Home Science & Technology Scientists have just discovered a brand new way to measure time: ScienceAlert

Scientists have just discovered a brand new way to measure time: ScienceAlert

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Marking the passage of time in a world of ticking clocks and pendulums is a simple case of counting the seconds between then and now.

However, on the quantum scale of buzzing electrons, the “then” is not always predictable. Worse, the “now” often blurs in a fog of uncertainty. The stopwatch just isn’t going to cut it for some scenarios.

A potential solution may be found in the form of quantum fog itself, according to researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Their experiments on the wavelike nature of what is called a Rydberg state revealed a new way to measure time that does not require a precise starting point.

Rydberg atoms they are the over-inflated balloons of the particle kingdom. Blown up by lasers instead of air, these atoms contain electrons in extremely high-energy states that spin far from the nucleus.

Of course, not every laser pump has to inflate an atom to cartoonish proportions. In fact, lasers are routinely used to drive electrons into higher energy states for a variety of purposes.

In some applications, a second laser can be used to monitor changes in electron position, including over time. these ‘probe pump‘ techniques can be used to measure the speed of certain ultrafast electronics, e.g.

Induction of atoms into Rydberg states is a convenient reception for engineersnot least when it comes to design new components for quantum computers. Needless to say, physicists have accumulated a considerable amount of information about how electrons move when they are pushed into the Rydberg state.

However, being quantum animals, their movements are less like beads sliding down a tiny abacus and more like an evening at a roulette table, where every toss and bounce of the ball is squeezed into a single gamble.

The mathematical rulebook for this wild Rydberg electronic roulette game is called the Rydberg Wave Packet.

Just like real waves in a pond, having more than one Rydberg wave packet spinning through space creates interference, resulting in unique ripple patterns. Throw enough Rydberg wavepackets into the same atomic pond, and each of these unique patterns will reflect the distinct time it takes for the wavepackets to evolve in line with each other.

It is these “fingerprints” of time that the physicists behind the latest set of experiments decided to test, showing that they are consistent and reliable enough to serve as a form of quantum timestamping.

Their research involved measuring the results of laser-excited helium atoms and comparing their findings to theoretical predictions to show how their characteristic results could persist over time.

“When you use a counter, you have to define zero. You start counting at some point,” explained physicist Marta Berholz of Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the team. A new scientist.

“The advantage of this is that you don’t have to start the clock – you just look at the obstacle pattern and say, ‘Okay, 4 nanoseconds have passed.'”

The Rydberg Wavepacket Evolution Handbook can be used in conjunction with other forms of pump-probe spectroscopy that measure small-scale events that are occasionally less clear or simply too inconvenient to measure.

It is important to note that none of the fingerprints require that time and now to serve as a starting and stopping time point. It would be like measuring an unknown sprinter’s race against several competitors running at a given speed.

By looking for signatures of Rydberg entanglement states among a sample of probe atoms, the researchers could observe the time stamp for events as fleeting as just 1.7 trillionths of a second.

Future experiments with quantum clocks could replace helium with other atoms or even use a laser pulse of different energies to expand the handbook of time stamps for a wider range of conditions.

This study was published in Physical Review Research.

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