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Every Second Counts: What Clocks Can Tell Us About Time


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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