The Physics of Timekeeping

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Whether you wish it would go faster to get to the front of a line or wish it could stretch out to have just one more day of your weekend, time is a fundamental component to human life. As such, the manner by which we standardize and measure time is exceptionally important for everything from performing an experiment to ensuring you make it to class on time.

In this presentation, a historical timeline is combined with the physics behind advancements in timekeeping technology to provide an in-depth view of how we keep time. This particular demonstration is geared towards Grade 12 physics students, though it can be simplified for a Grade 11 audience. The presentation covers topics of energy conservation, simple harmonic motion (via pendulums and springs), electricity and magnetism, rudimentary electronics, and piezoelectrics.

The presentation takes roughly 50-60 minutes to complete and contains three demonstrations throughout to characterize different versions of clock designs and the physics behind their advantages and limitations. There is also an optional fourth demo that can be passed around the class concerning piezoelectrics should time permit.

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