Gurus develop way to shrink atomic clock... with lasers

The world's most accurate clocks got even more accurate just a few years back, but now a team from the University of Nevada in Reno is looking to make the atomic clock way, way smaller. Housed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado, these so-called "fountain clocks" send out clouds of caesium atoms through a vacuum chamber in a magnetic field; from there, microwaves in the chamber excite the atoms and then emit light as they drop to a lower hyperfine state. All that rocket science aside, the real point here is that all that magic requires a chassis about the size of a modern day refrigerator. Andrei Derevianko and Kyle Beloy have conjured up the idea of "trapping atoms in place using lasers," which would obviously require far less space for the time telling to happen. Just think -- a chicken in every pot and an atomic clock on every wrist.

[Image courtesy of PSU]