My Quantum Alarm Clock

One of the things I struggle with a bit when it comes to writing about cool modern physics is how much to play up the weirdness. On the one hand, people just can't get enough of "spooky action at a distance," but on the other hand, talking too much about that sort of thing makes quantum physics seem like a completely bizarre theory with no applications.

Which is unfortunate, because quantum physics is essential for all manner of everyday technology. For example, as I try to explain in a new post at Forbes, quantum physics is essential to the cheap alarm clock that wakes me up in the morning.

So, you know, go over there and check it out. Also, you can see a carefully curated selection from the giant pile of books that usually lives on my nightstand with the alarm clock...

More like this

I would be very surprised if your clock depended on the AC power being exactly 60 Hz as you claim in the article. If you use it in a country with a 50 Hz grid, is the timekeeping way off? Why not use a quartz crystal like in wristwatches?

Why not use a quartz crystal like in wristwatches?

Presumably because using power line AC is (or was, at the time the clock was manufactured) cheaper than a quartz crystal if the clock is intended to plug into AC power. (This obviously does not apply to my alarm clock, which is battery powered.) And yes, that means that there would be issues using this clock in countries with 50 Hz AC (and likewise with using clocks designed for a 50 Hz grid in this country). But clocks like that are not intended to be portable--you get a battery powered traveling alarm clock if you want portability. (Or if you live in Japan: part of that country uses 60 Hz and part uses 50 Hz.)

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

I am no way close to being against quantum physics, but what more does it do besides a morning clock? It is a very hot topic these days but some of us never heard anything great that it did.
And besides, how can electrons be refered to as waves while they are having a 'position' and can be moved from one atom to another?


I don't know whether they fix/care about misprints at Forbes, but there's an Alert Einstein that escaped the proofreaders (it sort-of fits the theme of the post, though).

In unrelated news, I have similar needs of sound/light for my alarm, and am now wondering exactly how short-sighted you are. Care to comment or write a post or give links for a science-y description of what "I'm short sighted, my lenses are 8* diopters strong" means?
*in my case, 8.50 and 7.75.

Thanks for the typo spotting; I fixed that.

Usually when a clock has a quartz crystal to regulate the timekeeping, that's labeled on the clock somewhere. I did check this one to see if there was any mention of quartz, and this particular clock doesn't say that.

I didn't check the power requirements to see if it mentions 50Hz, but I'll take a look tonight, if I remember to.

Eh, I think your discussion of power-line precision is a bit off. The frequency you get from AC power varies over the course of a day as more and less power is drawn and added to the system (…). It's a BIG DEAL for them to coordinate things so that you don't vary the frequency by more than a Hertz or so.

IIRC, being slightly off grid frequency will produce torques on your generator and should serve as a feedback system to keep it running at the right frequency if you're not doing it right.

Now, power companies may use atomic-clock syncronization to ensure that they're trying to drive at whatever frequency the grid is at at the moment (and making sure things are phased properly). I'd be interested to see what references you got for that.

Science always contain weirdness but it make the world a better and smaller place.The full understanding of quantum entanglement ('spooky action at a distance'' as Einstein called it) to process ones and zeros of machine language, will lead to the most powerful computers ever imagined know as Quantum computers.which will do task and process information simultaneously.Quantum mechanics is mysterious but crucial.


By Podile Seromo (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

I stand corrected, thanks!

(Looks like the US runs much tighter than the UK)

I totally agree with you that not only quantum physics, but physics as a general is essential for every day life, especially in the modern day life. I am currently busy with physics at university and it struck me that physics is actually applied to every technological aspect of my life as well as some natural aspects.It gives us an inside view on why certain things happen and unlocks a whole new world of understanding!

By Marcelle de Jong (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

Here in the US the time is not precisely controlled any more. 2 or 3 years ago the government relaxed the requirement. I have a line controlled clock. Since they relaxed the requirement the time varies by up to 5 seconds a day with a long term drift amounting to about 30 seconds in 3 months.

By Bill Gill (not verified) on 15 Apr 2015 #permalink

An ordinary person sees events of the world as independent random events of occurring as as result of chance. However, after one is exposed to physics, quantum physics, quantum mechanics, astronomy, and many other sciences, one realises that in fact everything can have a logical explanation to its occurrence, which is not random at all. Many of these findings are abstract but cohere with current knowledge and later prove to be relevant with many other things. This can be seen in many scientists in the past where their work was discredited when it was first released, but later proved to be phenomenal science that provided many answers. These complex explanations of why things happen the way they do is truly fascinating. And their intertwined relation, such as that of quantum chemistry being non existent without quantum physics. Science may seem abstract, but it is definitely essential.

By Regomoditswe Pilane (not verified) on 16 Apr 2015 #permalink

Quantum physics is certainly a subject that has many modern day applications, most of which are not understood by the average person. With increasing technology it will be very soon until quantum physics principles are applied in almost every aspect of living. (15106277)

By Merlin (15106277) (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

This is confirms the significance of quantum physics, as we it is applied and used in the most basic things and devices around us. So, in a way, this implies that quantum physics isn't so microscopic and meaningless as many think it is so. TEAM SCIENCE!!!!!!


By Thamsanqa Mtshali (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

This confirms the significance of quantum physics to humans, as it is applied and used in the most basic devices/things in our lives. This actually implies the fact that quantum physics is not so microscopic and meaningless as most people say it is.

By Thamsanqa Mtshali (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

The joy I encounter when I see a science blog! I'm glad I'm not the only one who is actually fascinated by Physics, quantum physics to be precise.

By Einstein The II (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

It intrigues me to see that I'm not the only one who has the love for Physics, quantum physics to be precise!

A very Interesting blog! I'm out of words, so happy to see I'm not the only one interested in physics!

I never thought of quantum physics as such an important role in everyday live this post certainly opened my eyes to all the weird and fascinating aspects of the world.

By Stephan 15033067 (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

Quantam physics in its most basic definition deals with the way in which matter acts at an atomic level, focusing on the nucleus and elementary particles. It is thus clear that every object in everyday life has had some principle of quantam physics applied whether it is realised or not. Thus the topic of this blog is undoubtedly confirmed and hopefully the public will soon realise the importance of quantam physics!

I think I got lost in the scientific terminology of the post and just drifted off but thanks Kyle; your comment just kind of made everything come together.

By Intrigued (not verified) on 18 Apr 2015 #permalink

In reply to by Kyle (not verified)

Physics has always been a way of making sense of the world around it but it's a pity that not many people understand how it all fits together. But can someone explain to me the whole concept around quantum physics, I don't think I ever really grasped it all.

By u15197761 (not verified) on 18 Apr 2015 #permalink

The way you took notice of such a small problem like the battery for the watch

Thank you Kyle, that bettered my understanding of what quantum physics is.

I think it's common knowledge that physics makes up literally all material stuff in the world but no one understands how deep it goes. I could never do physics, my brain just isn't wired up like that but I do appreciate the discipline.

Quantum mechanics is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behavior of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe. Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics relating to the very small. It results in what may appear to be some very strange conclusions about the physical world. Thus EVERYTHING is essentially Quantum Physics.

By u15009565 (not verified) on 20 Apr 2015 #permalink