New Atomic Clock

I just read that they just put a new atomic clock into operation. The clock only loses one second every 20 million years. This replaces another atomic clock that loses one second every 3 million years. ::gasp:: How inaccurate!

My question is, why waste the thousands upon thousands (and I may be underestimating the cost) of dollars on such a mechanism? I find that my Timex does just fine for my purposes. Do we really need a clock that accurate?

I caught a lecture by William Phillips a few weeks ago (he got a Nobel Prize for his work on atomic clocks in '97) and this question was asked. Phillips mentioned practical applications like a more accurate GPS system, which I’m sure the military would appreciate. He also thought the main benefit would be greater precision in physics experiments. Sort of a guns vs butter argument. Money is spent on atomic clocks for the same reason money is spent on other types of research. How much has NASA spent on space exploration? I guess it depends on your definition of what a waste of money is.

Why would anyone shoot a hole in a perfectly acceptable stick of butter???

" If you want to kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel "