Scientists Record the Zeptosecond, the Smallest Fragment of Time Ever Measured

The Tag Heuer Mikrotimer made horological history when it became the first mechanical watch with the ability to time an event up to 1/1000th of a second. That’s about as small a scale currently possible for a mechanical watch, and it’s undeniably impressive. (Editor’s note: one of our readers reminded us of the Tag Heuer Mikrogirder concept watch, capable of timing an event down to 1/2,000th of a second!)

Recently, physicists observing changes on an atomic level have measured the ejection of an electron at the smallest ever recorded scale—a trillionth of a billionth of a second, or a zeptosecond. To achieve this incredible feat, researchers studying the photoelectric effect (a discovery for which Albert Einstein was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921) at the Max Plank Institute in Germany used two lasers firing short bursts of different light toward a jet of helium to knock off an electron. The lasers then detected the emissions, which scientists were able to measure down to 850 zeptoseconds. This discovery gives scientists a better understanding of how the quantum process works, and may one day be critical to quantum computing and superconductivity.

An electron escaping a helium atom.

The study was published in Nature Physics. To read a summary of the experiment, visit NewScientist.

Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.