Time, what allows us to always be in sync is critical. It is used in every aspect of life, from financial transactions, blockchain, satellites, industrial automation, control systems, computers, telephone networks and subsea operations. The world does indeed have a robust time tracking system. The one in force, however, is not perfect. It has vulnerabilities and does not always have the desired accuracy. If it fails, the impact on the economy would be over $ 1 million a day.
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Given the importance it has, experts continue to look for new ways to eliminate errors. A group of researchers from the University of Tokyo has perhaps found a solution. It is a procedure that uses cosmic rays to calibrate all the clocks in the world called Cosmic Time System (Cts). It is based on a series of sensors that are able to detect particles derived from the collision of cosmic rays with the earth’s atmosphere. Cosmic rays scatter at an altitude of 15 kilometers causing a shower of corpuscles that reach the ground. When they penetrate the upper atmosphere, they generate pions, which in turn decay into muons and neutrinos. Muons move at a speed similar to that of light. They are relatives of electrons, have a negative charge and 207 times greater weight. When they encounter an electromagnetic field, and when they are slowed down, they emit a radiation of lesser intensity; they are consequently more penetrating. Thanks to this, a substantial fraction of the muons produced in the upper atmosphere manage to reach the earth’s surface before decaying, and it is possible to detect them on the ground. If we open our hand, we can expect to be hit by a muon every second.
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The CTS instruments, which are located in various points on the planet, can detect the arrival of cosmic rays, communicate with each other, synchronize the data received based on the moments in which the phenomenon occurred and then use this measure for time. The modules can be placed anywhere, including under the sea. They consist of a muon detector, a digital time converter and a crystal oscillator. Muons reach the ground almost simultaneously and based on where they arrive and when, and by compensating for the different origins with the arrival data of the cosmic rays from which they come, it is possible to keep time. Each muon rain arrives in a characteristic and identifiable way . Cosmic rays arrive very often, about 100 times per hour in every square meter of the world. They are therefore a very reliable source.
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The advantage of this technique is that it works in any environment, including the bottom of the sea or under rocks.
Wireless devices are currently being coordinated through the GPS, which has a difference of 2 thousand picoseconds which can become half with further calibration methods. GPS is not always ideal because sometimes the signal is absent, for example underground, in some buildings, in some regions such as the polar ones or in the mountains. It also causes a high drain on the batteries.
One possibility of correction is that the detector keeps the time even when there is an interruption and then recalibrates it when it appears again.
Another is atomic clocks. A cesium oscillator allows a drift of only 100,000 nanoseconds in 14 days. However, it has a high cost of over $ 300,000, which allows it to be used only for certain sectors. It also uses a distribution system that can be subject to hacker attacks that would knock it out.
In Japanese research it has been shown that cosmic rays can allow you to synchronize every corner of the Earth and since the crystal oscillator used costs only 100 dollars, the devices you need are already in use, it is an economical and useful option for everyone. applications, even the most daily ones.
Muons penetrate practically everything and muography (the geography of muons) provides information that also allows us to visualize the internal structure of volcanoes, railway tunnels, natural caves, archaeological sites.
In principle the system of recurring synchronization to which the Cts are subjected can be repeated continuously and forever and can be spread in any location above or below the earth’s surface. It all depends only on the area being covered. The higher the installation density, the greater the stability and accuracy, the fewer micro delays that can occur. They should be a few miles away. But it is also possible to use a device owned by now six billion people: the smartphone. The CMOS sensors of the cameras they are equipped with are able to record muons. While each phone has limited detection capability and an area of just 0.2 square centimeters, given the high number they could be an important tool.