How Super-Precise Atomic Clocks Will Change the World in a Decade

At that level, clocks will be precise enough that they'll have to correct for the relativistic effects of the shape of the earth, which changes every day in reaction to environmental factors. (Some of the research clocks already need to account for changes in the NIST building's size on a hot day.) That's where the work at the Time and Frequency Division begins to overlap with cosmology, astrophysics and space-time.

By looking at the things that upset clocks, it's possible to map factors like magnetic fields and gravity variation. "Environmental conditions can make the ticking rate vary slightly," says O'Brian.

That means passing a precise clock over different landscapes yields different gravity offsets, which could be used to map the presence of oil, liquid magma or water underground. NIST, in short, is building the first dowsing rod that works.

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12 Responses:

  1. elliterati says:

    God, gravity is so strange. It makes my brain hurt.

  2. fanf says:

    The coolest thing is the pocket atomic click that DARPA are funding. Imagine every computer, phone, etc. having a built-in atomic clock...

  3. c9 says:

    Nifty. But more importantly, no current music? Not even Time? Its ticking clocks haunt me, but that's not really anyone's fault.

  4. pphaneuf says:

    And then, DST will fuck everything up.

  5. jabber says:

    So... The closer I stand to a clock, the slower it runs due to my personal gravity field?

    No wonder Windows takes forever to boot.

  6. bifrosty2k says:

    9.8m/sec^2 is now irrelevant!
    If I start hanging out with more fat people, will that make me float?

  7. dr_pipe says:

    but they already do something like that... in Austin I worked at ARL screwing around with databases of gravity information. Oil companies go around measuring gravity variations, trying to find oil, and sell their info to the government, who uses it to better calculate missile trajectories.

    this'll probably be more precise or something.

  8. telecart says:

    That's cool, but Hyperspectral MASINT datacubes are almost here, and will probably do it sooner, faster, and on a larger scale.

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