Ever feel like you’re losing track of time? Thanks to the U.S. government, now we won’t have to worry about missing a precious second for oh, about … 300 million years.
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, launched the F2 atomic clock Friday. By replacing the outdated F1, the F2 becomes the most accurate clock in the world.
Just how accurate? If the F2 ran for those 300 million years, it would only stray by one second. That's three times better than the F1, which had been in use since 1999.
Both of NIST's clocks are fountain clocks, meaning they determine the exact length of a second by tossing up balls of cesium atoms and shooting radiation at them.
One second is worth just over 9 billion cesium revolutions. So yeah, it's not quite one Mississippi, two Mississippi. (Via NIST)
One second in 300 million years might seem negligible, but with power grids, GPS systems and other infrastructure dependent on the second, Wired says the F2 is "more than just a feather in the cap for metrology nerds. Precise timekeeping underpins much of our modern world."
NIST researcher Steven Jefferts agrees. "That clock is going to be the progenitor for something that really is important 10 years from now, I would predict."
And according to PC Magazine, NIST is responsible for time stamping billions of dollars in U.S. financial transactions every day, making these innovations crucial to the world.
With the latest innovation this time, the Los Angeles Times writes that "a revolution in timekeeping is afoot" as researchers all over the world try measuring time with many different atoms.
However accurate these clocks get, you can get the latest up-to-the-second time at NIST's official atomic clock website, time.gov.