Watch museum visitor knock clock sculpture off wall

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As with most museums, Pennsylvania's National Watch & Clock Museum has a "no touching" policy. But one couple wanted so badly to see artist James Borden's wooden clock sculpture run that they couldn't help themselves...

Museum director Noel Poirier told NBC Philadelphia that the couple reported the mishap to museum staff. The clock is undergoing repairs and will be on display again in a few months.

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Color Clock renders time as hexadecimal color value

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Jack Hughes created The Color Clock, whose background color is always a hexadecimal RGB representation of the current time. You can download screensaver versions too. Read the rest

Fix a clock tower on a mysterious island, you dashing horologist

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Once upon a time, clock towers were a sort of public utility, a shared temporal reference point that synchronized communities where personal timepieces were often a rarity. Although we hardly need the reminder in the modern age of smartphones, there's something about these buildings still capture the imagination, not just as striking aesthetic objects, but as physical metaphors for either moving through time, or running out it.

In the game Tick Tock Isle, you play as a "confident young horologist" (read: clock man) who has been summoned to a mysterious island to fix a broken clock tower, which should be your first clue that things are about to get weird. Naturally, you end up traveling back in time to the days when the now empty island was a bustling community, and have to figure out how and why it got abandoned by talking to townspeople and solving puzzles.

If you're a fan of adventure games, it's definitely worth the hour or so it takes to play what developer Squiddershins calls "a very short, very silly adventure."

Tick Tock Isle is also described as a "spiritual successor" to Cat Poke, the developer's earlier puzzle game about a little girl annoying her pets on a rainy day. Although it doesn't have nearly as many cats, Tick Tock Isle manages to pack a lot more story (and mystery and humor) into a game that is just as short, sweet, and charming.

You can download the demo for free, or buy the full game for $2.99. Read the rest

Beautiful hand-cranked kinetic spiral sculpture

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This fantastic sculpture by Clayton Boyer will delight, amaze, hypnotize, and/or induce motion sickness. He's posted the plans for sale and you can see how others have interpreted his basic design in this Flickr pool! Boyer writes:

This is Zinnia, a spring driven kinetic sculpture that will quietly run about 40 minutes on a full wind. Each of the two display wheels is 24" (61cm) in diameter, and as they change rotational speed and direction they create a variety of visually interesting shapes within the sculpture ~ as well as the contrasting shadows it projects against the wall behind. This is a very easy project to build and a great place to begin your kinetic sculpture and clock making journey. Zinnia's included wheel design is only one example of display wheel possiblities; you can create your own designs! The basic motive mechanism of the Zinnia will easily accept a wide variety of other display wheel sizes, shapes and forms. The possibilities for other variations in display wheel shapes is only limited by your imagination!

(via DIGG)

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Today we gain a leap second. Why?

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At 23:59:59 (UTC), time will "stop" as the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US and other official timekeepers around the world add a second to our clocks. They last did this in 2012. Read the rest

History of the cuckoo clock

Over at Smithsonian, Jimmy Stamp shares a brief history of the cuckoo clock, likely invented in 17th century Germany.

After a century of development that saw wood replaced with brass and metal, two distinct styles of cuckoo clock emerged from the Black Forest to dominate the market: The ornamented, house-like “Bahnhäusleuhr” or “railroad house” and the Jagdstück” or “Hunt piece” or “traditional style” clock, which features elaborate, decorative hand carved nature scenes adorning a simple encasement…

So why a cuckoo? The common cuckoo, native to Europe, had long served as a natural marker of time, a welcome harbinger of Spring whose familiar calls denoted the coming of the new season and warmer weather.

"The Past, Present, and Future of the Cuckoo Clock" Read the rest

Grand Central Station's clocks are a minute off

Here's The Atlantic on how New York's busiest train station helps commuters get there in time: by giving them an extra minute: "The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they're about to miss can actually be dangerous -- to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains' posted departure times." Read the rest

Newly-discovered Mayan calendar in Guatemala proves (again) the world won't end in 2012

William Saturno, a Boston University archeologist, excavates a mural in a house in Xultun. Photo: Tyrone Turner © 2012 National Geographic

An archaeological expedition in the northeastern lowlands of Guatemala yields an amazing discovery: the "9th-century workplace of a city scribe, an unusual dwelling adorned with magnificent pictures of the king and other royals and the oldest known Maya calendar."

From Thomas Maugh's report in the Los Angeles Times, on the dig in the ruins of Xultun led by William Saturno of Boston University:

This year has been particularly controversial among some cultists because of the belief that the Maya calendar predicts a major cataclysm — perhaps the end of the world — on Dec. 21, 2012. Archaeologists know that is not true, but the new find, written on the plaster equivalent of a modern scientist's whiteboard, strongly reinforces the idea that the Maya calendar projects thousands of years into the future.

To paraphrase modern-day Maya priests I've spoken with on past travels in rural Guatemala: "Well, duh."

The findings were first reported Thursday in the journal Science. The full text of the report requires paid subscription, but a recent Science podcast covers the news, and is available here (PDF transcript or MP3 for audio).

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Excellent vintage film about the first accurate atomic clock

This short film was produced by the film unit of the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the 1950s, and explains the principles behind the first accurate atomic clock, which was designed by Louis Essen and built at the National Physical Laboratory in 1955. The NPL's YouTube channel has other videos of interest to science geeks. (thanks, obadiahlemon) Read the rest