Category Archives: Time

What is Twilight (video)

Of course, I want the app….

Propeller Clock (video)

The Secret Powers of Time (video)

Professor Philip Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.

Life Clock

Hmmm, this clock is kinda depressing:

The super secret strategy for science blogging around the clock

You need this clock:
clock Pi.jpg
Hat-tip: Eva.

For the Clock Geek in all of us….

Star Wars Starships and Fighters Clock:

12 o’clock Star Destroyer
1 o’clock TIE Interceptor
2 o’clock Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter
3 o’clock Jabba’s Barge
4 o’clock Bespin Twin-Pod Cloud Car
5 o’clock Y-Wing Fighter
6 o’clock Super Star Destroyer
7 o’clock Rebel Blockade Runner
8 o’clock TIE Bomber
9 o’clock X-Wing Fighter
10 o’clock Rebel Snowspeeder
11 o’clock A-Wing Starfigher

How rumors spread….


Eliminating daylight time would thus accord with President-elect Barack Obama’s stated goals of conserving resources, saving money, promoting energy security and reducing climate change.

Eugene Sandhu:

In order to conserve energy, President-elect Barak Obama should eliminate daylight saving time.

Boing Boing:

President-elect Obama wants to get rid of daylight saving time in the United States to conserve energy.

The game of broken telephones? Or lack of reading comprehension, or just wishful thinking? I though we were the Reality-Based Community.

Endless time….

viaviaviaviavia, originally from here.

How to turn your alarm-clock into your worst enemy

Here are a few examples. One will feed you greasy bacon every morning. The other will donate to the GOP. Others will force you to perform either menial or mental tasks. I prefer a more gradual approach – a system that gradually increases the illumination in the room, the volume of sound (some pre-chosen music), etc. and only does something dramatic at the last, most critical point in time when you absolutely HAVE to get up.
funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals
[btw, check out the other pages on that site – there are some other cool inventions there, mixed up with some quite silly ones]

Race clock

From here:

Silent Alarm Clock

See here. Found on GearCrave:
GearCrave says:

If you are anything like me, you do not find anything as annoying as being jolted awake by a high-pitch electronic sound in the morning. Today, we bring you a soothing alternative. “Silence” is a conceptual alarm clock that will wake you up without emitting any sound. If you need to be awoken, you simply wear a special wireless rubber ring. When the designated alarm time comes, the clock will send a signal to the ring which will generate a tactile alarm. If you wish to continue your sleep, just shake your hand to activate the snooze function. As time goes on, further snoozes will be harder to generate, requiring more vigorous shaking each time.

Yankodesign says:

Alarm clocks usually jolt us awake leading us to reach for the almighty snooze button. Silence is a conceptual alarm clock that allows you to program multiple alarms and wakes you without any sound. Each person wears a wireless rubber ring with an integrated vibration device that generates a tactile alarm. The snooze function is engaged by shaking your hand. However, each successive time you want to snooze, more movement is required, making sure you get to work on time.

A non-biological biological clock

cricket%20clock.jpgA clock is supposed to tell time. Furthermore, it is supposed to do it accurately and precisely. These days, it is not too difficult to build a mechanical, quartz, digital or atomic clock that is marvelously accurate and precise. But if a clock is not so good, it will have a systematic error, i.e., it will go slightly too fast OR slightly too slow and will, over time, get seriously inaccurate.
On the other hand, a biological clock is messy – it relies on ineractions between molecules. Thus, it will display occasional fluctuations – getting a little bit ahead at one point, a little bit behind at another. But, in the long run, a biological clock is self-correcting and will remain accurate for the entire duration of life of the organism.
This kind of clock – imprecise at short timescales but accurate at long time-scales – is much more difficult for human engineers to design. But someone has just done that!
Now, it appears that the motivation for building such a clock was not to emulate biology, but more of an artistic quirk, a way to do something that grabs the media attention, but it worked. You can see the mechanism of the Escapement here and watch a movie here (for some strange reason, they are hogging the movie for themselves and not providing an embed code).
The designer explains his motivation:

Most clocks just tell time, simply and reliably. Not the $1.8 million “time eater” formally unveiled Friday at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge.
The masterpiece, introduced by famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking, challenges all preconceptions about telling time. It has no hands or digital numbers and it is specially designed to run in erratic fashion, slowing down and speeding up from time to time.
Rather than having it toll the hour by a bell or a cuckoo, the clock relies on the clanking of a chain that falls into a coffin, which then loudly bangs closed.
The clock, four feet in diameter, displays time using light-emitting diodes. The light races around the outer ring once every second, pausing briefly at the actual second; the next ring inside indicates the minute, and the inner ring shows the hour.
The lights are constantly on, the apparent motion regulated mechanically through slots in moving discs.
Weirdly, the clock’s pendulum slows down or speeds up. Sometimes it stops, the chronophage shakes a foot and the pendulum moves again.
Because of that, the time display may be as much as a minute off, although it swings back to the correct time every five minutes, said Taylor.

Time Perception news

Carl Zimmer: How Your Brain Can Control Time:

For 40 years, psychologists thought that humans and animals kept time with a biological version of a stopwatch. Somewhere in the brain, a regular series of pulses was being generated. When the brain needed to time some event, a gate opened and the pulses moved into some kind of counting device.
One reason this clock model was so compelling: Psychologists could use it to explain how our perception of time changes. Think about how your feeling of time slows down as you see a car crash on the road ahead, how it speeds up when you’re wheeling around a dance floor in love. Psychologists argued that these experiences tweaked the pulse generator, speeding up the flow of pulses or slowing it down.
But the fact is that the biology of the brain just doesn’t work like the clocks we’re familiar with. Neurons can do a good job of producing a steady series of pulses. They don’t have what it takes to count pulses accurately for seconds or minutes or more. The mistakes we make in telling time also raise doubts about the clock models. If our brains really did work that way, we ought to do a better job of estimating long periods of time than short ones. Any individual pulse from the hypothetical clock would be a little bit slow or fast. Over a short time, the brain would accumulate just a few pulses, and so the error could be significant. The many pulses that pile up over long stretches of time should cancel their errors out. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. As we estimate longer stretches of time, the range of errors gets bigger as well.

Chris Chatham: Impulsivity Due to Distortions in Time: Hyperbolic Discounting and Logarithmic Time Perception:

New research from Wharton and the Carlson School shows that a methodologically-appealing measure of impulsivity – hyperbolic discounting rate – may actually reflect a systematic “skew” in the way people perceive time.
Previous work has shown that people tend to decreasingly discount the usefulness or appeal of a reward with increasing delays; that is, a reward provided now is more appealing than a reward provided 1 week or 1 month from now, but that change in appeal is nonlinear (hyperbolic) across time. In other words, people prefer to behave impatiently now, but prefer to act more and more patiently in the future – suggesting that this “hyperbolic discounting rate” might be related to impulsivity.

Vaughan: The future is nonlinear:

These are quite different concepts – for example, we know logically that waiting four weeks is exactly four times as long as waiting a week, but it might not feel exactly four times as bad.

Light and Time

Two of my SciBlings have recently covered papers that my readers should find interesting:
Joseph: Bright Light and Melatonin Treatment Improves Dementia:

A study published in JAMA indicates that treatment with bright light alone (1,000 lux), or bright light combined with melatonin, can improve symptoms in patients with dementia. Melatonin alone appeared to have a slight adverse effect.

Chris Chatham : Time Perception: In the Absence of “Time Sensation?”:

In their newly in-press TICS article, Ivry and Schlerf review the state of the art in cognitive modeling of time perception – perhaps the most basic form of perception which has no sensory system dedicated to it.

Happy birthday Time Zones

On this day in 1884 the International Prime Meridian Conference established a system of standard time zones:

In 1884 an International Prime Meridian Conference was held in Washington D.C. to standardize time and select the Prime Meridian. The conference selected the longitude of Greenwich, England as zero degrees longitude and established the 24 time zones based on the Prime Meridian. Although the time zones had been established, not all countries switched immediately. Though most U.S. states began to adhere to the Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones by 1895, Congress didn’t make the use of these time zones mandatory until the Standard Time Act of 1918.

Happy New Year!

Coming up tonight at midnight, according to the Julian calendar.

For my European Readers

Not that it’s a good thing….

Dawkins On Time

Hey, is he intruding on my territory? 😉
An excellent article about many aspects of time, how we perceive it and what it means to us.

If the (description of the) Beginning was wrong, so is the End

A must-read by Sara Robinson. You can use it to understand the persistence of Creationism. Or the lack of Internal Locus of Moral Authority in people belonging to Moral Majority.

Intelligent Timekeepingism

This is, after all, A Blog Around The Clock, so, I guess I should be a strong and vocal proponent of the Clock Theory aka Specified clockplexity. After all, nobody’s ever seen a clock move! So, I should start fighting against vile, rabid, Atheistic Blindtimekeepingism:

Atheists often level a strawman at Intelligent Timekeepingist (hereafter referred to as IT) views. They force you to stare at a clock for 5 minutes or so and claim vindication when the big hand of the clock moves. But DTists all agree that the big hand moves! This is simply microtimekeeping, and it does not go against ITist views. The problem is that these movements of the big hand are just as likely to give an incorrect movement as they are to give a correct movement. There is no new information about the current time added by these microticks! *Nobody* has ever seen the little hand of a clock move. This is what we refer to when we say macrotimekeeping. It does not really matter if the current minute is 13, 14, or 15, but it *does* matter what the current hour is. Are we to believe that billions of people show up to work on time every day due to chance?

The Owls Of The World, Unite!

Apparently, in Denmark, the ‘larks’ (early-risers) are called ‘A-people’ while ‘owls’ (late-risers) are ‘B-people’. We all know how important language is for eliciting frames, so it must feel doubly insulting for the Danish night owls.
Today, in the age of the internets, telecommuting and fast-increasing knowledge about our rhythms and sleep, retaining the feudal/early capitalism work schedules really does not make sense.
And owls are by no means minority. Among kids and adults, they comprise about 25% of the population (another 25% are larks and the rest are in between). But among the adolescents (roughly 14-30 years old), owls are the most prevalent chronotype.
So, the Danes decided to organize, to eliminate being frowned upon and deemed “lazy“, and to change their society.
You can check out The B-Society website both in Danish and in English:

Why do we still get up at cockcrow and when the cows moo,
when only 5% of the population work within agriculture or fishing?
Why does everything have to take place in the same rhythm and pace,
resulting in a huge problem with our infrastructure?
Why has the societal framework primarily been arranged to suit
people working from 8 am to 4 pm?
Let the tyranny of A-time end. Let us create a B-society.
Let us create B-patterns in our work and in our families.
Let us have quiet mornings and active evenings.
Life is too short for traffic jams. Let us have more all-night shops!

Hat-tip: NBM, frequent commenter on this blog.

Daylight Saving Time

This is the time when everyone is talking about the Daylight Saving Time and I always feel pressure to blog about it from a chronobiological perspective. And I always resist. As I will this year. So, here are a couple of related links instead:
Larry provides a brief history of time zones and the Dalyight Saving Time (and a cool map that goes with it).
Dave finds some data that the DST does not actually save any energy.
Among numerous newspaper articles, I thought this Boston Globe one gives the most accurate summary of what DST does to our circadian rhythms and sleep. It explains why it takes us several days to adjust to DST when our clocks are normally capable of phase-shifting one hour in one day. Why are there 10% more car accidents today than on any other day of the year? However, it does not mention that people with circadian disorders such as SAD and Bipolar Disorder suffer more due to DST (the SAD patients throughout the winter – today is the happy day of final release from the winter blues; the BP patients suffer most on the two days of the year at which the shifts happen).

Cool Clocks

Considering the name of this blog, you may not be surprised that I am a sucker for clocks and watches. If I had more walls and more money, I’d collect them by dozens (hundreds?). Grow-a-Brain has been collecting links to sites showing all kinds of clocks.
I wish I could have something like this, this or this for the house and this for the pocket.

Natalie Angier on Time

Making Sense of Time, Earthbound and Otherwise


In my part of the world, and most of the US and Europe as well, there was a general agreement that all clocks would be set an hour off back in April. This may have made sense in a world in which most people worked on a single shift, and most factories were lit via skylights for that single shift, but it’s absurd in the 24/7 world of this millennium. Fortunately, as of 2:30 this morning we’ve allowed to set our clocks back to the correct time. The computers switch automatically, I think I know how to set my wristwatch back (well, ahead 23 hours actually, it’s digital), but millions will be digging our the manuals for their VCRs today. Today’s theme: Time.
Okay, so it’s yesterday’s theme. By the time I had the quotes selected something else came up and I forgot to mail them!
Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.
– Andrew Jackson, 1767 – 1845
Lost time is like a run in a stocking. It always gets worse.
– Ann Morrow Lindbergh, 1906 – 2001
Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.
– Carl Sandburg, 1878 – 1967
Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.
– Augustine of Hippo, 354 – 430
The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.
– Sydney Smiles
Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.
– Theodore Roosevelt, 1858 – 1919

From today’s Quotes Of The Day

Deceptive Metaphor of the Biological Clock

Sometimes a metaphor used in science is useful for research but not so useful when it comes to popular perceptions. And sometimes even scientists come under the spell of the metaphor. One of those unfortunate two-faced metaphors is the metaphor of the Biological Clock.
First of all, there are at least three common meanings of the term – it is used to describe circadian rhythms, to describe the rate of sequence change in the DNA over geological time, and to describe the reaching of a certain age at which human fertility drops off (“my clock is ticking”).
I prefer the Rube-Goldberg Machine metaphor for the mechanism underlying circadian rhythms, but apparently more people know what a clock is than what a Rube-Goldberg Machine is so it appears that we are stuck with the Clock Metaphor for a while.
Once you have a clock metaphor, it is easy to see a clock everywhere you look. Like seeing nails with a hammer in your hand, a researcher in choronobiology is likely to see timing everywhere – I know, I do it myself.
And sometimes this approach pays off – there is definitely a link between circadian and developmental timing in Nematodes, between circadian timing and timing of the love-song in Drosophila, between circadian and seasonal timing, to name some of the few well-known connections, each discovered by a circadian biologist intirgued by the possibility that a clock at one domain (days) may also be involved in timing at other domains (miliseconds, hours, weeks or years).
One of the most touted, yet the most tenuos connection is that between circadian timing and timing of aging and death. Much funding has already been poured into studying this, but, apart from figuring out how circadian rhythms themselves change with age (yup, like everything else, the clock gets a little sloppy and the rhythms get fragmented so you tend to nap more often), no such link has been found yet.
But funding needs to be renewed, and it is just so easy to mix metaphors here – “my clock is ticking” and “my circadian clock is ticking” are so easy to sell together as a package.
Thus, I was not too impressed when I saw this press release: Link Between The Circadian Clock And Aging:

Studying a strain of transgenic mice lacking the core circadian clock gene, Bmal1, Dr. Antoch and colleagues determined that BMAL1 also plays an important role in aging. Bmal1-deficient mice display a marked premature aging phenotype: By 4-7 months of age, the Bmal1 knockout mice experience weight loss, organ shrinkage, skin and hair weakening, cataracts, cornea inflammation and premature death.
The researchers went on to show that BMAL1’s influence on the aging process is due to its previously established role in protecting the organism from the genotoxic stress. Some BMAL1-deficient tissues – like the kidney, heart and spleen – accumulate aberrantly high levels of free radicals. The scientists believe that oxidative stress may underlie premature aging in these animals.
Future research will be aimed at delineating BMAL1 target genes involved in the aging process, with the ultimate goal of elucidating molecular targets for the rational design of drugs aimed at alleviating specific, age-related pathologies. “The involvement of BMAL1, the key component of the molecular clock, in control of aging, provides a novel link between the circadian system, environment and disease and makes circadian proteins potential drug targets,” explains Dr. Antoch.

If you knock out a gene or two, you get messed-up animals. Genes do not work in isolation – they are parts of multiple networks. Knocking one out will mess up multiplenetworks of genes, thus multiple processed in cells. Cells will then compensate fine-tuning other processes, etc. In short = knockout animals are sick animals.
I was going to completely ignore this, but then I saw this nice put down: Surprisingly Few Processes Can Be Thrown Into Reverse:

You should also bear in mind that the appearance of accelerated aging is by no means an indicator that accelerated aging is in fact taking place. It was something of a big deal that certain human accelerated aging conditions were shown to actually be accelerated aging, for example. As another example, diabetes looks a lot like faster aging in many respects, but it isn’t. Surprisingly few biochemical processes are open to this sort of “let’s find out how to throw it into reverse” logic, but the funding game requires one to pitch the next proposal ahead of time and on the basis of your latest research.

Exactly. Read the whole thing and do not buy stock in synthetic BMAL just yet….

Circadian Quackery

Believe me, I love the word “circadian”. It is a really cool word, invented by Franz Halberg in the late 1950s, out of ‘circa’ (Latin – “about”) and diem (“a day”), to denote daily rhythms in biochemistry, physiology and behavior generated by the internal, endogenous biological clocks within living organisms.
It’s been a while since the last time I found someone mistaking the word for ‘cicada’ which is a really cool insect. ‘Circadian’ has become quite common term in the media and, these days increasingly, in popular culture. Names of some bands contain the word. A few blogs’ names contain the word. I guess the word has cool modern scientific connotations, sounds like something from Star Trek, and on top of it has the ever-alluring association to the shape of the circle and the endless cycle of Time. Thus, it has the New-Agey air of a mix of scientific and mystical to it.
That does not mean that people know what the word means. I’ve seen quite a lot of confusion about the meaning of it on blogs and elsewhere. It was just a matter of time until the word was misappropriated by quacks. And yes, it has happened. I have recently found two examples of medical quackery with the word “circadian” prominently displayed. Let me show you why both are utterly wrong and what is the commonality between the two: [under the fold]

Continue reading


My post about sleep has been translated by Davide ‘Folletto’ Casali into Italian, and posted on his blog. You can see the translated post here. If you can read Italian (and even you do not – just for fun, and to reward his hard work), go and look around his blog.

Time is on my side…or behind me…or in front of me…or whatever!

Yes, I know that I am supposed to be the resident expert on all things temporal (check the name of this blog, after all), and I am actually very interested in the topic of subjective perception of time (in humans, among others), but I did not say anything about the latest study on the Aymara language in which the space-time metaphors are reversed in comparison to most/all (is it not all or is it really all?) other known languages. SEED just released an article on the topic as well.
Blogosphere covered the story quite a lot, but I was waiting for the real experts on this to chime in, and they delivered with gusto! Dave and Greta have written not one, but two posts on the topic (so far?).
Now Chris (of Mixing Memory blog) has written a post as well, as I just knew he would – how could he resist. After all, this is something that is up his alley and he has written two excellent posts on the topic before – I urge you to check them out here and here.