New Optical Lattice Clock Could Redefine The Length Of The Second

A new clock that uses lasers to help tell time could change how we measure the second.

New Optical Lattice Clock Could Redefine The Length Of The Second

French researchers have developed an even more accurate clock that they say will “redefine the second.” The optical lattice clock loses just one second every 300 million years, making it three times more accurate than an atomic clock, which is currently the world timekeeping standard.

While the atomic clock uses microwaves to get cesium atoms to oscillate, optical lattice clocks use light from lasers to excite strontium atoms. As the laser beams oscillate more quickly than microwave radiation, it takes less time to divide time, meaning a more precise measurement. Therefore, a slightly shorter second.

Not sure this really matters that much? Tell that to the telecoms industry, sat-nav firms, and the world’s stock markets, all of whom rely on accurate timekeeping and measuring.

[Image by Flickr user robstephaustralia]

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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.