Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Observational Time with John Goodman

Here's an interesting article from the Long Now Blog.

John Goodman is an engineer that admires intuition, a reluctant artist who enjoys elegant approximations. His best known creation,
The Annosphere
, was recently showcased at the Cambridge Science Festival in Massachusetts, where he lives and works.

The Annosphere is emblematic of what Mr. Goodman calls an intuitive grasp of time – time that is told by instinct, season and cultural benchmark, rather than being parceled out in minutes and seconds. He tells an illustrative story: Once, in a hotel in Europe, he noticed that the shower knob was demarcated in degree readings. He got to musing on the fact that he had no idea, in degrees, how hot he liked his shower. “The shower had degree readings on the knob, but who knows the exact temperature they like their shower? The right way to set a shower is where it’s comfortable, the right way to measure time is the same.”

From the Annosphere website:
Time goes both too slowly and too quickly. From one minute to the next, nothing seems any different and yet before you know it, the day is over, the summer’s gone to fall, adolescence turns to middle age, and you’re in the nursing home.

The annosphere tells time, but more usefully, it presents time. It shows you sunrise and sunset, the start of spring and the winter solstice. It lets you see on your desk what you can’t see in the world: the steady pace of time, the subtle day to day changes in sunlight and shadow, the cycles that run through each year.

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