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Celebration of Time, 22 Bishopsgate

I was pleased to accept an invitation from the Master Engineer to attend a reception by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to celebrate time.  This was part of a series of experiments initiated by the Lord Mayor of London Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli’s mayoral theme ‘Connect to Prosper’.

According to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, time travels faster as height increases.  The experiment involved placing a highly accurate atomic clock on the 61st floor at 22 Bishopsgate, the tallest building in the City of London, and comparing it with a second clock located at NPL, in Teddington.

NPL’s CEO Dr Peter Thompson, pictured above, announced that when the two clocks were reunited, the time on the clock from 22 Bishopsgate had gained an additional 100±30 nanoseconds compared with the clock that stayed at the NPL.  This was consistent with Einstein’s prediction that time does travel faster the higher up you are.  Mind you, you would need to spend around one million years on the 61st floor at 22 Bishopsgate to see one second of difference between it and a clock at ground level! The novelty might wear off in this time.

There were demonstrations of other aspects of physics and time.  One involved enabling a pendulum to swing at a specific frequency.  With the simple variables of the weight and length of the pendulum, it was more difficult than it appeared.

An interesting experiment was comparing perception with reality.  Different sizes of a set of “Russian dolls” did not follow the expectation that the largest would be the heaviest.  In another experiment we tuned to the frequency of caesium atoms and saw the resonance caused.

It was a fascinating evening reminding us all of the importance of sound science and accurate measurement.

There was also an amazing view!



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