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My very own Chronophage

I have recently added a clock on the right side of my page here that shows two date-and-times.  It’s pretty obvious what they are.  The reason I put this up is because I am acutely aware of this time of my life as a fixed period.  There is a start date and an end date to all this, and it’s coming up one second at a time.  I have often thought this of many situations I have been in, both good and bad, so I wanted a way to show time slip from one side of the present to the other.  A river of time, and me stuck on a bridge spanning it, watching it pass below.

It was apparently also on minds at Cambridge who made this clock.  Mind you, mine cost slightly less than their quoted $2 Million pricetag (How the heck does that even happen?).  I understand Stephen Hawking presented the clock as part of his theoretical commitment that the forward movement of time is inevitable. I just presented mine myself. I kept that article and a video showing the clock behind this link.

September 19, 2008

Cambridge reveals the time-eater, Chronophage, devourer of hours


Stewart Huxley, design engineer, dusts off the clock before its unveiling outside Corpus Christi College

They call it the time-eater. Tonight, a monster will begin measuring the passage of time using new and decidedly sinister technology outside one of Britain’s most prestigious colleges.

Unlike conventional timepieces, the extraordinary “Chronophage”, due to be unveiled today by Stephen Hawking at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, does not use hands or digital numerals to show the time.

Instead, it relies on a mechanical monster – part demonic grasshopper, part locust – that rocks back and forth along a golden disc, edged like a lizard’s spine. By a complex feat of engineering, its movement triggers blue flashing lights that dart across the clockface, letting students know if they are late for a lecture.

About two metres in diameter, the clock is made from discs of stainless steel and plated with 24-carat gold. With each slackening of the monster’s jaw, and release of its claws, another second is devoured. Each new hour is signalled by the rattle of a chain on an unseen coffin to remind passers-by of their mortality.

The £1 million invention is a tribute to John Harrison, the world’s greatest clockmaker, who solved the problem of longtitude in the 18th century.

The timepiece is completely accurate only every five minutes. The rest of the time, the pendulum pauses then corrects itself as if by magic. The blue lights play optical illusions on the eye, whirring around the disc one second, then appearing to freeze the next. The effect is hypnotic.

The clock is the brainchild of John Taylor, an inventor who made his fortune developing the kettle thermostat after graduating from Corpus Christi in the 1950s. A long-time admirer of Harrison, Dr Taylor, 72, said that he wanted to make a clock that would revolutionise the art of timekeeping. So he took the so-called “grasshopper escapement”, a tiny device invented by Harrison hidden away inside 18th-century clocks, and turned it into the time-eating insect that can be seen today on the college wall. The ultimate aim, explains Dr Taylor, was to create a timepiece that kept time while, paradoxically, showing it, as they say, to be relative.

“Clocks are fixed, whereas we all know, time is fluid. It drags and it flies. Like Einstein said, an hour sitting next to a pretty girl can be like a minute, and a minute sitting on a hot stove can seem like an hour. I wanted this clock to reflect that, to play tricks with observers.” Dr Christopher de Hamel, Fellow Librarian at Corpus Christi, said: “I wanted it to be a monster, because time itself is a monster . . . It is horrendous, and horrible, and beautiful. It reminds me of the locusts from the Book of Revelations.

“It lashes its tongue, and flicks its eyes at you. It’s bonkers.”

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