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Harrison and Burgess – Mechanisms of Time

21/04/2016 @ 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm

Never slowing
Never stopping
Always flowing
Moment by moment


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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

See ya there!



As for what is time…

Gareth Lancaster, Fizzy Funny Fuzzy

Tick tock, tick tock
Goes the old grandfather clock
Tick tock, tick tock
It never ever ever stops.
Swing swing, swing swing
It really is a wondrous thing
Swing swing, swing swing
I’m waiting for the clock to ting.
Ding dong, ding dong
Now it plays its little song
Ding dong, ding dong
Every hour all day long.


(Reddit time poem challenge)

Tick tock, goes the clock.
Always running, never stops.
Seconds pass by on the hands,
Numerous as the shifting sands.
Endless, warped, but whole it stays.
Eternal passage, all obey.
Growth and wisdom, eventual age,
Specks like nothing on eternity’s page.
Explosive beginning, when will it end?
Impervious to all man’s attempts to bend.
Tick tock, goes the clock.
Awaiting the moment time finally stops.


Mark Gatiss (Dr Who script)

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shalt marry me
Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now Summerโ€™s gone away?
Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly
Tick tock and all too soon
You and I must die
Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor…



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! ๐Ÿ™‚


YouTube: Triple Pendulum on a Cart


Albert Einstein:

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”


The Tenth Doctor:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint itโ€™s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… stuff.




Back in the time of Harrison, sometimes such was the exasperation of advancement (Harrison, CSM translation):

… The learned part of the world (through Mr Graham) has become so stupidly confident in this nonsense, it can hardly be persuaded that anything else could ever be better. Thus far, the public (unlike myself) are not aware of anything else and no proper steps have been taken to inform them; they may well remain in the dark (or at least in a mist).

โ€˜..whenas, it has ever been surprising to me, how such stupidity could take place and spread itself in the world; for the first time I saw Mr Graham and he shewed it me, I thought, that either he must be out of his senses, or I must be so!โ€™ …



An excellent summary of the available documents by John Harrison is given by:

bob holmstrรถm – www.hsn161.com – John Harrison – documents

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…



7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Event Category:


The Organ Grinder
21 Alfreton Road
Canning Circus, Nottingham NG7 3JE United Kingdom
+ Google Map
0115 9700630

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