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kottke.org posts about time

Steampunk GPS

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2009

Christopher Fahey on the watchclock, a device built to keep track of the movements of night watchmen.

The mechanism itself has barely changed for a century: although some more recent models incorporate GPS and other technologies, the mechanical key-based watchclock system is still in wide usage, with many buildings still employing the same keys and the same clockwork devices they’ve used since the 1940s. It’s a genuine example of an “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” kind of technology.

(via df)

Flower and bee clocks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2009

On the Zeitgedächtnis, or time-sense, of honeybees.

Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments — say, 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees’ time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes.

The time loop theory of Lost

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2009

Your Lost prep for the evening: The Time Loop Theory. Spoilers.

All of the “werid” things that we see happen in seasons 1 & 2 of LOST are a result of the Losties now existing in the year 1996 on the island. This is why Locke can walk, and why Rose is Healed — their bodies are now existing in a time prior to them contracting their illnesses. This is also why some characters, such as Walt, have extraordinary perception — because they’re technically from the future.

This is Lost as Primer (note the Primer timeline map).

1234567890 Day

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2009

This Friday, in addition to being Friday, is also 1234567890 Day. At 6:31 pm EST on that day, the Unix time will be 1234567890.

Unix time [is] defined as the number of seconds elapsed since midnight Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of January 1, 1970, not counting leap seconds. It is widely used not only on Unix-like operating systems but also in many other computing systems.

(via scribbling)

Regarding meetings

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2009

As a general rule, meetings make individuals perform below their capacity and skill levels. This doesn’t mean we should always avoid face-to-face meetings - but it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.

Reid Hastie, behavioral scientist

Only readable every 12 hours

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2008

Every twelve hours, these 500 clocks align to form a readable message. (via quips)

At 10:10, a Watch Smiles

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2008

Ten minutes past ten o’clock, which forms a smiley face on a clock and “frames the brand” nicely, is the go-to time for watches in advertising. Timex sets their watches to precisely 10:09:36 while Rolex waits almost a minute until 10:10:31.

The Hamilton Watch Company was among the first to clock in at 10:10; that time is favored in ads dating at least as far back as 1926. Rolex began consistently setting watches in ads at 10:10 in the early 1940s. Timex appears to have begun the transition in 1953, when its Ben Hogan model showed 8:20 while the Marlin model was set to 10:10.

Apple usually uses 9:42 am for the iPhone, which is approximately when it was introduced at MacWorld 2007. Until recently, the icon for Apple’s iCal displayed July 17 when not in use; iCal debuted at MacWorld 2002 on that date.

Personal light cones

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2008

When I was born 35.2 years ago, a light cone started expanding away from Earth out into the rest of the universe (Minkowski space-temporally speaking, of course). Thanks to updates from Matt Webb’s fancy RSS tool, I know that my personal light cone is about to envelop the Zeta Herculis binary star system, located 35.2 light years from Earth in the constellation Hercules.

With a mass some 50 percent greater than the Sun, however, and beginning its evolution toward gianthood (its core hydrogen fusion likely shut down), Zeta Her A is 6 times more luminous than the Sun with a radius 2.5 times as large. Nevertheless, the star gives a good idea of what the Sun would look like from a great distance, in Zeta Her’s case 35 light years. The companion (Zeta Her B), a cooler class G (G7) hydrogen-fusing dwarf with a luminosity only 65 percent that of the Sun and a mass about 85 percent solar, orbits with a period of 34.5 years at a mean distance of 15 Astronomical Units (over 50 percent farther than Saturn is from the Sun). A rather high eccentricity takes the two as far apart as 21 AU and as close as 8 AU.

Hercules is of course named for the Greek hero, Heracles. Next up is Delta Trianguli, another binary star system, in about two months.

A fashion model for the ages

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2008

Vogue Paris has an editorial in the November 2008 issue which features a 20-year-old model photographed as if she were 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old. The hands betray her true age in the 40, 50, and 60 shots but the 10-year-old photo is a little bit of brilliance…just the right angle and lighting. (via the year in pictures)

Timeline Twins, Music and Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2008

When I was a kid, “oldies” music and movies seemed ancient. Even though I’m now in my 30s, the entertainment that I watched and listened to in my youth still feels pretty recent to me. Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn’t all that long ago, right? But comparing my distorted recall of childhood favorites to the oldies of the time jogs my memory in unpleasant ways. For example:

Listening to Michael Jackson’s Thriller today is equivalent to listening to Elvis Presley’s first album (1956) at the time of Thriller’s release in 1982. Elvis singles in 1956 included Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender.

Thriller/Elvis Timeline

If you’re around my age, how old do you feel right now? Here are some other examples of timeline twins:

Watching Star Wars today is like watching It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) in 1977. It’s a Wonderful Life was nominated for an Oscar the following year along with Ethel Barrymore (b. 1879) and Lilian Gish (b. 1893).

Listening to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit today is equivalent to playing Terry Jack’s Seasons In The Sun (1974) in 1991.

Watching The Godfather today is like watching Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) in 1972. Modern Times was a silent film (Chaplin’s last).

Listening to the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) today…well, they didn’t really have rock or pop albums back in 1946. But popular songs on the radio were sung by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Dinah Shore, as well as many performers and their orchestras.

Back to the Future (1985) —> To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Die Hard (1988) —> Bullitt (1968)

Radiohead, OK Computer (1997) —> Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (1986)

For sale: Albert Einstein’s watch

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2008

Among the watches being auctioned at a sale in October is a watch once owned by Albert Einstein.

For the Einstein fan, we have a Longines that was owned by the scientist himself. It is a unique and historically important wristwatch, made in 1930.The watch was presented to Professor Albert Einstein on February 16, 1931 in Los Angeles. It is a fine, tonneau-shaped, 14K yellow gold wristwatch accompanied by various photos showing Prof. Einstein wearing the watch. Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000

You’d think that the price for timepiece once owned by the man who changed our conceptions about time and space would be substantial, but it’s one of the lower priced featured watches. And the price is not even close to the world record:

In 2002, Antiquorum established the all-time world record price for a wristwatch at auction when it sold a platinum Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 1415 from 1939 for an astounding CHF 6,603,500 (US$ 4,026,524). This record-breaking price more than doubled the previous world record price for a wristwatch at auction. Another record price for a modern watch was achieved in 2004, the unique white gold Calibre 89, also by Patek Philippe, was sold for SFr. 6,603,500 (US$ 5,002,652).

(thx, sam)

Soulja Boy reviews Braid

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2008

Video of rapper Soulja Boy reviewing Braid, an innovative Xbox 360 game in which a player can rewind the action to travel back in time to change previous actions in different ways. Soulja Boy *really* likes the time travel aspect of the game. I wish all game reviews were this exuberant. (via waxy)

Word Clock

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2008

I love the linear version of the Word Clock. Completely impractical but lovely.

Thumber

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2008

Thumber is a OS X app that screencaps one-second intervals of movies and stitches the results together into one big image. Inspired by one of my favorite art projects, Cinema Redux by Brendan Dawes.

An Informal Catalogue of Slit-Scan Video Artworks and Research - Flong

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2008

Attention time merge media fans: do not miss Golan Levin’s extensive collection of slit scan video projects as well as Eddie Elliott’s related list. (via migurski)

Liquid Time Series

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2008

Camille Utterback’s Liquid Time Series project modifies the playback of a video according to a person’s motion in front of the screen. The closer a person is to the screen, the faster the video plays in that area. Kinda hard to explain…just check out the video. See also yesterday’s time slicing Processing video.

Younger than we used to be

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 18, 2008

While we’re on the topic of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Andrew Sean Greer wrote a book with a similar premise published in 2004 called The Confessions of Max Tivoli. It was based in part on the same Fitzgerald story as Fincher’s film.

Mr. Greer is candid about the precedents: F. Scott Fitzgerald told a related story in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and that in turn was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. Later Fitzgerald found “an almost identical plot” in Samuel Butler’s “Note-books.” In “The Sword and the Stone,” which Mr. Greer read as a child, Merlin ages backward. Mr. Greer carries it further back, to Greek mythology, and forward to “Mork & Mindy,” in which Jonathan Winters played a baby. And at one book signing, he said, a reader asked him if he knew about the “Star Trek” episode in which ——

Actually, when he began the book he was thinking more of Bob Dylan. In 2001, having published a collection of stories and in the middle of writing a novel, he found himself singing “My Back Pages” — “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” — and he had what amounted to an epiphany. “I thought that could be a book not like anything I’d written before,” he said. “It sounded like a wild adventure that no one’s going to want to read, but it could be a lot of fun, and maybe that’s the point of it.”

This passage from a NY Times review of Tivoli provides a good sense of what the tone of the film might be:

For when the repercussions of Max’s reverse aging are eventually understood, the tragedy of his predicament becomes clear. Not only does he have the exact year of his death forever staring him in the face (1941, when he will complete his 70-year process of anti-decay), but he must also live his entire life, except for a few brief months in 1906 when his real and apparent ages coincide, being something other than what he seems.

Oh, and Shaun Inman quotes from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five about WWII moving backwards:

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating day and night, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.

(thx, jamaica)

How to synchronize five metronomes

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2008

How to synchronize 5 metronomes. If you only watch one metronome video in your life, make it this one.

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses the

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2008

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses the sun to display a poem one line at a time over the course of an entire day. (via stingy kids)

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect pop

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2008

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect pop song is two minutes and 42 seconds long.

Here’s the problem: “More Than a Feeling” is four minutes and 47 fucking seconds long. I don’t have time for that kind of nonsense. That’s, like, one-seventh of my recreation right there.

Don’t get me wrong, slugger. I love “More Than a Feeling.” Those who don’t are your basic a-holes. But it’s like: We get it. The riff, the handclaps, the 10,000 multi-tracked guitars-nice. But then there’s another verse and another chorus and infinity more solos and just a really ridiculous amount of balderdash.

If you’ve got the time, there’s a related collection of 2:42 songs to listen to.

The 7th in a series of helpful

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2008

The 7th in a series of helpful posts for the time traveller**: here’s how to invest your money wisely in 1998.

If you’d bought 3,298 shares of Apple stock in 1998, for $99,995, at $30.32 a share, it would now be worth $1,997,797. The stock has split twice, so you’d now have 13,192 shares at (as of last week) $151.44. Buy yourself an iPhone to celebrate!

** The first six posts will be published at some point in the future.

Slow motion

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2008

Long rumination on the use of slo-mo in movies, particularly in Standard Operating Procedure. Being a slo-mo fan myself (especially when wielded by Wes Anderson or by NBC Sports during football games), I enjoyed this description of it:

Slo-mo can be a mesmerizing revelation of the grace inherent in the ordinary.

Slo-mo was invented and patented in 1904 by an Austrian priest-turned-physicist named August Musger. And who was working in the patent office in Austria in 1904?

My fantasy now is that Albert Einstein — working in the Swiss patent office in Bern in 1904, when Musger patented slo-mo in (relatively) nearby Austria — might have become aware of Musger’s slow-motion patent (perhaps it even crossed his desk?) and that contemplation of slo-mo might have influenced Einstein’s thinking about the nonabsoluteness, the relativity, of time.

Two other sort-of-related bits of Errol Morris news: 1) part 2 of his short series on re-enactments is now online, and 2) Morris will be talking about his new movie at the Apple Store in Soho on April 23 at 6:30pm. Prepare to wait in a long line. (thx, findemnflee)

Posts from the International Association of Time

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2008

Posts from the International Association of Time Travelers forum.

At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl’s cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what’s the harm?

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clock

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2008

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clock that donates money to an organization you hate every time you hit the snooze bar. I believe this is some sort of joke, but what an idea! (via magnetbox)

Temporal anomalies in time travel movies, an

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2007

Temporal anomalies in time travel movies, an investigation of how time travel is represented in movies like Donnie Darko, 12 Monkeys, and Back to the Future. (via joshua)

How to think about the scale of

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2007

How to think about the scale of human history: “Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States’ great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you’re no more than three away yourself. That’s how short the history of our nation really is. Not impressed? It’s only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You’re ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.”

A man outfitted his family minivan with

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 08, 2007

A man outfitted his family minivan with high-precision cesium clocks to demonstrate to his kids that they gained 22 nanoseconds of vacation time on their mountain camping trip than they would have at a lower altitude.

Daylight saving change and computer systems

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2007

Not too many people are paying attention, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 lengthened daylight saving time by four weeks in the US. Instead of beginning the first Sunday of April and running through the last Sunday in October, daylight saving time will now stretch from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. The Washington Post has an article today about the change and what impact it might have on automated systems:

The change takes effect this year — on March 11 — and it has angered airlines, delighted candy makers and sent thousands of technicians scrambling to make sure countless automated systems switch their clocks at the right moment. Unless changed by one method or another, many systems will remain programmed to read the calendar and start daylight saving time on its old date in April, not its new one in March.

The article mentions that older Microsoft products like Windows XP SP1 and Windows NT4 might require manual updates and Daring Fireball has had a few updates about how the switch effects Mac users, including this piece at TidBITS. But what about everything else? Is the version of Movable Type I’m using going to make the adjustment? What about Wordpress? Perl? Ruby? PHP? Java? Linux? I’m sure the current versions of all these programs and languages address the issue, but are there fixes and patches for those running old versions of Perl on their server?

If you’ve got any information about programs, applications, and languages affected by the change and how to address the problem, leave a comment on this thread. I’ll update the post as information comes in.

Why are most watches in advertisements set to 10:08?

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 13, 2006

Why are most watches in advertisements set to 10:08?

An incredibly detailed description of the eight

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2006

An incredibly detailed description of the eight different timelines in the three Back to the Future movies.