Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time Code

Scientist armed with new super accurate atomic clocks clocks, have discovered a few holes in our generalized perceptions of reality. We now have clocks which, in theory could have kept accurate time from the dawn of the know universe.
So what? For one your GPS relies on the atomic world clock, which keep time a certain speed. New subatomic clocks, measures time in shorter increments, and with increased accuracy. So even though Time is moving at the same speed, we are counting it faster, in increasingly smaller subdivisions of seconds. The result of of this is the potential to greatly increase the accuracy and speed of GPS.

All of our electronic networks, grids, and satellites rely on the atomic clock to keep each other in sync. Speeding up the atomic clock makes the whole thing go faster. An increase in speed would also bring with it an increase in accuracy. Instead of GPS accurate to within 20ft, you could have .2 ft. This opens up a whole new dimension for all of you GPS loving powertap SRM user out there. One that is not without it's challenges;
"To tell the time consistently, all clocks need to be at a known height relative to Earth's "geoid", an imaginary surface that links points at which the gravitational field has the same strength. But the height of this geoid varies over time at any given place by up to 20 centimetres, because of effects such as tectonic movements, glacial melting and changes in ocean levels, and varying atmospheric pressure. Changes of that magnitude could wreak havoc with any attempt to establish a global time standard at an accuracy of 1 part in 1018 or better." - source
If that makes your brain feel like a wet noddle, just remember this: Time generally does move slower at higher elevations. So next time you get drooped at the bottom of big climb and watch the pack fly away in the distance. Just tell yourself that the Time is moving slower for them, and then they are therefore going faster relative to you. (even if they are traveling at the same "mph speed") We will never be able to fully understand and exploit this advancement in minute detail until we have firmly established a map of the "geoid" more about that;

"A variable fine-structure constant might indicate an influence of gravity on the strength of the electromagnetic force - a variation predicted by many attempts to unify the fundamental forces of nature in a "theory of everything", but which so far has not been found.

If the value of the fine-structure constant has in fact been shifting since the universe began, an optical clock that would not have missed a beat over that period should be able to pin that movement down. Oscillations of different atoms - even different oscillations of the same atoms - depend on the fine structure constant in different ways. If the constant shifts, so will the atoms' oscillation frequencies. Comparing oscillators at known frequencies over the course of a year, and seeing whether or not they drift out of sync, will provide a definitive test.

"A clock accuracy of a part in 1018 would give the theorists something to design around," says astrophysicist John Webb of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He has been looking for evidence of variations in the fine-structure constant over time in light from distant quasars that has taken billions of years to get to us. Optical clocks provide an opportunity to do the same kind of tests more easily in the lab.

Of course I don't use gps or a computer for that matter. So I never know who far, or how fast I'm going. But I don't think it matters much. I continually get there regardless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Excellent. Thoroughly enjoyed the way you threaded the bike and carousel pictures into the post about time and clocks. Your writing has really gained a sense of expression that better reveals your quirky view of the world. A view your photo creations make abundantly clear.