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January 11 2013

A rock is a clock: Physicists use matter to measure time


What is the simplest, most fundamental clock? Physicist Holger Müller and his UC Berkeley colleagues have shown that a single atom is sufficient to measure time using its high-frequency matter wave. Conversely, the frequency of matter can be used to define its mass. The feat is a fundamental demonstration of wave-particle duality central to quantum mechanics.

Ever since he was a kid growing up in Germany, Holger Müller has been asking himself a fundamental question: What is time? That question has now led Müller, today an associate professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, to a fundamentally new way of measuring time.

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