clocks

The Secret Agent in Greenwich

The BBC is currently showing a dramatisation of Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent, written in 1907. Conrad was partly inspired by the bizarre story of the anarchist Martial Bourdin, who officially became Britain’s first suicide bomber in February 1894 when a bomb he was carrying exploded in the park near the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

In the drama, starring Toby Jones (Dr Zola in Captain America, and the voice of Dobby in Harry Potter!) plays Verloc, a shabby pornographer and informer secretly in the employ of the Russian embassy. Verloc’s new Russian handler, Vladimir, tells him to organise the detonation of a device at London’s Greenwich Observatory, in a scene that shows them walking past the famous Shepherd Gate clock:

secret-agent-shepherd.png

Vladimir tells Verloc to forget about trying to assassinate public figures:

The sacrosanct fetish of the day is science, it’s become the new measure of progress; of how the world is ordered, civilisation moving forward. And here, we have the prime meridian, zero longitude, the centre point of the earth, that divides the world into two, that orders the world, Eastern and Western. One line, emanating from this building, in Greenwich.

To which Verloc replies, incredulously:

Blow up the observatory?

As with all BBC productions (the recent series Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was another example), the period details — the drama is set in 1886 — are beautifully rendered and convincing, although of course nothing is ever as real as it looks.

In typically ingenious fashion, most of the London scenes were shot in Glasgow, which has a more realistic Victorian London vibe. Fortunately, the Shepherd Gate Clock and the Greenwich Park surroundings look authentically Victorian. But in fact much of this is also a recreation, albeit a real and necessary one. Here’s what the Shepherd Gate looked like in the 1870s:

shepherd-gate-2.jpeg

The more substantial differences between the two scenes can be attributed to another bomb, one dropped on Greenwich in 1940 by German bombers during World War II.

If you’re very observant, you’ll notice that the 1870s photograph shows the clock as reading 23:20, whereas the 1886-set 2016-filmed TV show has the clock showing just after 12, although both scenes look to be set during the daylight hours. If you want an explanation, have a look at this old post!

Tauba Auerbach – The Thing Quarterly: currently on sale on eBay

On eBay at the moment:

A wonderful limited edition 24 hour clock from TAUBA AUERBACH created for issue 20 of THE THING QUARTERLY way back in 2013.  Known for her stunning typography and print works this 10.5inch diameter takes on an analogue timepiece with a 24 hour version running from midnight to midnight.  The clock features black hour and minutes hands and gold-hued numerals in AUERBACH’s graphic style.  The clock can be hung with the built-in hook and needs just one AA battery to get up and running. In excellent condition, the clock also comes in a stunning bespoke box from an edition of 1500. 

$ 57

The Berlin Set Theory Clock

berlin-set-theory-clock or 09:54?

This clock has been mentioned in the news recently. It’s the Set Theory Clock, also known as the Berlin Clock. There’s an excellent description — and a working version — at 3Quarks:Berlin Clock. It consists of 24 lights (and a 25th one on the top which flashes every second).

From the description at 3Quarks:

It makes use of the principle of set theory to depict the time. The time of day is displayed in a 24-hour format and can be determined by simply adding and multiplying the glowing lights.
The first, uppermost row consists of 4 red lights, whereby each of these lights stands for 5 full hours. The 4 red lights in the second row display one full hour apiece. For example, if the first 2 lights in the uppermost row and all 4 lights in the second row are lit up, that represents 1400 hours, or 2 p.m. (2 × 5 + 4 hours).

The third row is composed of 11 lights: 3 red and 8 yellow. Each light in this row stands for 5 elapsed minutes. The 3 red lights have been assigned to mark the quarters of an hour and are intended to make reading the clock easier. Last of all, the yellow row at the very bottom displays units of single minutes.

The working version can be found at 3Quarks – Set Theory Clock.

The original version was installed in 1975:

Dieter Binninger, an inventor and tinkerer from Berlin who is also a trained clockmaker, designed the Set Theory Clock on behalf of the Berlin Senate in 1975. The clock was installed on Kurfürstendamm in the Berlin-Charlottenburg district and rapidly evolved into a tourist attraction, though it turned out to have one serious disadvantage: its inner workings consisted of hundreds of light bulbs, some of which constantly burned out.

For clock watchers, the clock shows different time scales. You can observe the slow march of the 5-hour periods on the top bar, or watch each minute pass by on the bottom bar. Unfortunately, reading the precise time requires some mental arithmetic, which makes the clock hard to use.

As for why it’s in the news, some references to a “Berlin Clock” have been made in reference to the famous Kryptos sculpture: Sculptor Offers Another Clue in 24-Year-Old Mystery at C.I.A..

If it’s not a reference to this clock, perhaps it’s a reference to the Alexanderplatz World Clock:

Berlin 376444 640

24 hours a day

Applications for iPad and iPhone often make use of the 24 hour dial, mainly because it’s a much simpler interface to the daily routine, showing the entire day at a glance, and avoiding the inevitable confusion between AM and PM.

Rove

Rove is a simple iPhone app that tracks your movements unobtrusively, in the background, and records them, together with any notes and photographs that you take as you go. Billed as private journalling or life-logging, Rove shows your current day (only the current day at present) on a 24 hour dial:

Rove

Owaves

Owaves is, according to the developer, “the world’s first wellness planner”:

Owaves makes it easy to plan health and wellness goals into your day. Colorful and vibrant, with a novel 24-hour clock, the planner is fun to use and lets you see your day in a whole new way. Oriented to sunrise and sunset, Owaves guides you to a balanced lifestyle and healthy circadian rhythm.

Eastern and Western health experts agree there are five main ingredients for a long and healthy life:

-Sleep

-Nutrition

-Exercise

-Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga, Managing Stress

Love and Social

Owaves is the only day planner in the world designed to let you prioritize these activities alongside work, play and miscellaneous errands.

The planner incorporates input from thought leaders in chronobiology, mindfulness, and professional sports.

It’s Visual. It’s Fun. And it’s Easy-to-use.

owaves health clock

The developer explains:

The clock is oriented with sunrise at traditional 12 o’clock position. Sunrise and sunset are prominently featured and localized based on the user’s location. There’s arguably an epidemic of circadian rhythm disorders going on post-rapid spread of artificial light, so this gentle “nudge” is meant to remind the user that sunrise is the beginning of the day.

– menu of activities focuses on 5 key aspects of preventive health as per the American College of Preventive Medicine and American College of Lifestyle Medicine: exercise, sleep, nutrition, stress management, and love/social

The future plan is to integrate wearable device data to create a feedback loop for wellness and health applications.

Through the lens of wellness and health, the 5 main activities featured – Exercise, Sleep, Nutrition, Relax (i.e. managing stress) and Love/Social (i.e. spending time with loved ones) – are THE activities of interest. Considered the new “lifestyle vital signs” by the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, since they are more prognostic of chances for future morbidity and mortality for today’s generation than the vital signs of the past (i.e. HR, BP, RR, etc.). I.e. they are more helpful in assessing one’s chances of obtaining a chronic disease like: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, …

The next version will include: Weekly and Monthly views, Social Sharing Options, a Brief Tutorial and a bit more… And of course, as mentioned, calendar integration and circadian rhythm intelligence are on the books as well.

Owaves is promising, and will become much more useful when calendar integration is implemented.

Butterfly Dial

The Butterfly Dial is an ingenious invention designed to combine both the 12 hour and 24 hour dials into a single 12 hour dial.

It’s much easier to see it in action than try to explain it:

butterfly dial

The video can be seen on YouTube.

It’s no substitute for a true 24 hour dial, but it’s a much neater solution than the Cyclos dial, described in the Design page of this site:

cyclos