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How ticking atoms keep ultra-precise time for globe-connecting technologies

From sundials and swinging pendulums to vibrating quartz crystals, humans have many ways of measuring the passage of time. But where accuracy is most essential – in global positioning systems and high-speed communication technologies, for example – we rely on atoms, which tick uniformly and are nearly impossible to interrupt. In this brief video, cleverly animated by Dog and Rabbit, the 1997 physics Nobel laureate William D Phillips explains how his team was able to unleash an atomic timekeeping revolution using lasers and mind-bogglingly low temperatures.

Video by Nature

Animator: Dog & Rabbit

20 October 2016

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