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What is the fastest event (shortest time duration) that can be measured with today's technology and how is this done?

Published

Author(s)

Thomas R. O'Brian, Scott A. Diddams

Abstract

Just how fast an event is depends somewhat on your point of view. In nature around us there are various physical events that occur on time scales from the yoctosecond (10-24 second) to the exasecond (1018 second) [see figure]. In the time it just took your heart to beat once, the computer on the desk next to you completed about 1 billion cycles, and in a simplistic picture the electron of a hydrogen atom could circle its proton about 1 quadrillion (1015) times. On the other hand, that very slow heart beat is actually quite fast and fleeting if one considers it relative to the 500 quadrillion (500 x 1015) second lifetime of our universe. Within this tremendous range of time scales, science and technology determine how accurately different events can be measured or inferred, and of course technology is continually evolving.
Citation
Scientific American

Keywords

femtosecond pulses, time interval, time measurement

Citation

O'Brian, T. and Diddams, S. (2004), What is the fastest event (shortest time duration) that can be measured with today's technology and how is this done?, Scientific American, [online], https://tsapps.nist.gov/publication/get_pdf.cfm?pub_id=30032 (Accessed April 16, 2024)
Created December 27, 2004, Updated February 17, 2017