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Ultra-Accurate Clocks Lead Search for New Laws of Physics (2018) (quantamagazine.org)
51 points by pilingual 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 3 comments

Physicist 1: Do you want to hear a crazy theory? Everything is made up of strings!

Physicist 2: My crazy theory is that a fifth force exists!

Physicist 3: Two words : Dark. Matter.

Physicist 3: Does any of this mean anything at all if we cant unify quantum theory and relativity

Physicist 4: You know what, theres a way we can actually check how crazy those crazy theories really are. Unleash the clocks!!!

Absolutely bonkers! This was a really nice and fun read.

Recent discussion of a comparison between various atomic clocks: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26582161

These sorts of articles can send me down the rabbit hole so quickly.

As time rolls on, I realize that improvements to "measuring things" tends to radically change whatever industry lives around the target being measured and improvements in measuring anything "fundamental" like time/distance can be revolutionary in places and result in technologies that the consumer has no idea have any relation to even the measurement (ala GPS/time).

But even at higher levels, improve the ability to read/interpret information about a process and that process can be automated, or a previously automated process can be made more reliable[1] or possible[2]. If we couldn't measure time as precisely[3] as we do, today, GPS would be impossible. Improvements to the speed at which we can measure something -- precisely or not[4] when coupled with other accurate measurements with different timings all relying on the speed at which the (magic-foo) in RAM can be accurately measured -- improve the accuracy and usefulness of the measurement.

[0] Pretty obvious to this crowd...

[1] My FDM 3D printer can correctly create some pretty fantastic output, but if half-way through there's a failure, it will continue to print as though everything is A-OK, creating abstract spaghetti-art. It's "measuring" several things throughout the process (various position sensors), but being able to measure any part of the adhesion process better could allow the printer to adapt speed/temperature/conditions to produce a perfect print/react to a problem.

[2] "Situational Awareness" applications, ones where multiple measurements of multiple kinds are correlated to produce an actionable intelligence about a situation -- something simple as "the bone to be drilled has not moved, the bit is in the correct position and the expected characteristics at the drill site match everything else", being taken constantly throughout a robotic surgery process, altering the execution plan as measurements guide to a more "correct" outcome in real-time (reacting to unexpected circumstances while improvements to diagnostics measure many of them out of existence).

[3] All things being relative, anyway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accuracy_and_precision

[4] I'm probably a little out of date on this and at least a bit inaccurate but my understanding is that phones can achieve a geographical "fix" very quickly partly because they utilize inaccurate measurements about your location. I know that an ancient (predating the existence of Wi-Fi ancient) GPS device I owned had a strange behavior where it would find me on a map in less than a minute if I was at home, but would take ever longer the further away from home I was if I accidentally forgot to shut the app down correctly. I found out that pointing the "Home Address" setting at a nearby address corrected the problem.

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