C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Keeping Time

One of my students wanted to study time. So today we went to talk with a gentleman who repairs clocks.  We opened the door to his shop and walked in to the quietness of soft ticking.  It smelled of old wood, varnish, dust and oil.  He showed us how he repairs clocks, the tiny tools, the lathe.  He took out the works of a clock and we learned about energy transfer, gear chains, the escape wheel.  

We learned that the period of a pendulum one meter long is one second.  Coincidence? I think not!  The oldest clock in the shop, 1780, had an ‘equation hand’ so that you can set it by referring to a sundial.  My student made the connection that what we need for keeping time is a way to store energy, releasing it at regular intervals and that could be a wound spring, a quartz crystal or an excited bit of Cesium 133.  

Who would have thought - history, physics, tools and time? I’m a happy teacher!

We were deep in conversation about the eighteenth century race to make a clock for ships so they could calculate longitude.  The grandfather clock behind me struck 11 am, then the coo-coo.  We stopped talking and just listened to all the ancient time keepers strike the hour.


  1. Time is so untouchable idea. Clock on the otherhand is a magical machine that seems to keep it. "The quietness of soft ticking" - love the phrase. I also love the way you built the slice from a boy's curiosity to your grandfather clock behind you.

  2. Your writing is very clear. I thought of all the time pieces I have seen. My step-father repaired and collected clocks.

  3. Terrific to hear, Katie. I know that you do such interesting trips, but this is a special one. I imagine the student thought so, too!