Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Precision time: A matter of atoms, clocks, and statistics

02.02.2012
The ability to accurately measure a second in time is at the heart of many essential technologies; the most recognizable may be the Global Positioning System (GPS).

In a paper accepted for publication in the AIP's journal Review of Scientific Instruments, a researcher at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder discusses how achieving a stable and coordinated global measure of time requires more than just the world's most accurate timepieces; it also requires approximately 400 atomic clocks working as an ensemble.

According to the researcher, however, calculating the average time of an ensemble of clocks is difficult, and complicated statistics are needed to achieve greater accuracy and precision. These statistical calculations are essential to help counter one of the most important challenges in keeping and agreeing on time: distributing data without degrading the performance of the source clocks.

All atomic clocks operate in basically the same way, by comparing an electrical oscillator (a device engineered to keep time) with the transition frequency of an atom (one of nature's intrinsic time keepers). This atomic transition is a "flip" in the spin in the outermost electron of an atom – an event that is predictable with an accuracy of a few parts per ten quadrillion. Comparing the natural and engineered signals produces the incredibly stable "tick" of an atomic clock. Several algorithms are then used to estimate the time of the reference clock with respect to the ensemble of clocks.

These calculations weed out as much error as possible and establish a reliable reference time. The researcher notes that there are strengths and weaknesses in each of these statistical steps, but these weaknesses can be mitigated to some extent by also including retrospective data.

So in essence, determining the current time relies on understanding how accurately researchers were able to calculate time in the past. Even the next generation of atomic clocks and frequency standards are unlikely to eliminate the need for these timescale algorithms. However, keeping time and frequency signals and standards the same in all countries is essential and greatly simplifies international cooperation in areas such as navigation, telecommunication, and electric power distribution.

Article: "The Statistical Modeling of Atomic Clocks and the Design of Time Scales" is accepted for publication in the journal Review of Scientific Instruments.

Author: Judah Levine (1).

(1) Time and Frequency Division, National Institutes of Standards and Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder

Charles Blue | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.aip.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling
29.03.2017 | New Jersey Institute of Technology

nachricht NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts
28.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers shoot for success with simulations of laser pulse-material interactions

29.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Igniting a solar flare in the corona with lower-atmosphere kindling

29.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

As sea level rises, much of Honolulu and Waikiki vulnerable to groundwater inundation

29.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>