Each day we take about three minutes to share stories you can share all day long.
Today’s story is about time itself.
The Paris Review wrote last week about a project in the works in western Texas called The Clock Of The Long Now.
It’s designed to be 500 feet tall; its gears will be eight feet in diameter, and the pendulum will be as tall as a human being.
The only thing bigger than its size is its sense of time: The Clock of the Long Now will measure centuries.
Its cuckoo will only make noise at the turn of each millennium.
And it’s designed to run that way for 10,000 years, to remind us to think beyond a single moment, or day, or year, or lifetime.
It makes sense that this clock isn’t ticking down seconds, minutes and hours the way most clocks do, because that 10,000 year period it’s supposed to run is longer than hours, minutes and seconds have been around.
The hour has roots in ancient Egypt, which by 1500 BC or so used sundials to measure the time between sun-up and sun-down in 12 increments. Later they developed a system of 12 increments to measure nighttime as well.
Why 12? Possibly as a reference to the 12 lunar cycles in a year.
But because the length of day and night change during the year, the length of these ancient Egyptian proto-hours could change.
Those were standardized later, and the subsets of those standard hours were devised around a 4,000 year old number system from ancient Babylonians, based on the number 60.
So if time feels like it’s moving too fast for you, if you feel the seconds, minutes and hours ticking away?
It’s the fault of the ancients.
Let’s move now from long periods of time to incredibly short ones.
The official shortest measurement of time science uses is known as the Planck Time.
It’s a measurement of the movement of light in quantum physics that’s so short that, ironically, I don’t have enough time to try to explain it here.
Objects of Despair: The 10,000-Year Clock (The Paris Review)
Planck Time (The SAO Encyclopedia of Astronomy)