A clock accurate to within a tenth of a second over 14 billion years -- the age of the universe -- is the goal of research being reported this week by scientists from three different institutions. To be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the research provides the blueprint for a nuclear clock that would get its extreme accuracy from the nucleus of a single thorium ion.
Such a clock could be useful for certain forms of secure communication -- and perhaps of greater interest -- for studying the fundamental theories of physics. A nuclear clock could be as much as one hundred times more accurate than current atomic clocks, which now serve as the basis for the global positioning system (GPS) and a broad range of important measurements.
"If you give people a better clock, they will use it," said Alex Kuzmich, a professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the paper's co-authors. "For most applications, the atomic clocks we have are precise enough. But there are other applications where having a better clock would provide a real advantage."
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