Most clocks just tell time, simply and reliably. Not the $1.8 million “time eater” formally unveiled Friday at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge.
The masterpiece, introduced by famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking, challenges all preconceptions about telling time. It has no hands or digital numbers and it is specially designed to run in erratic fashion, slowing down and speeding up from time to time.
Inventor John Taylor used his own money to build the clock as a tribute to John Harrison, the Englishman who in 1725 invented the grasshopper escapement, a mechanical device that helps regulate a clock’s movement.
Making a visual pun on the grasshopper image, Taylor created a demonic version of the insect to top the gold-plated clock where it devours time.
The beast — with its long needle teeth and barbed tail_ rocks back and forth, ultimately inserting its talons in notches at the top of the clock to move it forward. Halfway through the minute the grasshopper’s jaws begin to open, snapping shut at 59 seconds.
“Time is gone, he’s eaten it,” said Taylor, who calls the oversize grasshopper “Chronophage,” which translates to “time eater.”
“My object was simply to turn a clock inside out so that the grasshopper became a reality,” Taylor said.
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