Harrison and Burgess – Mechanisms of Time
21/04/2016 @ 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Chronologically speaking, this talk is going to be really only a very small part of the “timey wimey…” concept. Extremely small and brief. Douglas Adams dreamt up the concept of the Total Perspective Vortex to blow both of Zaphod‘s minds into insignificance merely by experiencing the size of the Universe and Creation. Would Zaphod have survived the added dimension of the mind numbing vastness and extreme range of scales experienced for time?…
Time really is VAST… So utterly vast… And so infinitesimally detailed… That no more need be said about that until a few beers later 😉
Instead, we shift to one miniscule aspect that in itself has consumed lifetimes and cost many lives. And that one miniscule aspect is…
The accurate marking of time by a pendulum under the influence of gravity
“Tick tock, goes the clock…” must be one of the most well worn timely associations known and experienced for the post-Galileo and pre-Digital-Watches era. Since then, time moves on, and for our more recent times post-Hitch-Hiker’s-Guide-To-The-Galaxy giggles, the experience of “clockwise” and “anti-clockwise” is already being forgotten to become an anachronism of language…
This small part of marking the passage of time began when some of Galileo’s ‘conspirators’ endured a mind-numbing (or hypnotic?!) marathon over a continuous 24-hour period counting every swing of their test pendulum to calibrate the pendulum’s oscillation against the time marked by one rotation of the Earth. (Later, the Church imprisoned Galileo, but that’s for another time…)
More recently, Harrison embarked on a lifelong voyage to greatly improve the measure of time with his famous series of ‘regulators’. Near the end of his time, he wrote a great rambling monologue of his ideas (pdf) which over a century later were explored by Burgess. Two Burgess designs were subsequently made following the best of Harrison’s ideas and experience. The first was displayed, vandalized, abandoned, left in the elements to corrode, repaired, and abandoned again in a shopping centre to unknowingly accurately amuse time wasting shoppers. The second was partially made, left to gather dust, resurrected decades later, and is presently in the basement of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The Burgess Clock B is listed as being, for the time being, the most accurate pendulum clock operating in free air ever made. So far…
The accurate marking of time by pendulum, in free air, on earth
Can the lifetime achievements of Harrison and Burgess, spanning multiple centuries, be bettered by this evening’s design?
Time to find out?
All at our usual time and space as detailed below (7:30pm at the Organ Grinder).
All welcome 🙂
See ya there!
As for what is time…
Tick tock, tick tock
Tick tock, goes the clock.
Tick tock goes the clock
And for your amusement, this is an example of what happens for a double pendulum:
And here is something that just shouldn’t be done with a triple pendulum! 🙂
Back in the time of Harrison, sometimes such was the exasperation of advancement (Harrison, CSM translation):
An excellent summary of the available documents by John Harrison is given by:
Multiple versions of his “CSM” monologue “A description concerning such mechanism as will afford a nice, or true measureation of time; together with some account of the longitude by the moon as also an account of the discovery of the scale of musik by John Harrison inventer of the time-keeper for the longitude at sea – London 1775” can be found:
Time to advance…
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