What clock sets the official time of the United States? Answer = the NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

My wife has an atomic clock. It’s not really atomic but …… I like changing the batteries in it. When I do, if you wait until it is an o’clock, you will see it whiz around and settle EXACTLY on the right time. Quite amazing to this non-technical twit. Club member Jim  Willimas told me that Sarah’s clock gets a signal from Colorado. I guess I have never been curious enough to ask any more questions.

But, I have recently found out how Sarah’s clock gets  “put right.” My info comes from an article in the Daily Mail:

If you’ve ever wondered what clock sets the official time of the United States, look no further. The bearer of that important standard is the NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock, located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado. Built in four years, and officially established in 2005, the F1 is the latest in a series of increasingly accurate clocks responsible for keeping time for the entire country. The clock will neither gain nor lose a second in the next 80 million years.”

80 million years eh? I guess I won’t be around to see what they do with that lost second. I digress.

The process that the clock uses is, needless to say, extremely complex. Basically, it measures the frequency of microwaves needed to produce maximum fluorescence in a ball of cesium atoms. That frequency–the resonant frequency of cesium–is used to define the second. The “Fountain” in its title refers to the rising and falling of the ball of cesium atoms, which is produced by a group of lasers.

This increased accuracy is not just a matter of idle dispute. The improvement in time measurement can aid advances in telecommunications, satellites and medical technology. It can also be used to obtain a greater degree of accuracy in scientific experiments where the tiniest measurements can make a huge difference–for example, determining the presence of fluctuations in what we perceive as constants of the universe.

What’s this clock look like? Well, it doesn’t look like a clock to me but …….

NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock

NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock

NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock with people showing its size

NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock with people showing its size

I thought about asking for one for my birthday but Then I thought, save your breath!