Today's quartz wristwatches are pretty darn good at keeping time, gaining or losing only about 15 seconds a month.
But a new atomic clock -- an experimental device described in a paper in the journal Nature -- is a bit better. Tests show it wouldn't gain or lose even a single second over the course of 5 billion years. That's a new world record.
The "strontium lattice" clock was created by researchers led by Dr. Jun Ye, a physicist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It is housed at JILA, an institute operated by NIST and the University of Colorado at Denver, according to a written statement released by the institute. It's about 50 percent more precise than the previous world record-holder, NIST's so-called "quantum logic" clock.
For all its incredible accuracy, however, the scientists who took the time to create the new clock aren't quite satisfied.
"We already have plans to push the performance even more," Dr. Jun Ye said in the statement. "So in this sense, even this new Nature paper represents only a 'mid-term' report. You can expect more new breakthroughs in our clocks in the next five to 10 years."
The strontium lattice clock is the latest in a series of increasingly precise clocks created since the first atomic clock was constructed in 1949. Atomic clocks make possible many familiar technologies, including GPS systems, computer networks, and telecommunications networks.