May 28, 2017 – Time

I recently read a book, The Time Book: A Brief History from Lunar Calendars to Atomic Clocks, by Martin Jenkins which talked about how we measure time. Before the invention of the mechanical clock every great civilization measured time in its own special way, with the associated problems. In ancient Egypt and China, they used sundials which required sunlight to count the hours and weren’t very useful on overcast days. Others bypassed this by using water clocks which steadily dripped water through a small hole into a vessel with lines painted to represent the passage of time. The problem is that changes in temperature change the viscosity of water which in turn affects the drip rate. On cold days, the water would freeze – so would time.

The Exploration Age with the great powers of England, France, and Spain brought about a new discovery. John Harrison, an English carpenter, invented the chronometer which measured time using the earth’s rotation.  The ship’s clock is reset to noon each day on the ocean when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. The earth rotates 360 degrees every 24 hours which means 15 degrees every hour. That’s also how they measured how fast the trip was traveling.

I was pondering time recently – and how we got to 24 hours in a day or even 12 months in year. This book answers all those questions in a quick format for kids and adults. Time passes quickly for all of us – even more so as an adult. Take time today and tomorrow and reflect on your experiences and appreciate those you love.


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