A Brief History of Quantum Timekeeping

My course on the history and science of timekeeping has reached the home stretch, with students giving presentations in class for the remainder of the term. My portion of the course was wrapped up with two lectures on “quantum timkeeping,” as it were: a lecture on the development of quantum mechanics:

And one on the development of atomic clocks:

These are pretty fast-moving, but by this point in the course, students were already working on their final projects, so these are mostly cultural sorts of presentations. The idea is to give them a bit of the flavor of quantum physics and how it plays into timekeeping, not for them to be able to solve problems relating to any of these topics.

The slides break a bunch of the rules for presentations I mentioned in the previous post from this course, but that’s because I treated them like lecture notes for a class, which need to be both reasonable as presentation slides, and useful for people looking at the slides later on when I post them on the course Modle page. Not that anybody is really going to be referring to these later, but it’s an ingrained habit…

All in all, I think the class has gone pretty well. There are a few things I’ll tweak if/when I teach this again, but I had fun putting stuff together for the course, and the rough drafts of student papers were, on the whole, pretty good. I do wish I had had one more lecture, so I could talk about atomic clocks beyond the cesium fountain clocks that the second SlideShare embed above ends with, but I didn’t. I could’ve, but I lost two classes over the course of the term– one for a trip to LA for a meeting, and the other to illness. Such is life.

Anyway, I thought these were worth sharing, and I’ll have some wrap-up comments on the course as a whole later, once all the papers are done and grades are in.