain its accuracy.

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