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How the world’s most accurate clock can change basic physics

This handout, provided by NIST, shows the Strontium atomic clock, one of the most accurate timekeeping components in the world, in Professor Jun Ye’s lab at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a giant object like the Earth bends in space-time, slowing down as it approaches the object, so that a person at the top of a mountain ages a little faster than a person at the surface of the sea.


American scientists have confirmed the theory on the smallest scale ever and show that clocks tick at different speeds when separated by a fraction of a millimeter.

Jun Ye of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder told AFP that the new clock is “much” more accurate than ever made, paving the way for new discoveries in quantum mechanics. He said he could open it. A rulebook for the world of elementary particles.

You and your colleagues published their findings in a prestigious journal on Wednesday. NatureLearn about the engineering advances that have made it possible to build devices that are 50 times more accurate than today’s best atomic clocks.

Scientists can prove Albert Einstein’s 1915 theory only after the invention of the atomic clock, which maintains time by detecting transitions between two energy states within an atom exposed to a particular frequency. did.

Early experiments included the 1976 Gravity Probe A. This included a spacecraft 6,000 miles (10,000 km) from the surface of the Earth, showing that the onboard clock is one second faster every 73 years than its peers on Earth.

Since then, watches have become more and more accurate and better able to detect the effects of the theory of relativity.

In 2010, NIST scientists observed the time it took to move at different speeds when the watch moved 33 centimeters (a little over a foot) high.

Theory of everything

An important advance for you has been to use a network of light called an optical lattice to arrange and trap atoms in an orderly manner. This is to prevent the atom from falling due to gravity or other movements, reducing its accuracy.

In Ye’s new watch, there are 100,000 strontium atoms, overlapping at a total height of about 1 mm, like a stack of pancakes.

The clock is so accurate that scientists can split the stack in two and detect the time difference between the upper and lower halves.

At this level of accuracy, the watch basically acts as a sensor.

“Space and time are connected,” you said. “And with very accurate time measurements, you can see in real time how space is actually changing. The Earth is a vibrant living body.”

These clocks, which spread over areas of high volcanic activity, tell geologists the difference between hard rock and lava and help predict eruptions.

Or, for example, study how global warming melts glaciers and raises the ocean.

But what is most exciting to you is how future watches can lead to a whole new realm of physics.

Today’s watches can detect time lags over 200 microns, but when it drops to 20 microns, it helps to start exploring the quantum world and close the theoretical gap.

The theory of relativity beautifully explains how large objects such as planets and galaxies behave, but is notorious for being incompatible with quantum mechanics dealing with very small objects.

According to quantum theory, every particle is also a wave and can occupy multiple places at the same time. This is called superposition. However, according to Einstein’s theory, it is not clear how objects in two places at once distort space-time.

Therefore, the intersection of the two disciplines will bring physics one step closer to a unified “theory of everything” that explains all the physical phenomena of the universe.


JILA Atomic Clock measures Einstein’s general theory of relativity on a millimeter scale


For more information:
Tobias Bothwell, Solving Gravitational Redshift in Millimeter-Scale Atomic Samples, Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-04349-7.. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04349-7

Related: Shimon Kolkowitz, Comparison of Differential Clocks with Multiplexed Optical Lattice Clocks, Nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-021-04344-y.. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04344-y

© 2022 AFP

Quote: How the world’s most accurate clock can transform basic physics (February 19, 2022) February 19, 2022 https://phys.org/news/2022-02-world- Obtained from precise-clock-fundamental-physics.html

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How the world’s most accurate clock can change basic physics

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