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October 2 2012

Atomic clocks get a grip on gravity


MEASURING Earth's hidden structures could soon be as simple as looking at your watch - provided it's a super-accurate atomic clock.

Such clocks are nearly good enough to deliver a detailed geoid, says Ruxandra Bondarescu at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and her colleagues. The geoid is a model of Earth's density variations - from the surface down to the mantle - as revealed by anomalies in the planet's gravitational pull. Knowing the geoid's shape can aid studies of deeply buried geological structures and show how mass is being redistributed over time, such as by the melting of polar ice sheets.

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