The Length Of A Second Could Be About To Change

by : UNILAD on : 28 May 2016 12:07


The majority of people think of ‘time’ as being pretty much set in stone – as anyone who has been late for work can probably testify to…


However, developments in the accuracy to which we can measure atomic vibrations could mean the very length of time we know as a second may be about to change, reports Science Alert.

Researchers using a new generation of ‘optical clocks’ have shown that time could be kept with even greater accuracy, thus redefining a second.


At the moment this is calculated using atomic clocks which measure the vibration of caesium atoms to keep time – and since 1967, the second has been defined as 9,192,631,770 cycles of vibrations.


But even the most accurate atomic clock can build up an error of roughly one nanosecond (one billionth of a second) over the course of a month – unacceptable, I know.

Optical clocks however, are more precise. They measure the vibrations of atoms at about 100,000 times higher than microwave frequencies, and more speed means more accuracy.

Christian Grebing, a researcher from the National Metrology Institute of Germany said:

We achieved a better performance compared to the very best microwave fountain clocks.


To be honest, it wouldn’t impact us humans very much, but our technology would definitely notice – websites and banks, for example, could complete way more transactions per second.

So next time you’re running late for work it could be worth claiming that you’re now running on time according to the newer and far more accurate ‘optical clock’.

At the very least it might confuse your boss enough to make them forget you were late in the first place.

Topics: Life


Science Alert
  1. Science Alert

    The length of a second might be about to change