Articles, Blog

This 3D Quantum Gas Clock Could Redefine Time

December 1, 2019

Jun Ye: “The reason we get very excited
talking about clocks is not just really making time, but really about exploring the frontier
problems of quantum physics. Clock, is, I feel, one part of the human endeavor. You can actually turn that into a quantum
physics playground.” Inside this basement lab a team of physicists
are wrangling atoms at super high speeds and suspending them in optical traps to measure
atomic ticks. “When you walk into our lab, the first thing
comes to your mind is like, “Oh man, that’s crazy.” On this table top, Jun Ye and his team at
the University of Colorado have built the world’s most precise atomic clock. And it gets its ticks from the vibrations
of 10,000 atoms. Time is a universal constant in our lives. GPS navigation, power grids, financial networks,
whether you get to work before your boss… all of this depends on reliable timekeeping. But have you ever stopped to think about what
time actually is? It’s a very precise measurement of ticks,
and thanks to the march of technological progress, that “tick” has gone from the movement
of the sun, to a pendulum swing, to the vibrations of a quartz crystal. And ever since the 1960s, we’ve been on
atomic time. “Inside the atom, electron is moving around
nucleus and that has very periodic oscillation, and we say we want to use that as our fundamental
unit of time. We want to measure those energy level structure
extremely precisely because that’s a constant of nature. If you can measure extremely precisely, it
should be a universal value and that’s what the atomic clock is all about.” This is the NIST F-2, an atomic clock at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado. It’s one of the world’s master clocks
and is designed to measure the very specific oscillations of a silvery atom on the periodic
table: cesium. Inside it, a gas of cesium atoms enter the
clock’s vacuum chamber, microwave laser beams push the cesium atoms together into a ball,
the lasers toss the ball up, then it falls back down, emitting photons. The time it takes for the cesium ball to move
between two different energy levels is 9,192,631,770, and that is the definition of a second. That sounds pretty precise, but a new generation
of atomic clocks are on the horizon, which use laser light instead of microwaves to divide
time into even finer slices. “The reason why we want to move from microwave
to optical frequency is given by one simple fact is, the light frequency oscillates much
faster than a microwave. In a blink of an eye, you can have a million,
billion cycles go by if you’re dealing with optical frequencies, while if you’re dealing
with microwave frequencies, you might be dealing with only one billion cycles per second. The more cycles you can measure per fixed
time, the less fractional mistakes you will be making.” Creating an optical clock is an incredible
change. And while this looks like a labyrinth of wires,
everything has a purpose. “It’s like if you’re little, if we can shrink
your size down by a factor of 10 and you walk along those mirrors, it would be like…Complete
black forest of mirrors. Every single mirror on that table has its
sole purpose which is allowing us to steer all kinds of colorful lasers to interact with
the strontium atom.” Instead of cesium, Ye and other teams at the
NIST are building optical clocks based on other elements, like strontium and ytterbium,
that can tick at higher frequencies. “Strontium sits at the second column of
the periodic table and it’s characterized by two valence electrons. When you have one electron, it’s very volatile. When you have two, it’s much less volatile
compare to cesium atoms. The strontium atom, when you liberate it,
they’re moving at the speed of 300 meters per second which is essentially like a bullet
train. So if I ask, “What time is it strontium atom? I wouldn’t be able to tell you the time. The first thing we need to do is slowing them
down so they’re standing still in front of you. So we need a bunch of lasers//we take a few
tens of milliseconds to finally prepare them to very low temperatures, and we load them
into an optical trap. How we do that is by using another laser coming
in, it’s almost like a tweezer made of light. So this laser light coming from outside the
vacuum window focuses its light down to a little focus spot, and polarizes the atom
and hold them in the middle of the vacuum chamber so you can actually look at the atom.” Ye’s team was able to cool the strontium atoms
to below a microkelvin, turning it into a quantum gas that allowed the atoms to spread
out and organize into an optical lattice. “Once the atoms cool down and trapped, then
you need to turn on the clock laser, finally try to match your laser color to the transition
of the atom you’re trying to interrogate as a clock signal.” The tick for this 3D gas clock is the exact
frequency that prompts the strontium atoms to switch energy levels, which is 430 trillion
cycles per second. It’s so precise that it can keep time without
losing or gaining a second for 15 billion years. “We all know that these optical atomic clocks
are now performing hundred times better than the microwave clock. Time is something that’s been discussed very
actively right now. When will be the good time to replace the
current cesium clock with the strontium clock, or some other atom. But defining time is a human enterprise. It requires international cooperation. It requires a universal time where every country
should agree upon. And this is really, a very serious matter.” But Ye’s pursuit in making an ultra-precise
atomic clock isn’t just about refining the standard of time. Because atomic clocks are measuring the interplay
between electrons and elementary particles, they are a unique tool to investigate why
our universe is the way it is. “We are building more precise and more sensitive
scientific instruments to be allowing ourselves to be able to detect gravitational waves or
detect the presence of dark matter, because in the end, if you are the master of the space-time
fabric, you got to be able to figure out that dark matter is bending the space-time a little
bit, and the one way to figure this out is just to measure time. There’s a symphony going on, and time, remember,
is not something unique. Time is related to space, so if there are
all kinds of bodies moving around, merging, separating, rebirth, and so on, the time’s
changing everywhere. And so that’s at the very tiny scale. If you build clocks so well, eventually you
get to the point where you will not help but hear all these microscopic noise that’s going
on in the universe. I’m optimistic, within the next 30 years we
might get to the point where we can measure the gravitational effect on quantum physics
and maybe just keep going to the point where the universe says ‘guys, all the times are
different and here’s the final limit.’”

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Hans Bauer April 6, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    This Quantum insert smart word here could redefine insert fundamental concept of reality here

  • Reply Zecr Samanadro April 8, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    How the hell do you keep track of all those wires??? If one is out of place how long does it take to figure out where the error originates from?

  • Reply Arpit Verma April 11, 2019 at 4:37 pm

    No wonder they are Asians

  • Reply GlitchAPPLE April 11, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Why…….. Is nitrogen…………. Dioxide?

  • Reply Ryan Cook April 16, 2019 at 10:04 am

    @4:42 COOKIE MONSTER!! 😀

  • Reply mick mccrory April 25, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    He left out the part where the horn changes pitch when the car goes by. This should be included in all upper level physics discussions, because physicists all ride bicycles, & are totally unaware of this phenomena.

  • Reply maui waui May 11, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    since when do clocks define time?

  • Reply Super Heavy Galactic Stuff May 12, 2019 at 12:58 am

    Archons control time newbs

  • Reply axarnim May 14, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Damn 😔 I thought it said rewind😔

  • Reply Chub Yub May 17, 2019 at 4:54 am

    This seems like a big waste of time… ahmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhm.

  • Reply Philip Schwanke May 23, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Is it just me or does he kinda sounds like the computer voice of stephen hawking?

  • Reply Jeremy Plimpton June 2, 2019 at 2:31 am

    Time may be something we can never get back, but death is the only constant. It's how you spend your time that matters. For you, no one else

  • Reply James Crud June 3, 2019 at 2:11 am

    Yeah but…why?

  • Reply bahka June 6, 2019 at 10:10 am

    This video has a length of 191,780 strontium oscillations

  • Reply 0bvi0us Plant June 6, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Why Strontium looks like some fire ass bud tho ?

  • Reply Mark Caseon June 7, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    What about Uranium clock?

  • Reply walt modul June 9, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    2min 45 sec MISTAKE. Frequency Spektrum colored

  • Reply TheFunkSoulBrother June 11, 2019 at 11:58 am

    100 TIMES better .. hahahah

  • Reply Dick Stephenson June 13, 2019 at 5:59 am

    This guy reads for those automated voices.

  • Reply S L A V G H T E R S E A S O N June 13, 2019 at 12:59 pm


  • Reply The Bro08 June 13, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Endgame agrees

  • Reply RAUL FERNANDEZ June 14, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    i love the girl`s voice…

  • Reply Taylor Neilson June 15, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Seems very important for traveling in space when time literally slows down and speeds up compared to earth.

  • Reply Lui L June 19, 2019 at 11:40 am

    I hope my money does not go to this useless shit

  • Reply Mikiness Analog June 25, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    Time is not & has never been a "constant". It does strech & contract in relation to the observer & what is observed.

  • Reply Ryben Flynn July 2, 2019 at 5:22 am

    So I will need to reset my watch every 15 Billion years because it's off by 1 second?

  • Reply Jxshua Yuzn July 14, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Earth: has people suffering and a lot more major problems

    Scientists: let's make a super precise clock

  • Reply TenshihanQuinn July 23, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    @1:36 The 'constant' value of relative time & space is directly influenced by your approximate position to Saggitarius 'A', that which is holding all of the galaxy together is also infuencing the standard rate of time. If you want a completely accurate measurement of time, it will always coincide with the power of gravity and proximity to the singularity determining that gravity. It's something you tune as you go, not hold as a static measurement.

  • Reply BakedPhoria July 28, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    2:16 for reference her saying 9,192,631,770 cycles took 5 seconds!

  • Reply Laniakea_0 July 30, 2019 at 6:07 pm

    7:00 It's always 30 years…

  • Reply The Sounding of the Horn July 31, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    The oracle concerning Dumah.

    One is calling to me from Seir,
    “Watchman, what time of the night?
    Watchman, what time of the night?”
    The watchman says:
    “Morning comes, and also the night.
    If you will inquire, inquire;
    come back again.” ~Isaiah 21:11-12

  • Reply showcase August 2, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    eventually, humans will either voluntarily give up technology or be destroyed by it. Not the first time that will happen.

  • Reply Oprah Of Beats August 3, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    Is there a reason why there are 7 days and when its coming to the end of that 7 day rotation it seems like the days get abit hotter?

  • Reply BRIAN OMBATI August 6, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    Kindly Youtube, don't suggest this stuff to me. I don't understand what this are; I respect this brilliant people doing this strange stuff.

  • Reply Colin Herman August 7, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    All this precision and he still can’t locate his penis.

  • Reply g s August 8, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    I watched 7 minutes of people speaking,and didn't processed any word,it's like they're talking in their own unkown language

  • Reply Voraxe August 16, 2019 at 11:24 pm

    This is why the youtube add skip timer is much longer then 5 seconds

  • Reply moed al garny August 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

    ant man 😐

  • Reply NFiltr8Red August 19, 2019 at 6:47 am

    Jeffrey Epstein cheated his victims by cutting his “Time” short. Solve that one!

  • Reply 08wolfeyes August 22, 2019 at 12:29 am

    Doesn't slowing the atom also affect the rime which is recorded?
    Plus it takes time for the signal from the reading of the atom to pass down the wires and reach the computer and so that again affects the outcome of the time shown right??

  • Reply Rohan Phadtare August 28, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    Try 432 thousands cycles per sec. 😇

  • Reply TheNeedyColonist //gaming&science! September 6, 2019 at 11:35 pm

    1:58 Caesium is not silvery. It has a golden hue.

  • Reply Cool Kid BMX September 8, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    This guy is damn cool. "Oh man!"

  • Reply Buck Anderson September 10, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    You have to have time to define space. Space is defined as the number of ticks on a clock it takes to get from point a to point b. If it takes zero time to travel a distance space can also said to be zero or indefinable.

  • Reply Stiffu san September 16, 2019 at 11:08 am

    If our 3D world have time, why dont 2D worlds have time.. why dont we see 2D animals around? Maby because it's just a theory, time is time and the world is the world. Put down the DMT boooiz

  • Reply lukes father September 17, 2019 at 11:53 am

    pff 3d is ancient news

  • Reply Nathan Okun September 22, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    You are getting down to the level where the differences due to General Relativity between people in different rooms of the same building or moving versus sitting at a desk will be larger than the precision of your super-clock, so the practical effects will thus be extremely limited as to usefulness…

  • Reply Freedomrun32 September 23, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Our Government now say's that yes we have proof of some thing in our air space at times and what ever it is can be capable of breaking every law of physics now that being said doesn't that mean that our understanding of it all as of now is void ? Oh and why this has not been top in the news is beyond me,hello people if what ever the thing is has friends we are screwed.

  • Reply Kyrlics September 23, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Why would it redefine time when it's quantum time not time like ours? Aren't they simply different times?

  • Reply Dame Lyngdoh September 27, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Universal constant??

  • Reply Project Contractors September 27, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    430 Trillion cycles per second, damn!

  • Reply Phaandor Pertwee September 28, 2019 at 10:03 am

    This guy modeled for Stephen Hawking's text to speech synthesizer.

  • Reply Edward C Tullis September 30, 2019 at 2:08 am

    Chinese spy

  • Reply Lander1 October 3, 2019 at 3:57 am

    This means we can map otherwise indistinguishable gravity wells in space.

  • Reply Pax Webb October 6, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    So what happens when we get so precise that time is different depending on the elevation of your city?

  • Reply Rmn Snk October 6, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    Chinese spies here

  • Reply grace calis October 12, 2019 at 9:55 am

    "Have you ever stopped to think what time actually is?"
    Me, watching this video 4 hrs before an exam: Running out. Time is running out

  • Reply Dr. Phelps October 14, 2019 at 6:42 am

    I think might have been what Bob Dylan was talking about

  • Reply FractaLens Portals October 18, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Has anybody thought to ask if these atoms LIKE being hit with lasers? What if the photons they emit are the equivalent of them crying light?
    No more testing on atoms!!!

  • Reply Shanon Bertin October 22, 2019 at 10:37 am

    We want gameplay footage

  • Reply Lisa R October 24, 2019 at 2:18 am

    New Heaven and Earth

  • Reply Humor In Politics October 28, 2019 at 1:58 am

    So fascinating.

  • Reply Andy Gee October 31, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Would this make GPS accurate to about 30nm? (quick calculation)

  • Reply Surfing On Squarewaves November 1, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Time 2: Hypertime

  • Reply michael steven November 2, 2019 at 3:34 am

    very interesting! I wish I could be there studying this stuff

  • Reply Mátyás Szabolcs November 3, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    He sounds like a robot

  • Reply David Handley November 6, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Since the earth is actually slowing down, will there still be 24 hours or 86,400 seconds in a day?
    In which case is the second actually getting bigger?
    So in thousands of years will a second be a minute?

  • Reply stephen yonkoski November 6, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    3D quantum gas clock cool stuff labitory in Colorado of places 👍🤠 more and more closer to bending time and gravitational pull 🤔 time travel or rosethenthall bridge. Yes that was misspelled those that are interested and into science will know what I mean.👍🤠

  • Reply Edward C Tullis November 6, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Yet another Chinese spy

  • Reply rodrigo araujo ferreira November 6, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    That Japan dude know his stuff, the way he explains, he knows his stuff.

  • Reply S Ford November 6, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    A very precise measurement of cycles.

  • Reply Chandan Singh November 6, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    5:14 😱 😱 OMG

  • Reply M.D Records November 6, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    This video brutally abused 7min 26sec 's of my life.🐏

  • Reply keith dunham November 6, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    so if we can change the clicks or ticks of material we might have time travel–or time viewing ??

  • Reply UltimateBargains November 6, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Time is Nature's way of preventing everything from happening at once.

  • Reply The Power of Zen November 6, 2019 at 8:42 pm

    From the perspective of a black hole one cycle from the gas clock would still be an eternity.

  • Reply SwishaMane420 November 6, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    This is incredibly interesting and awesome, but one observation I have as someone who knows NOTHING about what they are doing is… What affect on the experiment does the dust on the mirrors/lens' (that is clearly visible in a few shots) have on the outcome?

  • Reply Dominique Dupont November 7, 2019 at 1:31 am

    What a great physicist

  • Reply Les Stockton November 7, 2019 at 1:39 am

    This is more accurate than a nanosecond?

  • Reply Leeengold November 7, 2019 at 8:39 am

    0:52 No! You just made all the work from Einstein a maculation.

  • Reply Soulife November 7, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    When you hit an electron with a photon it will emit 2 photons, according to neil degrasse tyson (which I don't understand considering the conservation of energy). So shouldn't those atoms being measured be emitting their own light as a byproduct? Or does Neil just not know what he's talking about?

  • Reply Jamin November 7, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    This man just said 30 years


  • Reply cosmos and physical laws November 8, 2019 at 2:21 am

  • Reply feel toofree November 8, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Seeker: Time is a universal constant in our lives …
    Me: huh hmmm
    Seeker: GPS Navigations, power grids, financial networks, wether you get to work before your boss…
    Me: 😒😂 …

  • Reply Kevin Start November 8, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    How is this necessary

  • Reply Mad T scientist November 9, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Time changes as energy is put into or taken out of a system. And that is ONLY the time for that ONE system not all systems time is relative to each system. Just like time is different to a 5 year old than a 55 year old time FEELS DIFFERENT and almost acts different

  • Reply Cravis Bouyin November 10, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Time is difficult to measure, reciprocate, weigh and unequivably used to man new worlds. Sometime reality does exist longer than what we assume! 😥😔🙂👌

  • Reply Ashyo Sings November 11, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Time is actually not 'ticks' it's woven in space and that's why yall don't understand space

  • Reply Autobochi November 11, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    i think i click on the wrong video, it's not planet earth around here

  • Reply Jack Pillawa November 11, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    am I high or does the guy sounds like text to speech?

  • Reply yhnoj123 November 12, 2019 at 5:31 am

    Can you adjust time when you are a sleep you slow it down and when you are at work speed it up or else i don't care😤

  • Reply Charles Cantu November 12, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Could military time be considered universal lol

  • Reply Saesun Kim November 12, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    5:37 Let's pretend to talk about something important, no one will get it anyway.

  • Reply will2see November 13, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    0:50 – "Time is a universal constant in our lives." – Who the fck wrote those lines??

  • Reply Christopher Durham November 14, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    The Auditors want us to develop a perfect clock so they can use it to stop time and get caught up on paperwork.

  • Reply Alter Ego November 15, 2019 at 3:50 am

    GPT-2 would generate more sensical answers than Ye.

  • Reply Guy Tetreault November 17, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Mumbo jumbo for dumbo title

    Time cannot be changed

    Smarter watch… That's all it hopes to be

  • Reply David Wilkie November 23, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Ultra impressive Physics.

  • Reply MrAnibl November 24, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Good luck with relativity.. What a waste of time!

  • Reply Jim Mooney November 28, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Except time isn't constant – it depends on where you are in a gravity well.

  • Leave a Reply