Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Matter of Time- Part 2

Today is the first of the new year (though I was supposed to post this yesterday) and so it is a perfect day to talk about time.

© 1999-2013 Grist Magazine, Inc.
Last night, I stayed up to watch the ball drop in Time Square on TV. At that last minute before 12:00, we all know that everyone who watches counts down to midnight. This is a tradition dating back to the rule of Emperor Truel of Rome, when he would order his seers to track the path of the moon. At midnight they would drop a medal ball into the court yard and yell....... Okay, so I made all that up.

In reality, the tradition dates only to 1907. If you want, you can read more about it here.

But with everyone watching the clock on New Years, it brings us back to where the last blog left off: clocks.

Clocks have been around for centuries. The very first were blocks of wood with circles cut out the middle. Seers and other learned nobility would watch the shadows move through the circle and measure the length to get the time. Which was all well and good, but no one without an education could ever hope to use one.

Later, kingdoms such as Babylon would construct buildings or towers with pointed tops called obelisks. These would be the tallest points of the city and set in the square where their shadows would fall on neighboring buildings to tell the time. But those were time consuming and costly to make.

Obelisk of Queen Hapshetsut, Karnak, Egypt
© 2010 Magic Planet Productions
Next came the sundial. The circular plate with a metal rectangle was simple to make and easy to read. Probably why so many people keep them in their gardens today. In the years to follow, man would invent many other time devices. From the hourglass to the wristwatch. Just about everything we use today has a clock, even the microwave.

Clocks work the way they do because of astronomy and polarity. I could go into exactly how it works, but that is science and not quite so interesting as history, so I wont. Instead, next week, I will go into some of the different people who came up with their own calenders and the odd politics and thinking behind.

Have a Happy New Year
and remember to put 2013 as the date!



  1. I'm excited about clocks. They make me think of the clock maker family, the Ten Booms. Corrie Ten Boom happens to be a favorite of mine. Do you know her (or of her)? BTW, your Roman story really had me enthralled. Thanks for the let down. Ha!

    1. I have never heard of Corrie Ten Boom, sorry. I also could not resist adding the Roman story, since the real one is not the most amusing.

    2. Her most well-known book is the Hiding Place. During the war, her family hid Jews in her home and she tells about it. She later went to a Nazi prison camp and lived to be released. Really good book. She's written a list of other books about her walk with God and forgiving the ones who hurt her and the ones she loved.