September 22, 2008

World’s Strangest Clock Unveiled

Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled a $1.83 million (£1m) clock called the "time eater" at Cambridge University.

The special guest of honor and author of A Brief History of Time revealed the unique clock, which has no hands or numbers, at Corpus Christi College.

The clock features a giant grasshopper and has 60 slits cut into its face which light up to show the time.

John Taylor, the creator of what is being called the strangest clock in the world, said he "wanted to make timekeeping interesting".

The Corpus Clock will stand outside the college's library and will be on view to the public.

Dr. Taylor was a student at Corpus Christi in the 1950s and is now an inventor and horologist - one who studies the measurement of time. He has given the clock as a gift to his former college.

The grasshopper or "chronophage", meaning "time eater", advances around the 4ft-wide face, each step marking a second.

Blue flashing lights travel across the face eventually stopping at the correct hour and minute. But the clock is only accurate once every five minutes - the rest of the time the lights are simply for decoration.

Dr. Taylor, 72, designed the timepiece as a tribute to English clockmaker John Harrison who solved the problem of longitude in the 18th century.

He also invented the grasshopper escapement - a tiny internal device that releases a clock's gears at each swing of its pendulum.

"I decided to turn the clock inside out... so you can see the seconds being eaten up," Taylor said.

Taylor called conventional clocks with hands "Ëœboring'. "I wanted to make timekeeping interesting."

He said he wanted to depict time as a destroyer because once a minute is gone you can't get it back.

"That's why my grasshopper is not a Disney character. He is a ferocious beast that over the seconds has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening, then on the 59th second he gulps down time," he added.

The Corpus Clock is wound up by an electric motor, which will last for the next 25 years.

A team of eight engineers and craftsman took five years to mould the 24-carat gold-plated face.

"It's a wonderful idea," said Alan Midleton, curator of the British Horological Institute.

"Only time will tell whether it will become as famous as Big Ben - I doubt it, actually."

Taylor made his fortune throughout the 1980s developing the kettle thermostat.


Image Caption:  The Corpus Clock, at the Taylor Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Courtesy Wikipedia)


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