We are also dreaming of a system better than GPS that could help bring “Peace on earth.” This will require collaboration with other countries in a large variety of scientific activities. Our goal is to use technology to help further the effort of “Finding Peace on Earth Good will toward men.” I will show you how and why precise timekeeping plays a major role in this goal.
Precise timekeeping has improved by a billion fold during my 82 years on this planet, and it has been exciting to be part of it. It is the most accurate and precise of all technologies and growing faster with enormous benefits to the human family. GPS is an example: the heart of GPS is precisely synchronized atomic clocks; it would not work without them.
(By reading this blog article, it may help you under stand in five minutes how GPS works. ) The incredible accuracies of the ever improving atomic-clock technologies opens an opportunity to make an advanced GPS with much greater precision than it has now and with enormous benefits. It is now about 5 meters accurate; can you imagine 1 millimeter?
My work with GPS has been very rewarding. The IEEE Keithley Award I got this year had the citation, “For leadership in time determination and precise timing instruments” and in 2016 I received the highest award given by the IEEE “for his life-long contributions and the citation, ‘For seminal work… regarding time determination, time prediction, time dissemination and timekeeping through contributions to atomic frequency standards, space-based navigation, time and frequency stability analysis, time-scale algorithms, and timekeeping devices.”
I share this article not to brag, but to help you appreciate some of the enormous benefits of precision timing in your life and some exciting future benefits. I thank the Lord for being part of this work. My goal is to help the Lord in His goal of “bringing peace on earth good will toward men.” We live on this space ship called earth, which is headed back home thanks to the infinite atonement of our Lord and Savior. I believe the Lord has given us technology to help.
Most people don’t have a clue how important precise timekeeping is in their lives, and that timing precision has made a tenfold increase every seven years and continues. Ever increasing technological benefits have followed. There are billions of quartz-crystal resonators and nanotechnology timing devices made per year as part of the advancement of the digital-technology and information age we have moved into.
Today, the official time lab in Boulder, CO, gets 6,500,000,000 calls per day from an enormous variety of timing systems. The internet, your smart phones, banking systems, the stock market, all the way to extremely complex and sophisticated systems like GPS need precise timekeeping. The atomic clocks on board the GPS satellites are synchronized to nearly a billionth of a second (nanosecond).
Hewlett Packard had me write an application note for general audiences, which got wide circulation (1997) – called THE SCIENCE OF TIMEKEEPING. In it we list four pages of precise timing applications. For example, precise timing not only makes GPS work, but also the internet, as well as communication systems, navigation and transportation systems, all computer systems and database systems that are ever increasing in size, complexity, and accessibility across the planet. We live in the information age and precise timing is at the heart of it.
The Future of Time Keeping & GPS
Now think of where technology is today and magnify that with more than a hundred-fold improvement in precise timekeeping and couple that with a similar large improvement in positioning, and the implications are enormous.
GPS uses precise timing to compute your latitude, longitude, and altitude, as explained in the first link above. GPS is a three segment program: 1) the user segment; 2) the space segment; and 3) the control segment. The user segment was initially just military; now the civilian usage is enormous – making the military percentage small compared to the whole.
The space segment now features about 32 satellites in six orbital planes at a 55 degree angle to the ecliptic and at an altitude of about 4.2 earth radii, so your GPS receiver or smart phone can see at least four of them at a time to get a solution of where you are.
The control segment communicates all the satellites tracking data to a central computing and processing system in Colorado Springs, where they prepare the data to be uploaded to the satellites for them to synchronize their clocks and to know their positions continuously. That data is sent to your smart phone or GPS receiver so it can calculate x, y, z, and t; that is to know your longitude, latitude, altitude and GPS time. Your smart phone or GPS receiver has effectively atomic-clock precision as part of the processing.
Because the satellites are so high up it is difficult for the tracking stations to know the vertical component with errors of several meters for the L1 GPS civil signal. In other words, it is a depth perception problem like discerning how far away the car is in front of you with just your two eyes. The GPS satellites are so far away that two tracking stations – like your two eyes — viewing the same satellite from the earth at the same time have difficulty knowing how far away it is.
The GPS satellites orbit every 12 hours at 4.2 earth radii; that is at a height that is like the distance of half of the circumference of the earth. Can you imagine viewing something that far away and wanting to know its distance from you? Precise timing is the key to give them their current accuracy of GPS of five meters for the civilian community.
A Solution – Kepler’s Third Law
There is a way around this vertical error problem using Kepler’s Third Law. It has the potential to provide an elegant solution because of the enormous improvement in atomic clocks now available.
In simple terms, Kepler’s Third Law states that the distance to the satellite from the center of the earth depends on how long it takes the satellite to go around the earth. Suppose we put one of these new super atomic clocks on board a satellite and then use its precise timing and accuracy to determine its orbit period. Using Kepler’s Third Law then allows us to use the measured orbit period to calculate the distance of the satellite to the center of the earth. After a little calculus on Kepler’s Third Law, we can estimate the size of the vertical error in terms of how well we can determine the satellite’s orbit period.
We can use the square-root of the Allan variance (ADEV) to estimate the size of this vertical error, and when we look at all the error components to our amazement we find it to be about a millimeter. The earth speeds up and slows down every day with an ADEV of about 4 cm, and the earth tides have amplitudes of about 30 cm. In other words the earth is going up and down where you are each day by that amount depending, of course, on the phase of the moon and just where you are. There are numerous other error components too detailed to discuss here, but the bottom-line is that these can be measured, and the measurement process could well engage the world wide metrology community in a cooperative effort.
Better Than GPS – Cooperation For Peace on Earth
Imagine what that could mean with this Kepler solution with the errors in positioning being of the order of a millimeter in real time, the benefits could be enormous. And one of the most exciting things for me is massive cooperation needed across a large set of scientific disciplines in providing the needed data to make it work and in turn benefiting greatly the world community as they share the fruits of that cooperation.
Instead of war games, it could unite the technological capabilities of all the nations pulling together. Consider alone the safety advantages of self-driving vehicles and airplanes with millimeter accuracies; that could be enormous. It would be about worldwide cooperation and peace on earth, not competition and war games.
For me, the best use of the internet is to share the gospel and to do family history research – knowing that the family is the most important unit in time and in eternity. In the scriptures we can read about an anticipated Zion society, where people are of one heart and one mind with no poor among them. They are also pure in heart.
I believe the Lord wants us to use our time and talents and technology to help bring about His divine purposes for the earth, which is to bring souls to Christ, who will bring peace on earth good will toward men. He will deliver us back to the Father in Celestial realms of glory on a celestialized earth and that ideal society we seek. Ironically, the meek will inherit the earth. Am I dreaming, or is this foretold? No that I share it with love in my heart for all of Father’s children — knowing that He loves them all and gave us His Son to perfect His Plan of Happiness. Let us use technology to hep us live the law of love your neighbor and your Creator.
David W Allan