This is just going to have to be one of those blogs where I can’t begin to convey the complexity and “all out magic” that is everyday technology disguised as something so common, we walk over it all the time.
I’m talking about sand. Yes, sand on a beach, sand in a dune, and sand in our shoes. In technical terms, most sand consists of granule minerals eroded by water. The largest portion of this material is silica (silicon dioxide or SiO2) usually in the form of quartz.
So, what did quartz ever do for us? It’s used in electronics, and hearing aids. It helps play music on phonographs (record players), and in one of the most common uses, it regulates time in watches, and quartz clocks.
Today, most quartz crystals used in electronics are synthetic. The ability to manufacture such devices is once again PFM; “Pure Frigging Magic.” Creating a copy of something in nature? Think of a diamond; naturally occurring, but easily manufactured.
For a time piece to keep time, there needs to be a reference of movement. In the oldest clocks, this was done with a pendulum. The swing of the pendulum was equated to movement of time. Latter clocks, and watches used wound springs to “power” a balanced wheel moving back and forth which would also be equated to time. A modern quartz watch uses something called the piezoelectric effect. If you take (of course in reality, nobody takes “anything,”especially something the size of a section of your fingernail) a quartz crystal and strike it, or apply mechanical stress to it, the crystal will generate an electric signal. In reverse, if you apply an electric signal; usually from a battery to a quartz crystal, it will resonate or vibrate as at a certain frequency. That frequency will be measured, and converted to time, just as the frequency of the pendulum swinging back and forth did.
If you’re having trouble understanding all this, don’t feel bad; so am I. I’ve mentioned many times about the “magic” of technology. As usual, we are drowning in such magnificent works of wonder, and most of the time we don’t even notice it, and if we do it’s beyond our realm of comprehension.
Speaking of realms of comprehension, I’ve done what I could to explain how a watch works. Could someone return the favor and explain what Lindsay Lohan has ever done in this world to keep her in the news, and more importantly, employed? If I have mentioned this before, I’m sorry……I just don’t get it!