Finally, I can throw out that cheap atomic clock in my basement. For years, I have been complaining that, no matter how much I tweak by atomic clock, it is always off a second every billion years. Now, for that difficult to buy for family member who has everything, James Chou and his colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have developed a laser-controlled quantum logic clock that oscillates at a frequency of 1.12×10^15 times per second — a million times faster than the speed of light. The only problem is that it does not tell time and does not yet come in a wrist version. However, these researchers brilliantly released the clock before Christmas.
The quantum logic clock uses a laser to count the ticks — which bounces off an aluminum ion. No winding needed.
The clock is intended to measure the results of Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity — which posit that time is not constant. Indeed, time can slow down for one person in relation to another. Moreover, objects with a lot of mass, like the earth, can bend the fabric of time and space.
Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, is quoted as saying “to me, it means a lot that we can measure the fact that spacetime is curved here in my house.” Note to self, arrive early for dinners at Professor Carroll’s house.
For me, the clock is essential to read the exact time that the Bears defeated the Eagles on Sunday — proving not just the need for more accurate time machines but proof of an all-knowing, all-loving God.