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Monday, April 18, 2005

Precision Clocks

How many times have you noticed how clocks since time immemorial, have helped us keep time or atleast blame others for not keeping time ?

Clocks, is one of the most wonderful inventions that serves a simple, yet important purpose. Many of the 'ghost' movies and 'thrillers' would not have been possible but for the potrayal of 'twelve-o-clock'. Whether or not humans thank the inventor of clock -the ghosts are indebted, since without the it being midnight - how can they come out of the resting place ?

Don't be betrayed by the simplicity of its job, come let us go into a behind-the-scenes journey of a clock.

Clocks have been around since 250 BC when water raising waters( Like fountain) would keep time and hit a mechanical bird that gave out a whistle. In 1504, not very precise time piece was invented by Peter Henlein. However, in 1656, Christiaan Huygens, invented the pendulum, breakthrough technology to 'accurately' keep time. The pendulum clock works on the following principle. The swing of a pendulum is related only to the length of the pendulum and on the force of gravity. Thus, when the length of the pendulum is so chosen, the pendulum swing can be used to measure seconds. But that is only a part of the problem solved. How would you 'power' the clock ? That is done by a 'weight' suspended at height and tapping into its potential energy. When the weight keeps going down, it ends up transfering its energy to the device it is suspended on. allowing a circular motion.

It gets more interesting right now. How would you 'count' sixty seconds to indicate a minute and 60 minutes into an hour?. Here is where 'gears' come into picture. Gears help you in providing 'rotary force' or controlling the torque.

Gears in conjuction with each other (called) gear trains- allow for control of speed, synchronization of gears and translation of the gears from one rotational axis to another. (i.e. horizontal gears & vertical gears - like car's transmission shafts & the wheel)

Now when you you setup a gear train with 1-60 gear ratio i.e. for every 1 turn of the leftmost gear, the middle gear has to turn 60 times - voila you got a counter of 60. Just chain a similar piece them together to another 1-60 ratio you got a minute&hour counter.

After having done all of this - there were only two things that remain to be explained. What exactly does the 'key' do ? and how does one 'adjust' the time ?. The key, if you have not guessed it already, provides for raising the 'weight' to its height and the adjust is provided for by bringing a common shaft across the axes of the gears.

Man, a what lovely piece of mechanical device and how faithfully has it served us. BTB, it is dinner 'time' so my digital clock tells me...


1 comment:

Sriks said...

was nice to read...:)