Boulder's Claim to Civilian-Time Fame

January 5 2010, 11:28 AM

judahpicAfter ensuring that American corks were popped on the exact nanosecond for the New Year, Judah Levine of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder seems an odd figure. He doesn't wear a watch and often loses track of time, the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post points out, despite a job that requires him to disseminate the country's official civilian time. "My job is neat,'' says Levine, who has worked for NIST since 1969. "The difficulty is that the time is something people take for granted, so it's a job that is sometimes unappreciated." When he joined NIST in 1969, the nation was only on the brink of developing infrastructure that now depends on accuracy at the level of one millionth to one billionth of a second. To achieve that, Levine, at the agency's Time and Frequency Division, helped create software and a computer system linking to a series of atomic clocks. He devised one of the most accurate time-keeping systems in the world: His clock neither gains nor loses more than one second in 80 million years. [Photo via NIST Web site.]