How Atomic Clocks Work and Why They Matter to GPS

Science Technology
How Atomic Clocks Work and Why They Matter to GPS
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It’s absolutely incredible that the most accurate atomic clocks lose only about 1 second over 138 million years. But how exactly do they work? Bill Hammack, The Engineer Guy, explains the science behind these time-keeping marvels in his latest video. Using cesium atoms to create a feedback loop, a block of quartz is electronically “nudged” to keep its oscillations consistent. And this amazing accuracy is a critical part of GPS technology. According to Bill, being off by even a milisecond could mean an error of about 300 kilometers.

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Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

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