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How does your smartphone know your location? - Wilton L. Virgo

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GPS location apps on a smartphone can be very handy when mapping a travel route or finding nearby events. But how does your smartphone know where you are? Wilton L. Virgo explains how the answer lies 12,000 miles over your head, in an orbiting satellite that keeps time to the beat of an atomic clock powered by quantum mechanics.

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TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Wilton L. Virgo
  • Animator Nick Hilditch
  • Script Editor Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Can’t wait to learn more about Quantum Mechanics? Read Dr. Virgo’s book, “Quantum Mechanics in Everyday Life.” You will find a deeper discussion on the quantum theory behind how atomic clocks work for GPS applications. For more on what you will find in his book visit this link.

Want to learn more about how GPS location data is analyzed and visualized? Cambridge Science Consultants Inc. specializes in GPS data analytics and scientific visualization. At NASA’s GPS.Gov site, watch the launches of several GPS satellites, and visit the student section to find out how GPS is an essential part of the global information infrastructure. A GPS can help a tractor drive itself? How is GPS technology used in environmental science, agriculture and aviation? Find out. Still want more information on how exactly the Global Positioning System works? Watch How GPS Works.

Take some time and learn about the amazing atomic clocks. Why are Cesium and Rubidium such an essential part of atomic clocks? Visit this Georgia State University site for insight into why these two elements are used. Check out this link to an animated video about how the NIST-F2 cesium atomic clock works. How accurate are atomic clocks? These clocks are so accurate that they lose only one second every 50 billion years. Take a “minute” and learn more here at Smithsonian.com. Take another second and click Nova’s link to The Amazing Atomic Clock to find out a bit more information.

Did you know you can use a GPS, have fun, find “treasure,” and get outside all at once? Sounds great, right? Try Geocaching! Visit Geocaching101 and read the Beginner’s Step by Step Guide to Geocaching.

What does a GPS have to do with grizzly bears? Check out this TED Ed lesson: Tracking grizzly bears from space by David Laskin.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Wilton L. Virgo
  • Animator Nick Hilditch
  • Script Editor Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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