March 2014 MEETING
Saturday, March 1, 2014
TIME: 1:00PM - Social Hour and Mart
2:00PM - Business Meeting and Program.
Tom van Baak
"Extreme Amateur Timekeeping from Harrison to Einstein"
Tom van Baak will repeat his outstanding talk recently given at the 2013 NAWCC Ward Francillon Time Symposium.
Tom Van Baak is a physicist and mathematician by education, an operating systems software engineer by profession, and a precision clock enthusiast by passion.
He received a degree in physics and mathematics at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In his career he worked as an operating systems software engineer in Silicon Valley and in Redmond, Washington. His interest in precise time dates from a middle school science project where he built an optically triggered, electromagnetically impulsed pendulum clock from old radio and car parts, balsa wood, and plastic.
More recently he began collecting atomic clocks and created a world-class precision timing laboratory in his home with clocks ranging from marine chronometers to hydrogen masers. He specializes in time measurement and error analysis, in experimenting and education. A virtual museum of his clock collection and numerous lab reports are on his LeapSecond.com website. Van Baak is also the creator of the time-nuts group, a loose collection of hundreds of individuals around the world who collect, repair, create, or experiment with quartz, GPS, rubidium, and cesium time and frequency standards as a hobby.
Today, technology companies and national laboratories work with precise time. But let’s not forget that time, the mystery of time, the creation of timekeepers, the measurement of time, is an intrinsically human passion, one that can be pursued and enjoyed by anyone as a hobby. Tom Van Baak’s presentation focuses on vintage pendulum and modern atomic clocks, on what professionals do well and what amateurs can do with great enthusiasm.
Pendulum clocks have deep roots in history, physics, and technology. In this presentation, the amazing performance of three famous pendulum clocks is analyzed using modern techniques. Many modern clock enthusiasts have tried to duplicate the accuracy of these clocks and none has yet succeeded, in spite of using modern design techniques, materials, and electronics. How can this be? Furthermore, why is it that even the best pendulum clock ever made is still inaccurate, because of the orbit of the Moon and the rotation of the Earth?
Atomic clocks have long since replaced pendulum clocks for accurate timing and find applications in nearly every aspect of modern life. Once exotic and only used by NASA and national laboratories, atomic clocks are now so common they can be found on eBay. This has opened up a new world to DIY (do it yourself) home experimenters. Levels of precision that were unheard of in our youth are now one click away. There is an active community of amateur timekeepers, or as Wired magazine called us, “time hackers,” who delight in and explore the amazing world of atomic clocks.
The talk concludes with a first-hand description of Project GREČAT, perhaps the ultimate DIY clock experiment. Van Baak methodically selected three of his best portable cesium clocks, outfitted the family minivan (with his wife’s permission) as a traveling time laboratory, and drove with his three children up the highest mountain in Washington State. After staying on Mt. Rainier for a long weekend they returned home to compare the traveling clocks against several atomic clocks left at home. Measurements confirmed that the clocks returned 22 nanoseconds ahead in time. Just as Einstein predicted, time runs slower at sea level than it does at altitude; gravity warps time.
We are now entering the era when amateurs can own atomic clocks, when precision timekeeping is a DIY activity, and when relativity is child’s play. The mystery and magic of time is owned and shared by all: nations and amateurs, scientists and children. From the passion of Harrison to the predictions of Einstein, Van Baak's hope is to inspire a new generation to appreciate the rich history and promising future of precise timekeeping
TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED:• Chapter Bylaws - Updates to be reviewed and approval sought.
• 2014 Pacific Northwest Regional Planning
REFRESHMENTS:Snacks will be served.
MART:Ample Mart space will be available
MEETING LOCATION:If you would like to attend this meeting e-mail the chapter secretary for directions
Meeting Schedule 2014
LinksNational Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
British Horological Institute
American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute
Chapter 31 Pacific Northwest
Chapter 50 Puget Sound
Chapter 53 Inland Empire
Chapter 180 Friends Of The West Coast Clock And Watch Museum
Washington Watchmakers - Clockmakers Association
West Coast Clock & Watch Museum
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