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Atomic Clocks

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor David Wineland (University of Oregon) discusses atomic clocks. In the first mini-lecutre, we compare traditional and modern methods of navigation, where we see that precision in a clock’s ‘tick rate’ is essential for modern satellites and GPS. In the second mini-lecture, we discuss how a basic, mechanical clock (such as a pendulum clock) works, compare these clocks with atomic clocks, explain how to make an atomic clock with lasers/masers, and discuss why atomic clocks are so accurate and reliable. In the third mini-lecture, we introduce the concept of holding, or trapping, a single atom (or ion) and how this can be used to detect atomic transitions between the energy levels of the atom. The fourth mini-lecture discuses further effects on atomic clocks, notably gravitational-potential redshift, and notes future uses of atomic clocks.

About the Lecturer

Professor David Wineland is a Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon and was jointly awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for devising methods to study the quantum mechanical behaviour of individual ions. In 1975, he joined the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado, where he started the ion storage group and was a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Wineland and his group at NIST were able to place laser-cooled ions in a superposition of two different quantum states by trapping individual ions in an electric field. This permitted them to experimentally study fundamental physics, such as quantum mechanical behavior. This work led Professor Wineland and his group to make advances in quantum computing and atomic clocks.