20 May 2011

Science Museum Photo Challenge #5

Today, I spent a large part of my working day standing around this clock.

This is the Midsummer Chronophage, a clock designed by Dr John Tayloe, OBE. It's the 2nd of a planned series of 4 clocks (the first is in Cambridge) and it's an absolutely genius design. LED lights are revealed in 3 concentric rings to represent hours, minutes and seconds while the pendulum swings and the insect atop the clock 'eats away' at time.

After an introduction/tour for staff held on Tuesday morning, the chronophage is known generally in our office as 'the creepy clock'. The insect at the top and its movement which makes it look as if it's gobbling up time, is supposed to represent the inevitable passing of time and the fact that once that time is gone, it can never be retrieved again. A kind of momento mori for the modern day.*

But it's not even that simple: this is not the kind of clock to set your watch by. While it is accurate every 5 minutes (although no one seems sure which 5 minutes this is...) the length of each minute on this clock is different. Every so often the clock will speed up, or slow down, a minute, and you might spot this. Sometimes it's subtle, but if you hang around long enough, you might see the pendulum slow down, or even stop. Or you might see the insect perform some of its 'tricks'. The idea is to represent time as a relative concept: a minute may be experienced completely differently by one person compared to the next, as long or short, whizzing by or dragging out.

The thing is bloody hypnotising.

Oh, and it's made of solid gold. Pretty awesome thing to be working around all day.

*Fun fact: the clock's chime on the hour is supposed to represent a set of chains clanging against a wooden coffin lid. Cheery.

No comments:

Post a Comment