Atomically Correct

For students who come in late to class, the faulty clock excuse may no longer fly. With atomic clocks hitting the market, being on time is now a matter of scientific precision.

Phil Bennett, an atomic watch reviewer, said, “If you’ve been looking for a more accurate way to keep your clocks or your computers at the right time, look no more.”

Atomic clocks run on atomic time, which is based on atomic or molecular resonance phenomena. In contrast to the mechanical time devices (i.e. common watches, grandfather clocks) that utilize wheels, pendulums, and tuning forks, the atomic clock runs on the oscillations, or vibrations, of cesium atoms, hence, their accuracy. Though it may be a little difficult to find an atomic clock in ordinary retail stores, several Internet retailers carry these more modern time pieces.

RC Precision is the largest online seller of atomic timepieces.”Other watches (and) clocks may tick, but our radio controlled instruments listen to the signals of the world’s most accurate timekeeper, the U.S. Atomic Clock in Boulder, Colo.,” said the Web site, .

Though atomic clocks have existed since 1955, it was not until the 1990s that the National Institute for Standards and Technology developed the cesium clock that is accurate to a single second for every three million years.

he U.S. official atomic time clock, overseen by the NIST based in Boulder, Colo., is responsible for sending out signals from the West to East Coast. This clock is attached to a giant radio antenna that sends out a strong signal across the United States. It is by this signal that atomic clocks tune into that radio signal’s frequency, decode the signal and set their time to the U.S. Atomic Clock.

The universal time measurement, which runs on the atomic time scale, is the official U.S. time that governs ship movements, radio stations, space flights and warplanes.

Atomic time is the official time used by the U.S. government, and other countries, including England, employ it, as well. International Atomic Time is configured by comparing around 230 atomic clocks in laboratories around the world.

But while many governments have adopted atomic time as the standard for time measurement, consumers are somewhat more reluctant to pick up on the trend.

Bill Futch, of Father Time Clocks and Collectibles in Brandon, said the atomic clocks don’t sell as well as traditional clocks.”No, not very many people come in for them,” he said.

Atomic clocks call for particular walls on which to be hung on, and they do not function correctly around certain appliances because of radio-wave interference.

“They have to be placed on either the west or eastern wall to catch the radio signals,” Futch said.

Futch said that the limits of atomic clocks turn away customers.

“Lots of people want to put them by the TV,” he said. But this simply doesn’t work.

Sheri Krajcik, a clerk at Time Square International in Tampa, is more optimistic about atomic clocks. She said that the popularity of atomic timepieces will grow once people begin to recognize their conveniences.

“They automatically adjust themselves during daylight-saving time,” she said.

Atomic clocks also auto-synchronize between time zones and leap years.

Though it may take awhile for the general public to come around to the idea of atomic clocks, Bennett said that they’ve already had an impact on certain consumers.

He said atomic time pieces are a must-have for technophiles, geeks and watch aficionados.

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