Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe

Mar 08, 2012 By Bob Beale
Proposed nuclear clock may keep time with the Universe

(PhysOrg.com) -- A proposed new time-keeping system tied to the orbiting of a neutron around an atomic nucleus could have such unprecedented accuracy that it neither gains nor loses 1/20th of a second in 14 billion years - the age of the Universe.

“This is nearly 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks we have now,” says one of the researchers, Scientia Professor Victor Flambaum, who is Head of Theoretical Physics in the UNSW School of Physics.

“It would allow scientists to test fundamental physical theories at unprecedented levels of precision and provide an unmatched tool for applied physics research.”

In a paper to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters - with US researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Nevada - Flambaum and UNSW colleague Dr Vladimir Dzuba report that their proposed single-ion clock would be accurate to 19 decimal places.

The exquisite accuracy of atomic clocks is widely used in applications ranging from GPS navigation systems and high-bandwidth data transfer to tests of fundamental physics and system synchronization in particle accelerators.  

“With these clocks currently pushing up against significant accuracy limitations, a next-generation system is desired to explore the realms of extreme measurement precision and further diversified applications unreachable by atomic clocks,” says Professor Flambaum.

use the orbiting electrons of an atom as the clock pendulum. But we have shown that by using lasers to orient the electrons in a very specific way, one can use the orbiting of an as the clock pendulum, making a so-called nuclear clock with unparalleled accuracy.”

Because the neutron is held so tightly to the nucleus, its oscillation rate is almost completely unaffected by any external perturbations, unlike those of an atomic clock’s electrons, which are much more loosely bound.

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User comments : 11

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Ferris
2 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2012
yes but will it fit on my wrist? doubtful...

i'll stick with my Casio Digital...
gwrede
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2012
It would have been nice to give a hint as to how this neutron's laps are counted. Or how they are counted without disturbing it.

Or maybe they haven't figured out it yet? In that case, let me propose an atomic clock based on the orbits of the itsy-bitsy teeny thingies that are inside a neutron, and their orbits about each other. Now, that is much faster, much less influenced by outside disturbances, and hence, much more accurate. (According to my "very scientific calculations", we get 38 places of accuracy)

Such a clock could prove aspects of gravity, frame dragging, relativity of time under acceleration, and other fundamental phenomena, merely by lifting the clock from the table to the chair. (And yes, I am open to research funding proposals and lecturing invitations.) :-P
newclear
not rated yet Mar 08, 2012
I'm a bit confused, as some other people might be. How is a neutron orbiting the nucleus of the atom? Am I missing something? I thought that the neutrons were all in the nucleus. Can anyone help me here?
Callippo
not rated yet Mar 08, 2012
How is a neutron orbiting the nucleus of the atom?
Maybe at the case of halo nuclei the situation may appear so. Halo nuclei aren't very stable in general, though. And I don't believe, the neutrinos which can influence the speed of radioactive decay in quite pronounced way couldn't influence the speed of nuclear clock too. BTW In recent observations the surface layer of atom nuclei is somewhat richer to neutrinos.
rah
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2012
...In that case, let me propose an atomic clock based on the orbits of the itsy-bitsy teeny thingies that are inside a neutron, and their orbits about each other. Now, that is much faster, much less influenced by outside disturbances, and hence, much more accurate...]

That's good and all, but my new clock uses the spin of the gluons of the quarks in the neutron to not only give the time to 96 decimal places, it also gives you the temperature accurate to \-.00000K! It actually allows researchers to see the the photons running in place for a few femtos before they take off leaving little swirls in their trail.
DarkHorse66
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
"..itsy-bitsy teeny thingies.."?? Very scientific description I must say...not! If you mean quarks, they are not 'inside' the neutron; they ARE the neutron. Each neutron is made up of ONLY 3 quarks each:
http://en.wikiped.../Neutron
http://en.wikiped...ki/Quark
As soon as a neutron loses a quark, its structure falls apart. Clock count interrupted.
As for gluons,
http://en.wikiped...ki/Gluon
you begin to remove those, you begin to mess with the integrity of the neutron. It starts to behave differently. Timing mechanism acquires a different & variable rhythm.
You need something that produces a repeating,rhythmic oscillation, not something that knocks out 'bits'.
BTW Although a quark is said to have spin, it has never actually been observed, let alone orbiting. Just inferred. As an exercise, try imaging the paths of 3 particles orbiting around each other in an attempt to imitate a roughly spherical shape. That might produce an interesting result :) Best Regards, DH66
DarkHorse66
not rated yet Mar 12, 2012
I should clarify the remark about a quark never having been observed. It was originally inferred and then it was found that a neutron could be broken up into fragments. I was a bit too hasty in making that particular statement. I'm usually more careful than that. Regards DH66
DarkHorse66
not rated yet Mar 12, 2012
yes but will it fit on my wrist? doubtful...
i'll stick with my Casio Digital...

Sure it'll fit...Your watch already has plenty of them. Each and every one of those little nuclei is just untapped potential... ;) DH66
kaasinees
3 / 5 (2) Mar 12, 2012
I should clarify the remark about a quark never having been observed. It was originally inferred and then it was found that a neutron could be broken up into fragments. I was a bit too hasty in making that particular statement. I'm usually more careful than that. Regards DH66

Quark-Gluon Plasma is observed.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
about a quark never having been observed
Are you sure?
Tachyon8491
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2012
Hmm, yes, how about a quark-clock then, or a gluon-clock. Instead of a Swatch you can then have a Glutch, never have to wind it and have it inherited by your 10^15th generation.

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