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What's the difference between quartz and liquid crystal?

Author's Note

The biggest surprise during my research for this story was the paradox: Liquid crystals and quartz have almost nothing in common, but within the guts of a wristwatch, they depend on one another. I guess I never considered this, because I haven't worn a watch in years (as long as I have my iPhone, I probably never will again). But it's striking to know now that, whenever I encounter someone sporting a quartz watch, time is dictated by thousands of micro-vibrations a second; that we recognize the forward shift because light passes through filters; and that this is all going on completely out-of-sight, yet so close to us in a simple piece of technology that we take for granted. It makes me wonder what's inside my garage door opener.

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  • Collings, Peter. "Liquid Crystals: Nature's Delicate Phase of Matter, 2nd Edition." Princeton University Press. 2002.
  • Collins, Glenn. "Big Hands on the Little Hands." New York Times. Sept. 29, 2005. (June 27, 2012.)
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  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online. "Use of liquid crystals as optoelectronic displays." (June 29, 2012)
  • Exploring the Nanoworld. "Liquid Crystals." 2008. (June 27, 2012)
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