more words on my blog:
I also wrote some notes on a talk given by John Taylor on how he made the Corpus clock
The Wikipedia page asserts that the clock is purely mechanical, without any computer programming, but I believe (based on what Taylor said in his talk) that the clock has a computerized regulator which makes it tick erratically, and keeps it synced to the MSF radio time signal. But Taylor is very cagy about it, saying he prefers the clock’s weirdness to be mysterious.
(if you have an electric kettle, it’s very likely the element / switch / thermostat were made by Strix, John Taylor’s company)
of course the video link in my blog post 12.5 years ago is now broken but it might well have been the same as this video blurb from John Taylor on YouTube
An accurate marine chronometer was necessary for reliable navigation in order to calculate one's longitude. It turned out to be an incredibly difficult problem that was ultimately solved by John Harrison, who invented the Grasshopper escapement, which the Grasshopper Clock uses.
I think some of us will find Harrison to be very relatable -- more hacker than scientist and never satisfied with his work. He kept coming out with new and improved versions even after he won the Royal Society's prize, IIRC.
(That site is 23 years old!)
Many of these students have told me how much they enjoyed the book, and none have told me the reverse.
Undergrads can be a tough audience, so this reception is a very good recommendation for this book. And this is not the only engaging book Sobel has written ... I would recommend any of them.
I just finished Longitude and it was a great read! Harrison is an interesting character since he really spent his whole life working on the same problem of keeping time at sea. A whole lot of perseverance.
 A terrible picture of the space, where the back of the clock would be on the left: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/e1/9b/1c/e19b1c997dc06c45e8b9...
The LEDs are apparently permanently lit, with overlapping slits ensuring that only the correct ones are visible.
Imagine if you are trying to navigate to some far away island that is southwest of your starting position. If you tried to sail the direct route, when you reached the correct latitude you would have no idea if you are east of the island or west of the island.
Instead, you'd have to sail south or mostly south until you got to the right latitude, then sail west until you reached the island. This could be a much longer journey.
Even if you are going for something much bigger than an island, like a particular port on a continent, not knowing longitude made it difficult. Say you are going from Spain to someplace in South America. Unlike the island example above, you might think you can just try for the shortest route because if you end up too far west when you reach the right latitude, you'll at least be able to find the coast of the continent and come down that.
But that coastal territory might belong to Spain's enemies who might not take kindly to a Spanish ship in their waters without permission. To avoid that risk, you have to do just like you would do in the island case--go south until you are at the right latitude and then go west.
A practical and reliable way to find longitude at sea was seen as something that would confer major economic and military advantages to any country that had it over those that did not, and so governments provided funding and prizes and other incentives to encourage development of a solution.
definitely worth seeing if you're in the area (though it's right on King's Parade so you would anyway!)
On the one hand why would this clock be tolerated if it was fraudulent — that is to say, not entirely mechanical?
On the other hand, if the work is as much artistic as it is technical, then the creator must be applauded. Why not troll the unbelievers by making the most striking component of your ‘mechanical’ clock — the part that tells the time — be utterly and obviously not at all mechanical.
There is a hint in the design that the concentric faces are some sort of circular vernier scale, but the way it is presented makes it seem like the creator very much wanted to give the impression that this is driven by blue electric lights. The aperiodic behaviour of the pendulum and grasshopper escapement seem a lot more interesting, but that mechanism is hidden from view.
This is the level of hubris one must expect from someone with large amounts of money... “clock-you money”? Not that we’re picking teams but I’m more of a Long Now fan, myself.
What? The face design is lit, many clocks are lit, but that's not intrinsic to the design. The clock could be perfectly functional with a different face design and doesn't affect the mechanics.
Moreover, the backlighting is so in-your-face that it requires the lay observer to do quite a bit of mental hopping around to align with the idea that this is a mechanical clock.
It hardly goes out of its way to convince you it truly is mechanical.
This clock was unveiled in 2008, which I think was already at the tail end of the blue led's popularity. The clock is meant to last at least 200 years, but that design choice pins it down mercilessly to a fad that was dated in a few short years.
"the clock ... depicts time as a wave coming out from the center of the universe".
I see some liberal handling of scientific lingo here :).