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Scientists create atomic clocks accurately enough to measure changes in their own spacetime

Photo by N. Phillips / NIST

According to a new study, physicists have set up such precise atomic clocks that they can measure distortions in the room itself.

We do not all experience the same time, going slower closer to something massive gravity, as Albert Einstein said. And since gravity is usually interpreted as a way to mask mass space, it means that a sufficiently accurate atomic clock can serve as a scientific tool to determine how objects change the shape of the surrounding space.

"We have reported on two clock measurements, which in principle exceeds our ability to list [this effect] across Earth, "said Andrew Ludlow, a physicist at the National Institute for Standard and Technology at Boulder, Colorado National Institute of Physics, at Gizmodo.

Watches are just instruments that measure how long it takes to count again, whether it is a pendulum pendulum or vibrating atom. Optical grille clocks, like those used in this study, work the same – but not so easy.

Scientists use lasers for the first time to create an arrester field that is designed as a row of cups. Thousands of iterbic atoms fill each cube. If it hits a precision laser at the exact frequency, the electrons jump between two energy levels, incredibly large (almost quadruple), but the exact number of times per second. When the laser is tuned to the perfect frequency, to start this oscillation, it moves to another component, called the optical frequency combination. It basically serves as clockwork tools, converting laser light into a signal that electronics can use to create a mark.

According to an article published in Nature, researchers have characterized by their nature the frequency of such high precision that they can use it to accurately determine how heavy gravity affects time. The Ytterbium optical clock pair accurately reported the transitional frequency of the utterbium within 10 hours-18 from the actual frequency, not more than 3.2 x 10-19, the difference with the two clock frequency is around 10-19. Clocks with this precision will take time that will exceed the age of the universe (13.8 billion years).

But, by describing the watches, it also meant that ytterbia watches could reveal how Earth's gravity has slowed down the time by pinpointing their location in the Earth's gravitational field up to a centimeter. It is better than the latest Earth measurement systems. Ludlow explained that the team had not yet compared the watches in two separate locations. The test, similar to that, will reveal a faster clock speed, because the Earth's gravity capture actually decreases as the object moves at altitude.

This is just the last result of efforts to create the best atomic clock around the world. But this is a fantastic event, said Andrei Derevjenko, a theoretical physicist at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in this study, but who worked on this clock theory. He told Gizmodo that watches with this precision level are still looking for their "killer application."

But physicists have ideas about how to use them, especially when it comes to hunting for dark matter, which our eyes and telescopes can not directly see, but which seems to experience gravity throughout the universe. Maybe these watches can detect the dark matter as its gravity changes the space time. Maybe they can even detect ripples during space called gravitational waves. Or maybe it's time to move atomic clocks into space, where they are less affected by local differences in Earth's gravity. It's hard to say.

No, you can not wear this clock on your arm or hang it on the wall – it's still a setting that is made up of a laboratory desk. But if you could, it would be quite sick to tell your friends that you are late because their local gravity potential is too high.


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