Have you heard about the most accurate atomic clock ever built?
If you feel like time is running too slow or too fast, it could have a lot to do with your perception, but it could also be the specifics of your time source. If you’re using a quartz clock, you may be losing a few seconds per week.
A clock powered by a synchronous motor is going to be a bit more accurate than that, but it’s still not perfect. Even the atomic digital clock that’s incorporated into your phone or GPS was only accurate to a few tenths of quadrillions of a second as of a few months ago… but atomic time has since improved.
A New Standard In The Length Of A Second
This year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has introduced a more precise time standard, thanks to a new atomic clock that’s provides the most exact measure of time ever known.
This time standard, called the NIST-F2, gives us the most reliable measurement of a second, and it will be able to do so for the next 300 million years—provided the NIST’s atomic clock is still running then.
Need To Catch A Bus In 300 Million Years?
This new standard for time has been in the making for over ten years and it’s now recognized as the world’s most accurate. But apart from providing reliable time, should you need to catch a bus at any point over the next three million centuries, what is the real significance of this new standard?
The Most Measured Quantity In The World
Time is the most measured quantity in the world, and our ability to measure and understand time with precision accuracy is actually a means of better understanding the forces of our world.
Building clocks that retain their accuracy and are not affected by physical interferences like background radiation is a reason to continuously improve our technology. The NIST time standard is determined by a cesium-based fountain clock, which actually determines the length of a second by measuring natural vibrations that occur within a cesium atom.
Why Does Time Matter More Than Ever?
More accurate time—and improvements in precision standards we use to measure and implement it—may not affect us in any especially noticeable way, but a central means of timekeeping is more relevant to our lives than ever before. The new atomic time standards defined by NIST-F2 are used to determine the standard time for global positioning system (GPS) devices, telecommunications, and the Internet.
While the length of a second determined by your cell phone or your computer isn’t as accurate as the time determined by the NIST-F2 atomic clock, it’s now more accurate than it was in early 2014.
Atomic clocks themselves were considered highly advanced just a little more than a decade ago, and now they can be purchased for the same price as quartz or synchronous wall clock. With access to advanced technology that’s moving as quickly as it is today, ultra-accurate time standards set by NIST-F2 maybe even more critical in the near future. Perhaps only time will tell, but share your thoughts on this development in the comments.