VIDEO: The mind-boggling interactive time box on display in Bury St Edmunds
- Credit: Mariam Ghaemi
The concept of time has baffled great thinkers for thousands of years.
For most of us, time is what we see on our watch, phone or computer, but what is happening with time if we can’t see the clock face?
Bury St Edmunds physicist Antony Hurden has gifted a new invention, called Schrodinger’s Clock, to Moyse’s Hall Museum in his town to get people thinking more deeply about the concept of time.
It tries to illustrate the famous “thought experiment” Schrodinger’s Cat, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935, whereby it is impossible to tell whether the cat in the sealed box is dead or alive.
Mr Hurden, whose father was part of the team that built the rocket motors that got Neil Armstrong on the moon, said he wanted to “give back” to the museum, which holds a world-class clock collection.
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He said: “It gives something to the museum in Bury St Edmunds which you won’t get anywhere else in the world.”
Schrodinger’s Clock, which is patented, ticks like a traditional clock, but when the lid is shut you can’t see what the time is. When it’s open you can hold a button so it changes time between the right time now, anywhere in the world, or the wrong time.
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Mr Hurden said: “I thought ‘we take so much of time for granted. What would happen if we had a clock like this and we can hear it ticking?’”
The idea for his clock was born on a trip to Vermont in America where there was a church clock that had two clock faces showing two different times.
This prompted him to think of the famous Lewis Carroll riddle in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that asks: ‘What is better? A clock that loses five minutes every day or a broken clock?’
Mr Hurden worked with Cambridge-based company Special Agent, which built the computer, and Suffolk furniture restorer Steven Norman, who made the case out of walnut wood.
The ticking was recorded from a James Brock longcase regulator clock, dating to around 1880, which is part of the display.
Mr Hurden added: “I’m really chuffed, I really am. I have got so much pleasure out of coming here [the museum] over the years so at least I have been able to offer something back.
“If it gets people coming into here and looking around and asking questions and thinking a little more about it then that’s fine.”
Heritage officer Alex McWhirter, said Mr Hurden’s clock was “brilliant” as an interactive piece for the display.
“It is another example of how the museum is continuously engaging with and exploring interpretive ideas behind our collections, particularly the world-famous clock collection, aside from the invisible research and physical displaying.”