Physicists imagine a day when they will be able to design a clock that’s so precise, it will be used to detect subtle disturbances in space-time or to find the elusive dark matter that tugs on everything yet emits no light. The ticking of this clock will be almost perfect.

That dream may not be far off: A group of researchers has created a clock that, with some tweaks, could be four to five times more precise than the world’s best clocks. To put that into perspective, if today’s most precise clocks started ticking at the birth of the universe, they would be off by only half a second today; with more improvements, this new clock has the potential to be off by only 0.1 second.

“Atomic clocks are by far the most precise instruments mankind has ever made by many orders of magnitude,” said Vladan Vuletić, a professor of physics at MIT and senior author of a recent paper describing the work. Now, “we are pushing this boundary” further, he added.

News type: