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Understanding the foundations of measurement: Why a clock that ticks randomly is the best clock

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In this article, we examine how a competition to find the world’s most accurate clock might be run. How could the winning clock be identified if it outperforms every existing standard for timing? The intuitive view on time-keeping is that a good clock is one that keeps time consistently and hence agrees with other clocks. This view, we argue, is mistaken. Measurement is fundamentally about making high-quality predictions. Accordingly, the goal is not consistency, but independence between the clock and its environment. We propose that, counter-intuitively, the best clock is the one that ticks most unpredictably, making its predictions the most difficult to beat. The organizers of the clock competition should award the prize to the clock that ticks most randomly.
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Keywords: Measurement Standards; Metrology; Prediction; Randomness; Stability; Time

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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  • Physics Essays has been established as an international journal dedicated to theoretical and experimental aspects of fundamental problems in Physics and, generally, to the advancement of basic knowledge of Physics. The Journal's mandate is to publish rigorous and methodological examinations of past, current, and advanced concepts, methods and results in physics research. Physics Essays dedicates itself to the publication of stimulating exploratory, and original papers in a variety of physics disciplines, such as spectroscopy, quantum mechanics, particle physics, electromagnetic theory, astrophysics, space physics, mathematical methods in physics, plasma physics, philosophical aspects of physics, chemical physics, and relativity.
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