An attosecond (AS)


/ A shortest measurable period of time /


0,  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  0  1  seconds

An attosecond (AS) is to a second what a second is to, about, 31.71 billion years. More precisely, it is a 1×10−18 of a second, or one quintillionth of a second and one quintillion = 1 000 000 000 000 000 000. An attosecond is equal to 1000 zeptoseconds, or ​11000 of a femtosecond. Atto was derived from the Danish word for eighteen (atten). It’s quite impossible for the human mind to imagine just how short of a timeframe that is, so we need some few examples and comparisons.

For now, 12 attoseconds are the shortest measurable period of time. In a single second light can circle around the earth 7.5 times, but in a single attosecond light would barely manage to move from one end of a molecule to the other end. If we could percieve the world in that timeframe, light would appear to be frozen to us. Even more 1 attosecond is to a second what the size of an atom is to the size of the entire planet, times 100. Or if you were an immortal living in that timescale, you would live out the entire age of the universe (plus more than that, 37 billion years) in the time it would take a normal person to blink.

attosecond1 attosecond: the time it takes for light to travel the length of two hydrogen atoms

12 attoseconds: record for shortest time interval measured as of 12 May 2010

24 the atomic unit of time

43 the shortest pulses of laser light yet created

53 the second-shortest pulses of laser light created

100 fastest-ever view of molecular motion

200 half-life of beryllium-8, maximum time available for the triple-alpha process for the synthesis of carbon and heavier elements in stars

320 estimated time it takes electrons to transfer between atoms


There’s attophysics (10−18 s), also known as attoscience, which is a branch of physics wherein attosecond duration pulses of electrons or photons are used to probe dynamic processes in matter with unprecedented time resolution. The majority of attoscience employs pump–probe methods. One of the primary goals of attosecond science is to provide more insights into the dynamics of electrons in molecules. Today, attophysicists mostly study molecular phenomena, such as how a particular protein breaks down under X-ray bombardment.

A millisecond is one thousandth of a second and is commonly used in measuring the time to read to or write from a hard disk, or any CD-ROM player, or to measure packet travel time on the Internet. A nanosecond is one billionth (10-9) of a second and is a common measurement of read or write access time to random access memory, like RAM. A picosecond is one trillionth (10-12) of a second, or one millionth of a microsecond.

A femtosecond is one millionth of a nanosecond or 10-15 of a second and is a measurement sometimes used in laser technology.


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