A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo has developed a new type of optical atomic clock that boasts a 100 quadrillionth of a second accuracy (one quadrillion has 15 zeros). The optical lattice clock is the brain child of Professor Katori who says his device observes a million atoms simultaneously whereas conventional atomic clocks measure time by using single atoms.
The Professor explains:
“(…) if one clock is placed one centimeter higher than another clock, the higher clock is affected by less gravity, so it goes faster. That difference could be read out in the 18th decimal place of the clocks in one second averaging time. Until now, clocks have been thought of as tools for sharing a common time. But with clocks like this, conversely, we can understand that time passes at different speeds, depending on the time and place a clock is at.”
The idea is to eventually use the new clock to improve GPS (which is based on atomic clocks delivering 14-or 15-digit accuracy) or to predict earthquakes, for example.
This video (shot by Diginfonews in Tokyo, in English) provides more insight: