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Weird the Normal: Crystal Counters

Published onOct 07, 2019
Weird the Normal: Crystal Counters

In the modern world, we are obsessed with time. In order to keep on schedule, plan meetings, and make sure we are being efficient, we make sure to have a way of keeping time near at all times, whether a watch, clock, or phone. However, we never stop to consider how time keeping works, and the answer is absurd. Most digital clocks today run on a crystal oscillator based system, where a crystal (usually quartz), is cut into a tuning fork shape and used as a filter to get a precise frequency of 32,768 Hertz. This number is a power of two that is above the range of human hearing so it doesn’t produce any noise, and using a 15-bit binary counter, a pulse every second can be produced with incredible accuracy. Calling out the fact that we surround ourselves with vibrating crystals in order to function in modern society would be my way of weirding the normal. One way of doing this would be to create clocks that use crystals that vibrate at lower frequencies, allowing them to be heard and exposing some of the magic rather than hiding it away. Though I am unsure if this would work, another way of weirding the normal is to try and use a very large quartz crystal, ideally to the point where you could see it vibrating, exposing the fact that physical processes are involved in our constructed notion of time.

Internals of a crystal oscillator

(Scaling up could expose the weird)


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