Feeds

Quantum superclock will be accurate past end of life on Earth

Huge can of whup-ass opened on erratic caesium tech

Intelligent flash storage arrays

US government boffins say they have built a clock so precise that it will still be accurate to within one second when life on Earth has ceased.

The "quantum logic clock" will neither gain nor lose a second over the next 3.7 billion years, according to its makers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It uses a single aluminium atom to keep time, processing its measurements in the same way as experimental quantum computers do - hence the name.

At the moment, the internationally-accepted definition of a second is based on the caesium atom. Thus official time is based on such clocks as the US F1 caesium job, which is wildly inaccurate compared to the new aluminium horology tech at ± 1 second in 100 million years. But according to the NIST inventors, the can of whup-ass opened upon such antique clocks by their latest quantum-logic aluminium kit is of such dimensions as to require action.

"This is a milestone for atomic clocks," says NIST boffin James Chou.

That said, NIST also has other radical new clock prototypes under development in its labs, all contenders to topple caesium from its throne as clock di tutti clocki. Many types of brain-bending science could requires measurements even more precise than Chou and his colleagues' aluminium quantum vibro device.

For ordinary purposes it should be more than accurate enough, however. While the Sun should have some time to run before becoming a red giant - and so engulfing the Earth and much of the solar system - when the aluminium clock has finally wandered off by a second, life on land at least should already have been made extinct as our home star heats up and burns its remaining fuel faster.

Unless we get our skates on in terms of space travel, colonizing other planets etc. in the next couple of billion years, Chou's clock will quite literally be the only one we'll ever need - a veritable doomsday clock.

You can read a draft of Chou and his fellow quantum watchmakers' paper (none blind that we know of) here, in advance of publication in hefty boffinry journal Physical Review Letters. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.