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Research Highlights

Published: Thu, 03/15/2018 - 1:15pm

We all know what a tenth of a second feels like. It’s a jiffy, a snap of the fingers, or a camera shutter click. But what does 14 billion years–the age of the universe–feel like?

JILA’s atomic clock has the precision to measure the age of the universe to within a tenth of a second. That sort of precision is difficult to intuit. Yet, JILA’s atomic clock, which is the most precise clock in the world, continues to improve its precision. The latest jump in precision, of nearly 50 percent, came about from a new perspective.

“The precision of our clock is now about two and half parts in 10 to the 19. Which is an almost impossibly tiny, tiny number to actually realize or understand,” says G. Edward Marti , a JILA postdoc in the Ye group, and integral member of JILA’s atomic clock team. “We know we’re not at the limit of this.”

The atomic clock is more than just an atom. It’s actually a system of thousands of atoms and a very impressive laser. This system works much like an old time-keeping system: a grandfather clock and the sun. A grandfather clock records time by swinging a pendulum back and forth. Similarly, the laser has a ticking electromagnetic field (...

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