STEM Lessons for College Students

The Hydrogen Maser. A maser is a laser-type device that produces electromagnetic waves with frequencies in the microwave and radio-wave bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. You can use the radio waves generated by a hydrogen maser as a standard of frequency. The frequency of these waves is 1 420 405 751.786 hertz. (A hertz is another name for one cycle per second.) A clock controlled by a hydrogen maser is off by only 1 s in 100 000 years. For the following questions use only three significant figures. (The large number of significant figures given for the frequency simply illustrates the remarkable accuracy to which it has been measured.) (a) What is the time for one cycle of the radio wave? (b) How many cycles occur in 1 h? (c) How many cycles would have occurred during the age of the earth which is estimated to be 4.6 * 109 years? (d) By how many seconds would a hydrogen maser clock be off after a time interval equal to the age of the earth?

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