'Time eater' clock unveiled in England: No hands, no numbers, just slits, and a gilded insect to eat the seconds *LINK* *PIC*

'Time eater' clock unveiled in England: No hands, no numbers, just slits, and a gilded insect to eat the seconds *LINK* *PIC*
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Zany Mystic
Friday, September 19, 2008 11:43 pm

Ј1m timepiece with no hands or numbers is eventually unveiled by Stephen Hawking - but it was 15 minutes late
By Rebecca Camber

They call it the time eater. With every snap of its fearsome jaws, sting of the tail and release of the claws, it devours another second.

An extraordinary new type of clock was unveiled at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge by Professor Stephen Hawking - even if it was 14 minutes and 55 seconds late.

This gold-encrusted monster - part grasshopper and part locust - advancing around the golden disc to measure the passage of time cost over Ј1million to make and seven years to build.

Prof Hawking unveils the clock which cost over Ј1million to make and seven years to build

Unlike conventional clocks, the Corpus Clock does not use hands or digital numbers.

Instead it uses a series of 60 slits cut into the face, each six degrees apart, which light up to show the time.

The seconds are counted down by each step of the mechanical insect who crawls around the disc edged like a lizard\'s spine.

Its movement triggers blue flashing lights which dart across the clock-face, running in concentric circles to mark passing seconds before pausing at the correct hour and minute.

Giant timepiece: The Ј1million Corpus Clock only tells the exact time once every five minutes
The clock was designed by John Taylor, an inventor who made his fortune developing the kettle thermostat after graduating from Corpus Christi in the 1950s.

Dr Taylor, 72, constructed the unusual timepiece in tribute to John Harrison, the world’s greatest clockmaker, who solved the problem of longitude in the 18th century.

Around 1722 the English master clockmaker came up with the grasshopper escapement - a tiny internal device that releases the clock\'s gears to move forward at each swing of the pendulum.

Dr Taylor said: \'I decided to turn the clock inside out. Instead of hiding the grasshopper escapement inside the clock, I wanted it to be around the outside so you can see the seconds being eaten up.

He calls the new version of the escapement a \'Chronophage\' which means time eater.

The inventor added: \'Instead of being hidden away inside the clock, the mechanism becomes external and enlarged, and is transformed into a Chronophage - a fearsome beast which drives the clock, literally eating away time.

\'Conventional clocks with hands are boring. I wanted to make timekeeping interesting.

\'I also wanted to depict that time is a destroyer- once a minute is gone you can\'t get it back.

\'That\'s why my grasshopper is not a Disney character.

\'He is a ferocious beast that over the seconds has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening then on the 59th second he gulps down time.\'

The Corpus Clock is the largest grasshopper escapement of any clock in the world.

It is wound up by an electric motor which will last for the next 25 years and it uses the equivalent power of a 60 watt light bulb to light the face.

But the timepiece is completely accurate only every five minutes. The rest of the time, the blue lights play optical illusions, pausing, running unevenly and moving backwards.

\'It\'s a wonderful idea,\' said Alan Midleton, curator of the British Horological Institute.

\'Only time will tell whether it will become as famous as Big Ben - I doubt it, actually.\'

Another quirky feature is the eerie sound of a chain dropping into a wooden coffin hidden behind the clock on the hour, which is intended to be a reminder of human mortality.

It took a team of eight engineers and craftsman five years to mould the clockface which is plated with 24-carat gold.

Its massive round face, nearly four feet in diameter, was engineered from a single sheet of stainless steel, with the mouldings literally blasted into place by precisely-controlled explosions under the sea.

The clock, which has been described by the college\'s librarian Dr Christopher de Hamel as \'both hypnotically beautiful and deeply disturbing\', has now been donated to the college where it will hang outside the new Taylor library named after the inventor.