This Cosmic Timekeeping Method Proposes to Synchronize All Clocks on Earth

Microseconds are the heartbeat of modern technology. Every component, from global positioning systems to communications networks, must function in near-perfect harmony.

Signals received over optic fiber or down from an orbiting satellite tend to guarantee time-sensitive equipment matches times down to the millisecond, according to criteria established by a dedicated task group.

However, this isn't always the case. It's easy for critical elements of a network to miss the beat when they're reliant on faulty electronics, separated by huge distances, and concealed beneath seas and stone.

Hiroyuki Tanaka, a geophysicist at the University of Tokyo, believes it is past time to hunt for a more dependable and accessible timekeeper. To the heavens and beyond.

"It's relatively easy to keep time accurately these days. For example, atomic clocks have been doing this for decades now," says Tanaka.
"However, these are large and expensive devices that are very easy to disrupt. This is one reason I have been working on an improved way to keep time."

Tanaka suggests that we exploit the subatomic pyrotechnics that rain down from collisions between high-energy cosmic rays and our environment, which he calls cosmic time synchronization (CTS).

These collisions produce a number of particles, one of which is the muon, the electron's heavyweight cousin.

These massive chunks of matter travel at near to the speed of light, oblivious to anything in their path. If you hold out your hand, a muon will strike through it once per second.

Even the granite beneath your feet can't stop it, which is why they're ideal for casting a light on the insides of massive constructions like the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Importantly, each shower of muons falls in a slightly different pattern, creating a distinctive explosion that can be detected separately by sensors spread out across many square kilometers.

A network may exploit a succession of cosmic muon fireworks to synchronize their timepieces with split-second precision by exchanging information of each event and working backward.

"The principle is robust, and the technology, detectors, and timing electronics already exist. So we could implement this idea relatively quickly," stated Tanaka.
It's easy to envisage a web of muon-catchers strewn across the ocean floor or strewn across isolated places, all meticulously synced to assist identify earthquakes or warn about tsunamis.

According to Tanaka, the technique might potentially serve as the foundation for a new type of global positioning system by tracing muons back to their origin.

It has to be seen if such technology can supplement present approaches, act as an alternative in specific instances, or completely replace them.

"Thomas Edison lit up Manhattan starting with a single light bulb," says Tanaka.

"Perhaps we should take that approach, starting with a city block, then a district, and eventually we'll synchronize the whole of Tokyo and beyond."
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