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Every Second Counts: What Clocks Can Tell Us About Time

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Author David Rooney would likely take issue with the words of one of his namesakes. Among David Bryne’s most famous lyrics are these lines:

“Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us”

“Time isn’t holding us, time doesn’t hold you back.”

Rooney’s new book, “About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks,” looks at the many ways those in power have used timepieces to make war, seek peace, advance knowledge, and set a moral code. Through the stories of twelve clocks, the historian and lifelong clock enthusiast takes us on a journey.

From the unveiling of al-Jazari’s castle clock in 1206 in present-day Turkey; to the Cape of Good Hope observatory at the southern tip of Africa, where nineteenth-century British government astronomers moved the gears of empire with a time ball and a gun; to the burial of a plutonium clock now sealed beneath a public park in Osaka, where it will keep time for 5,000 years.

Rooney says every clock has some ulterior motive; be it political, social, or economic. Merely measuring time is just the start.

 

 

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