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Pulsar clocks spin closer to reality

Sean Hollister

Contrary to popular legend, Pulsar wristwatches don't use the light of dying stars to keep time. However, if researchers at the University of Manchester are correct, the strobe-like effect generated by a collapsed star's spin may indeed be the most accurate clock (sorry, atoms) available to mankind. While pulsars have long been studied for insight into the nature of time and gravity, their patterns weren't as regular as scientists would like, but the U of M team believe that's because the stars are actually swapping between two different states, each with their own rotation speed. By correcting for the difference when the hunk of burning gas puts on the brakes, they can make measurements far more precise -- meaning a greater understanding of the fabric of space-time for the brainiacs, and if we're lucky, reliable pulsar clocks within our lifetime.

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