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Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Nature has its own clocks, humans invented theirs. They just forgot they already had one, their own biological clock. It is present in every cell and it does not like being messed about by modern inventions. Something is bound to go wrong.

Biology trumps modernity time and again. Can anyone escape the effects of night shifts, long-haul trips and 24/7 culture? Examples to the contrary are most welcome, but in the meantime we start from the premise that no one is immune to biological disruptions.

What became to be known as the circadian rhythm, the wake-sleep cycle, is linked to the planet we currently inhabit. That planet which spins around its own axis while orbiting the Sun. The result is that it presents only half of itself at a time to the ever radiant sunshine. When both halves have been seen by the Sun, a whole day is over and the story begins again. …


An image of hands holding sand that trickles down, metaphor for time slipping away
An image of hands holding sand that trickles down, metaphor for time slipping away
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Most people are not going very far away from home these days. Quite a few don’t venture beyond their garden or balcony. They are the lucky ones. The urban masses are in cabin fever territory. When detained by the pandemic, who needs time? Everyone, is the answer. Not an easily demonstrable one.

When nothing moves, why worry about timings? Trips have been replaced by fantasy voyages. Handshakes and hugs vanished, as contact was reduced to what eyes can see and ears can hear. Online encounters, once reserved to dating sites and virtual flings, have become a generalized practice.


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Photo by Ryan Olson on Unsplash

14 December 2020, the last eclipse of the year had to be a total solar one. After all, why not leave 2020 with the proper cosmic “hide-and seek” game?

The privilege of watching the New Moon briefly obscuring the Sun has been granted this time round to the Southern Hemisphere, in Chile and Argentina.

The rest of our planet will have to wait patiently till next year, in December again. Then book a flight or a cruise to Antarctica, because this is where the 2021 total solar eclipse can be enjoyed the old way.

The new way, virtual streaming, may seem less of a direct experience, it’s still growing in popularity. Webcasts are space lovers’ meeting room of choice. From NASA to Space.com, on various channels or social media platforms, celestial events are viewed, shared, commented. Not bad for what seems to be an age of individualism, isn’t it? …


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New decade, new platform!

Greenwichmeantime.com is now a web application.


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Under the sign of Saturn (Chronos)

A new digital timepiece has its debut on greenwichmeantime.com. ‘Liquid Time’ measures the passage of time the way ancients used to, being as well an act of visual restoration fit for today’s ubiquitous small screen.

“Devouring Time…”, the first two words in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 19 leave no room for misinterpretation. Time is not our friend and it rules us all with an unforgiving, relentless drive.

Are we truly aware of hours’ gallop? Modern clocks have a way of obscuring the passage of time, because they give the impression that time is circular. …


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Busyness or business? To an inattentive listener they can sound quite close and up to the 18th century they meant the same thing.

One way or another, both can cause prolonged absences from the various social platforms where most of time is spent these days.

Is there a timepiece for that, one to measure how long someone or something has gone AWOL? I think I have seen evidence of some mechanism keeping count, in days and weeks and maybe years.

Reunions with old friends usually start with mutual apologies, the tender ritual of reconnecting and maybe some swallowed-up pride mixed with resentment. …


“Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons” — Shakespeare

Someone once asked what would happen if we had just one time zone. Indeed, what if? Astronomers and physicists alike, please do not pounce on us just for asking. We know a bit about time zones, how they came to be set up and why they exist to this day.

But what if we did not have them?

Well, no matter what clocks would show on a remote island in southern Pacific, other clocks in a seaside town at the North Sea would be present us with an absolutely identical time.

Would that not be a scheduler’s idea of heaven? No more hair-pulling when trying to arrange a business call among partners scattered in the four corners of the world. …


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Would anyone want to read another thousand words on why the moon is such a fascinating subject? Possibly, but not definitely so. Looking at the moon is a different matter nowadays, in the age of cameras becoming an extension of the eye.

The moon, Planet Earth’s Moon, is a bit deceitful. To untrained eyes, it appears to be waxing when it’s actually waning and the other way round. Crossing the Equator at nighttime from the northern into the southern hemisphere may also give rise to some confusion, as the same moon will be illuminated in the exactly opposite part.

Farmers and moon-revellers know a lot about this, thankfully, and in those parts of the world governed by lunar calendars, the Moon cannot lie to anyone. …


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Bergson, French philosopher charmed successive generations of artists with his interpretation of time. He never revealed that he was a master clockmaker too, who described the future of time-keeping as it happens right now.

Words upon words have been written about Bergson’s ‘la duree’, imperfectly translated into English by ‘duration’, the unmeasurable flow that can only be understood by sidestepping reason. Stream-of-consciousness lovers dipped into this flow again and again. Intuition and imagination ruled above all.

In the meantime, clocks and watches have gone from clunky instruments to a more and more abstract representation of time units, the lingua franca of ordinary human interactions. What happened to duration? Was it just another idea that floated for a while and then drowned in its own insignificance?

Not at all. It is just very well hidden in present-day digital habits. Maybe that is why the latest incarnation of Chronos is called a smartwatch. …


Recurring nightmares teach a lot about fear, the emotion of the unknown, the unexplored and the unbearable surprise.

There would be no shouting or sweating while asleep if the mind were able to cling to a last shred of reality and be aware of the forever returning morning.

The nightly trance is too overpowering though and a nightmare is terrifying because it seems to extend indefinitely. Once brought back to wakefulness, some very palpable signs point to the untold story. Heart beating fast, palms covered in tiny salty watery beads.

It’s over and its’s not. The following night the same may happen, and it’s not less frightening. Fortunately, the recurrence may become a useful lesson. There is always an end to fear, even as primeval and animalic as that exprienced in a bad dream. …

About

Timepieces

Thinking and writing about timepieces, physical and virtual, as attempts at capturing the ineffable nature of time. The rest on greenwichmeantime.com

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