By Trent Knoss

Can a laser tell time? JILA’s new superradiant version can. Earlier this year, physicists demonstrated a new, ultrastable design based on synchronized emissions of light from the same type of atoms used in advanced atomic clocks. The laser, built in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, could be stable enough to make the clock 100 times more precise while also advancing other scientific quests, such as making accurate “rulers” for measuring astronomical distances. The laser’s output of red light is expected to be about 10,000 times less sensitive than conventional lasers to “noise,” or pervasive mechanical vibrations. Better laser design could have wide applications in space science, allowing researchers to accurately measure light traveling the vast distance between Earth and the sun.