Mental Floss

The Corpus Clock & Chronophage

Miss Cellania

Stephen Hawking made some enigmatic allusions to "a new way to tell time" last week before he unveiled the Chronophage at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, England Friday. It's a sight to behold.

Inventor John Taylor designed the clock to be frightening, since that's the way he views the passage of time. The clock is made of gold and includes six new patented inventions. The passage of time is marked by the beast on top.

The monster momentarily stops the turning dial with its foot to mark the minutes, shown as blue LED lights shining through slots. It was originally conceived by Taylor as a literal interpretation of the grasshopper escapement invented by his hero, the Georgian clockmaker John Harrison whose fabulously accurate mechanisms solved the problem of establishing longitude at sea. The creature, modelled by sculptor Matthew Sanderson, was inspired by medieval armour and gradually became more ominous: part-lizard, part-stag beetle, a Chronophage "“ time eater.

Bringing the clock to reality took a team of 200 people, seven years, and a million pounds ($1.8 million). The grasshopper escapement converts the power of a pendulum into the mechanical movement of the clock. The only electricity in use is to power the LEDs, which look awesome but also detract from the clock's steampunk aura. The beast opens his jaws wider and wider until they snap shut at the end of a minute. A "time eater", indeed. He also moves his head and blinks his eyes occasionally. That's cool, but can you tell what time it is by looking at this thing?