Thursday, February 11, 2010

All the Time in the World

When you're snowed in, the first thing you have to do is dig yourself out. After you've done that and discovered that you still can't go to work anyhow, you find that you have lots of time on your hands. Finding activities to fill that time is easy at first, even if limited by the screaming of muscles you'd forgotten you had until you called upon them to shovel all that snow.

Agnes and I have watched more television in the last week than we have in 27 years of marriage. Agnes has read all the books she bought to take with her on her trip to Germany that has had to be postponed until next week because of the storm. I'm working my way through Season 4 of Lost on DVDs, and have finally gotten about 500 pounds of old files shredded.

But there's still lots of time available.

And speaking of time (yes, I'm finally getting around to my point), you will be glad to know that we are now able to measure it with sufficient accuracy.

According to this article from Neatorama, a team led by Chin-wen Chou of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado has invented a "quantum logic clock" that is one hundred thousand times more accurate than those cheap, shoddy cesium fountain clocks that are the current standard, despite only being accurate to a measly second in 100,000,000 (that's 100 million) years. Who can deal with such a level of gross inexactitude? The new quantum logic clock uses the energy state of a single ion of aluminum to produce accuracy of a second in 3,700,000,000 (that's 3.7 billion) years.

Yes, friends, thanks to this miracle of modern science, a poor fellow can know to an unprecedented level of accuracy exactly how long he has been waiting patiently for his date to get ready, and a wife can inform her husband of exactly how long she's been waiting for him to get cracking on his honey-do list.

Of course, there are practical applications for such an accurate clock, among them an improved level of accuracy for GPS devices. Yes, soon you will be able to have your in-car GPS unit tell you in angstroms how far it is to your next turn, and scientists will also be able to detect the slowing of time predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Of course, anyone who has been snowbound for a week or more can tell you all about the slowing of time without recourse to general relativity.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - How about this spiffy picture of our neighborhood, taken last night at about 10:00 PM...

The job for today is trying to get some of this snow off the roof. Where's Sir Edmund Hillary when you need him?



Debbie said...

Bilbo, they make "snow rakes" to get snow off the roof with ease. Shop on line and have one overnighted if you are not successful today. The pic is beautiful!

Jay said...

That fancy new clock probably costs more than my car.

Be careful out there!

Mike said...

This past week your new personal body GPS would have been saying, "you are still on the couch .... you are still on the couch .....".

Bandit said...

Debbie, Mike has one of those rakes.

That is a cool pic. if you had one of those new clocks, you would not have to say that you took the pic "about" 10:00 PM.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It sounds fairly accurate!

allenwoodhaven said...

I guess an old quote I've long liked is no longer true: A man with two watches never knows what time it is.

Debbie said...

Hey Bill...while cleaning out your den how about cleaning out your email inbox!!! (just had some inspiration for you returned)