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2Physics Quote:
"Today’s most precise time measurements are performed with optical atomic clocks, which achieve a precision of about 10-18, corresponding to 1 second uncertainty in more than 15 billion years, a time span which is longer than the age of the universe... Despite such stunning precision, these clocks could be outperformed by a different type of clock, the so called “nuclear clock”... The expected factor of improvement in precision of such a new type of clock has been estimated to be up to 100, in this way pushing the ability of time measurement to the next level."
-- Lars von der Wense, Benedict Seiferle, Mustapha Laatiaoui, Jürgen B. Neumayr, Hans-Jörg Maier, Hans-Friedrich Wirth, Christoph Mokry, Jörg Runke, Klaus Eberhardt, Christoph E. Düllmann, Norbert G. Trautmann, Peter G. Thirolf
(Read Full Article: "Direct Detection of the 229Th Nuclear Clock Transition"

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Einstein Is Precisely Right

Precise tests of the predictions of Einstein's Theory of Relativity are important because special relativity is a central principle of modern physics and the basis for many scientific experiments as well as useful instruments like the global positioning system (GPS).

The December 21st issue of Nature carries an article describing an experiment that performed the most precise direct test ever of what is perhaps the most famous formula in science: E=mc^2, or that the energy (E) equals mass (m) times the square of the speed of light (c^2), a direct outcome of Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

The experiment was performed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Institute Laue Langevin, Genoble, France (ILL) .

According to the basic laws of physics, every wavelength of electromagnetic radiation corresponds to a specific amount of energy. The NIST/ILL team of scientists determined the value for energy in the Einstein equation by carefully measuring the wavelength of gamma rays emitted by silicon and sulfur atoms. Then comparing these numbers and MIT measurements of the mass of the same atoms, the scientists found that E differs from mc^2 by at most 0.0000004, or four-tenths of 1 part in 1 million. This result is “consistent with equality” and is 55 times more accurate than the previous best direct test of Einstein’s formula.

Congratulations, Mr. Einstein! It was a good way to end the Year of Physics.



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