Just In Time

A new atomic clock will lose a second, at most, by the year A.D. 1,600,000

How do the professional timekeepers of the world determine, to the precise nanosecond, when a new year begins? They simply consult an atomic clock. And last week, just in time to ring in the new, the Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled the latest in these meticulous timepieces. Twice as accurate as earlier models, the $54,000 device -- the size of a desktop computer -- will remain reliable to the second for the next 1.6 million years, a period far longer than modern humans have existed.

Who could possibly need such precision? Practically everyone, indirectly at least. Telephone and computer...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!