UK scientists have created an “eternal engine” to keep the next generation of atomic clock ticking.
Precision timing is essential for systems such as global navigation, satellite mapping, establishing the composition of exoplanets and the next generations of telecommunication. But atomic clocks are currently massive devices—weighing hundreds of kilograms—which need to be housed within precise, difficult-to-maintain conditions.
That is why scientists from around the world are racing to build portable versions that will work in real-world settings, and could replace existing satellite navigation systems, such as GPS and Galileo.
Now, research undertaken at the University of Sussex and continued at Loughborough University has solved a major stumbling block in the development of these portable atomic clocks, by working out how to reliably switch “on” their counting device—and keep them running.
Microcombs are a fundamental part of future optical atomic clocks—they allow one to count the oscillation of the “atomic pendulum” in the clock, converting the atomic oscillation at hundreds of trillions of times per second to a billion times a second—a gigahertz frequency, that modern electronic systems can easily measure.
Based on electronic compatible optical microchips, microcombs are the best candidates to miniaturize the next generation of ultraprecise timekeeping. They are cutting-edge laser technology sources, made up of ultraprecise laser lines, equally spaced in the spectrum, which resemble a comb.
This peculiar spectrum opens an array of applications blending ultraprecise time keeping and spectroscopy which could lead to the discovery of exoplanets, or ultra-sensitive medical instruments based simply on breath scans.
The microcomb is a core component for creating a portable and ultra-accurate time reference, which is critically needed for the current and next generation of telecommunication (5 and 6G+ and fiber communication), network synchronization (e.g. electrical network) and it will reduce our dependence on the GPS.Phys.org
Keeping the big questions in focus, we should ponder whether it’s reasonable that unguided natural forces could create “a portable and ultra-accurate time reference” or the “next generation of telecommunication (5 and 6G+ and fiber communication)”. Of course, we know that human beings are responsible for these technological achievements. But consider an analogy: if a scientist builds a robot that is designed to construct an electronic circuit board, what is the “efficient cause” (borrowing from Aristotle) of the circuit board? If you say, “the robot”, that’s only the first step in the causal chain. One would have to take it back to the human scientist who built the robot. But the causal chain needs to continue back further: what is the efficient cause of the human? The materialist would have to answer that unguided natural forces caused the human scientist who built the robot who constructed the electronic circuit board. The theist would answer that God created the human with the ability to do these things.
Launching the jibe, “Who created God?” doesn’t score a point. There has to be an always-existent first cause. God’s eternal self-existence is plausible by definition. If God exists, the concept of God giving humans the ability to create technological devices is plausible. The eternal existence of matter and energy not only defies scientific observation, but the ability of unguided forces to transform matter into a human that can create “a portable and ultra-accurate” atomic clock is a far stretch beyond what we know with certainty about the limitations of nature.