back to article Twilight of the sundials: Archaic timepiece dying out and millennials are to blame, reckons boffin

When was the last time you appreciated a sundial? I'll give you a mo... Nothing? We could be seeing even less of the ancient time-telling method as those with the knowledge to build sundials pass on. Seventy-six-year-old Dr Frank King, a fellow in computer science at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, has told the …

  1. Locky Silver badge

    Innovative sundials?

    There's a phrase I didn't think I'd be reading today

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Innovative sundials?

      Hilaire Belloc:

      "I am a sundial and I make a botch of what is done much better by a watch."

      But he also wrote

      "Here in a secret place forgotten, I mark the tremendous progress of the sky. So may your inward soul, forgotten, mark the dawn, the noon, the coming of the dark."

    2. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Innovative sundials?

      You mean one that works at night?

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        To be fair, analogue watches don't work in the dark either.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          To be fair, analogue watches don't work in the dark either.

          There are ones designed for the blind that do.

        2. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          To be fair, analogue watches don't work in the dark either.

          They came up with a solution to that 120 years ago.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium_dials

          When (through error via trial) Radium was discovered to be radioactive and somewhat harmful when the people painting were licking the stuff off the paint brushes, a variety of less lethal substances were used to replace it commonly known as glow in the dark paint, and more recently electroluminescent paint.

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            It should be perfectly possible to make a sundial that glows in the dark too.

            Using it to tell the time is a challenge, but you'd certainly be able to see it.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: Innovative sundials?

              I don't see the problem? My sundial works perfectly at night. It's battery powered...

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            Radium was discovered to be radioactive and somewhat harmful when the people painting were licking the stuff

            Also to a generation of small children who wore them in bed - especially those who liked to sleep with their shiny watches close to the lower groin area..

            (testes/ovaries and radiation don't mix kids - Just Say No)

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. M.V. Lipvig
            Mushroom

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            Reminds me of a Bloom County where Oliver builds a working nuke for a grade school science project. The fissile material was scraped off 9700 glow in the dark watches.

            Anyone wants to see it, go to comics.com and look for Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed for December 28, 2010.

        3. DuncanLarge Bronze badge

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          "To be fair, analogue watches don't work in the dark either."

          Yes they do, they glow in the dark. Have done for a very long time.

          Also there have been analogue watches that have a backlight around for long enough that you can buy one for your kid:

          https://www.amazon.com/Watches-Analog-Waterproof-Backlight-Children/dp/B076GZ3PJY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1550510926&sr=8-3&keywords=Analog+Watches+With+Backlight

          Here is another analogue watch that sets the time by itself from a radio broadcast powered by an atomic clock, this also lights up in the dark:

          https://www.watchshop.com/mens-casio-g-steel-bluetooth-triple-connect-chronograph-radio-controlled-watch-gst-b100d-1aer-p100014520.html

          As that one too expensive? Here is one using Indeglo, a backlight trademark that came out in the 90's:

          https://www.watchshop.com/mens-timex-indiglo-expedition-watch-t49713-p99946837.html

          So yes, analogue watches work in the dark and have done so for a number of decades.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            Most good analogue watches use Luminova these days - it absorbs solar radiation and uses a phosphor to make the hands visible for several hours. Tritium used to be the norm*, and this had the advantage of working even after a month in a cave. However, it was banned* because of fears of exposing watch repairers to a radioactive dust.

            * Any watch with ' T Swiss Made T' is one that used tritium, but the half life is such that the luminosity is reduced after about ten years. Plus, the tritium's energy eventually degraded the phosphor into dust - not good for the delicate gear cogs.

            ** A loophole used by some watches is that 'tactical equipment' can use tritium, but it needs to be contained within little glass vials

            1. Flywheel Silver badge

              Re: Innovative sundials?

              energy eventually degraded the phosphor into dust - not good for the delicate gear cogs

              Definitely not, but I'll bet the sales team loved that feature!

          2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
            Linux

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            Whoosh.

            Penguin because things go over their heads too.

        4. oiseau Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          Beat me to it ...

          I still have one of those fancy ones with the glow-in-the-dark numbers and hands.

          And I can see the time when my insomnia kicks in ...

          O.

        5. Herbert Meyer
          Coat

          no such thing as an analog watch.

          since all MECHANICAL clocks and watches use an escapement, they are essentially digital, counting ticks. Analog clocks would be water clocks or high precision candles. Or a sundial. I do not think any of them are suitable for wearing on the wrist or carrying in the pocket.

          1. Wincerind

            Re: no such thing as an analog watch.

            Wrist mounted Sundial?

            https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrist-Watch-Sundial-Solid-Compass/dp/B0154XDOAU

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
            Happy

            Pocket sundials

            Someone has been there done that.....

            http://www.compassmuseum.com/sundials/sundials.htm

          3. Electric Monk

            Re: no such thing as an analog watch.

            have a look at the Seiko spring drive movements in their Grand Seikos. The movement is run overspeed and braked electronically...

            https://www.grand-seiko.com/uk-en/about/movement/springdrive

            I say, "have a look" as it's the closest most of us will get for obvious (£) reasons...

        6. smudge Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          To be fair, analogue watches don't work in the dark either.

          You've never heard of watches with luminous spots at the numerals and on the hands?

          In addition to that, mine has a backlit dial - press the winder and it lights up.

        7. Country Bumpkin

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          Analogue watches continue to work in the dark, it is the human eye that fails to perceive their display due to the lack of photons hitting the rods (and cones) in the retina. The analogue watch however will continue to work, regardless of light or dark.

          1. tfb Silver badge
            Terminator

            Re: Innovative sundials?

            The patent-pending tfb night-o-matic sundial also works in the dark: you merely need to cut away the chunk of the planet which is occluding the Sun. Our luxury leather-plated 'evil genius' edition comes with free giant lasers with which to do the cutting. Sharks and mountain lair extra.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        aka moondials

      3. smot

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        I use a torch to look at mine at night. As long as I stand in the right place, the time is spot on.

      4. Fishbird

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        Have to say:

        They tell the time perfectly well, at exactly full moon. The corrections get a bit big more than a day or two each side, though.

        As a bonus, you should be able to get a good idea of the time of year, with only a little ambiguity.

        1. Cederic

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          "Dad, I'm cold. Can we go in? My fingertips are turning black and I can't see the sundial anyway."

          Yep, it's winter.

      5. TomPhan

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        When the sun goes down you go to sleep, so no need to check the sundial any more.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Innovative sundials?

      Wrong - with the aid of computers it's really possible to design innovative sundials.

      Look at these ones, for example:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_sundial

      https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1068443

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        Repurpose some Solaris tin?

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          You could use the sundial with a Sun Ray

      2. STOP_FORTH
        Joke

        Guns and sundials

        Someone sent me a link to the Mojoptix sundial about three years ago. So now there are two reasons to buy a 3D printer.

        (I didn't say they were good reasons.)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Innovative sundials?

        One that could tell the time accurately without you knowing the date would be nice. I don't think innovation in sundials has achieved that yet.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Innovative sundials?

          Length of the shadow will give you this, but needs to be worked out for location. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundial#Nodus-based_sundials

    4. Empire of the Pussycat

      Re: Innovative sundials?

      there're definitely innovative sundials, for instance...

      http://sundials.org/index.php/all-things-sundial/digital-sundials.html

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    You need a yard, garden or a rooftop etc in order to make best use of a sundial.

    Well, I guess you could have a 'sun' dial on your coffee table if you rigged up some Arduinos, LEDs and stepper motors...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      You can make a hole in the ceiling and have a moving image of the Sun on a wall, instead of a shadow....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, but a pinhole sun image is very small for a ten foot long ray, perhaps thumb size. I tried this once, and was disappointed in the small image, so I arranged to bounce the sun ray back and forth inside the room using mirrors, yet the sun image was still only about three inches wide, with very low brightness. But sunspots were clearly visible. It's kind of a trip to view sunspots with no lenses involved.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Happy

      Well, I guess you could have a 'sun' dial on your coffee table if you rigged up some Arduinos, LEDs and stepper motors...

      Don't forget the GPS so you know your exact latitude and longitude.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Looking at the wonderful sky we have here in the UK today (blanket wall to wall murky grey cloud giving occasional showers) it may also be worth remembering that you actually need the Sun as well...

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          What's this "Sun" thing people keep mentioning?

    3. Persona

      I got a sundial as a wedding present 30 years ago. Since then it has sat in the garden and been moved to two other houses. In all that time I only used it to tell the time immediately after installing it.

      1. ICPurvis47
        Boffin

        Is that you?

        Jonathan, is that you? I made a sundial for my cousin's wedding in 1986, so that would be just under 33 years ago. I made it for the correct latitude of their first house, but it would have to be adjusted if they moved to a different latitude.

    4. Brangdon

      Or a wall. You can get wall mounted sundials. Eg http://www.merlinsundials.co.uk/vertical.html

  3. Korev Silver badge
    Joke

    Our notion of time over the 20th century was condensed into four unambiguous numbers, now always a glance away from the corner of whatever screen is to hand

    Surely time is represented by a 32 bit number (until 2038 anyway)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People just don't have the time these days.

    1. holmegm
    2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      That's just a shadow of a real joke

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Actually, if you make a sundial large enough....

    ... it could be very precise.

    Anyway, I can see a sundial on my way home from workplace, and another on the town hall.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Actually, if you make a sundial large enough....

      ... it could be very precise.

      Like #18 on this list? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar,_Jaipur

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Actually, if you make a sundial large enough....

      Sundials can't be precise because the light source is not a point but a disk, invariably blurring the gnomon shadow edges. Only estimations are possible. It's one of the things I like about sundials. :)

  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Dr King

    I've not had the pleasure of meeting Dr King, but I've heard he's a thoroughly interesting chap (& Boffin). Maybe El Reg could do an interview with him?

    1. Hugh Pumphrey

      Re: Dr King

      I remember being taught by Frank King to how to log on to the mainframe and compile my first Fortran program. I'm not sure if I ever met him in person, or whether I just remember a series of short video clips of him showing how it was done.

      Dr. King is also a well-known figure in the world of bellringing --- the only sport for people who like permutations and group theory.

      1. cshore

        Re: Dr King

        He taught me too...8 programming languages in a term at the rate of one a week.

        He is the University Bellringer, Steeplekeeper of the University Church, Keeper of the university Clock. I'd be happy with any one of those titles but to have all three is awesome.

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Dr King

          He is the University Bellringer, Steeplekeeper of the University Church, Keeper of the university Clock. I'd be happy with any one of those titles but to have all three is awesome.

          Unless he acquired them in a Ponder Stibbons sort of way... "this obscure post needs filling, who can we assign it to?"

  7. David Robinson 1

    Using a sundial at night

    It's easy, just use the torch function on your smartphone to provide illumination.

    1. John Doe 6

      Re: Using a sundial at night

      I really hope that it was a joke...

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Using a sundial at night

        "I really hope that it was a joke..."

        Like a jumbo jet in the night...

      2. FarUpATree
        Joke

        Re: Using a sundial at night

        Why would it be? If you hold the phone directly above the sundial then it just mimics the sun doesn't it?

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: Using a sundial at night

          Nonononono! NO!

          It's night. The sun is on the other side of the earth. You must hold the phone under the sundial to mimic the sun.

          Azathoth's nebular nodes. They'll be voting next and there goes civilization as we know it.

    2. LDS Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Using a sundial at night

      As long as you have an app giving guidance to put the phone in the right position...

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Using a sundial at night

        Although, the sundial will keep working longer than a GPS device with a 10bit date...

        Well, it is nuclear fusion... -->

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Using a sundial at night

          What?!?! Sundials are nuclear powered!?!?

          Ban this sick filth immediately! It's dangerous and environmentally unfriendly.

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Using a sundial at night

        Why would you need a special app for that, silly? You just glance at the time on the smartphone then wave its torch about until it casts the shadow onto just the appropriate gradation...

  8. Paul Martin

    Frank King? Oh my! That takes me back.

    WriteString("Wake Up!");

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    They're great!

    they're rarely seen outside a National Trust garden.

    I have one in my garden, which doesn't belong to the National Trust.

    I've always been a great fan of pocket sundials!

    http://england.prm.ox.ac.uk/englishness-pocket-compass-sundial.html

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: They're great!

      I've always been a great fan of pocket sundials!

      Me too. I've got one on my desk, although to be fair it's more of a conversation piece than a practical timekeeper.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: They're great!

        >more of a conversation piece than a practical timekeeper.

        Why? You just need to move your desktop out into the garden if you need to know the time

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: They're great!

      >I have one in my garden, which doesn't belong to the National Trust.

      We've got a couple in the garden. A little one on a pedestal that gives a digital display and a big one on a wall that's a standard vertical dial with a gnomon. The wall one is quite large and keeps pretty good time according to the nearby radio corrected clock.

      The problem with sundials is that they don't work that well indoors in an office environment or in cars. You also can't easily interface them with computers -- its possible but a bit pointless since the computer is likely to be able to keep better time than the sundial.

      1. M.V. Lipvig
        Joke

        Re: They're great!

        I put a sundial in my car and turned it into a time machine. All I needed to do was turn left or turn right and I could speed up or slow down time. I hit a slick spot on a curve once, spun out and went a week back in time!

  10. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    We could be seeing even less of the ancient time-telling method as those with the knowledge to build sundials pass on.

    Until it gets revived by another generation, like hand weaving or bread making.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Joke

      Or vinyl records....

  11. cosymart
    Childcatcher

    I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

    Euclidean geometry is a mathematical system attributed to Alexandrian Greek mathematician Euclid, which he described in his textbook on geometry: the Elements. Euclid's method consists in assuming a small set of intuitively appealing axioms, and deducing many other propositions (theorems) from these.

    Oh, we have a sundial in the garden attached to a heavy lump of concrete that gives the local yoofs an instant hernia when they try and nick it after a drunken night out :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

      Have to admit, I thought Euclid was the ancient greek bloke that worked out the diameter of the earth with nothing more than a stick and a hole in the ground. (Turned out to be Eratosthenes - thanks wikipedia)

      Anyway, I am always impressed by ancient boffins working out stuff like that.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

        Ancient boffins were no less intelligent than modern ones, there were just fewer of them and they didn't have the resources of modern society to draw on.

        Even so, the Antikythera Mechanism would require some very skilled craftsmen or modern machinery to replicate. If the Romans hadn't thought that military strength and slave labour was better than Greek intelligence, the industrial revolution could have come an awful lot earlier and Jesus might have entered Jerusalem on a steam tractor.

        1. Long John Brass Silver badge

          Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

          If you are interested in the Antikythera Mechanism this might appeal :)

          https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCworsKCR-Sx6R6-BnIjS2MA

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

          If the Romans hadn't thought that military strength and slave labour was better than Greek intelligence

          Given that the Romans were technically a lot more advanced (and the Greeks also had both military might and slavery) this is a bit disingenuous..

          (The ancient Greek philosophers were very much of the 'thought experiment' mould - very uninterested in practical mechanics[1]. Add the fact that most of them were from the 'gentleman' class and, as such, had a huge aversion to manual labour, it's unlikely that their materials science and technology would have increased terribly fast.)

          [1] With obvious exceptions like Hero..

          1. Long John Brass Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

            The ancient Greek philosophers were very much of the 'thought experiment' mould - very uninterested in practical mechanics[1]

            So the Greeks were the Scientists and the Romans the Engineers?

          2. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

            Also add that Ancient Greeks put aesthetics above evidence. An elegant theory would be preferred to an ugly truth.

          3. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

            Well said. The ancient Greek 'gentlemen scientists' were similar to Soviet era Russian science graduates, who all wanted to work in academia, since it had way better status than working in <spit> industry

          4. Trixr Bronze badge

            Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

            There's a theory that a lot of the engineering knowledge the Greeks theorised about was actually swiped from the Egyptians (or other Middle-Eastern cultures like the Assyirans), who'd actually worked out these things in practice. Archimedes' Screw being a classic example.

            Getting more or less incomplete reports of certain mechanisms from such places and trying to make sense of them would account for the mixture of practicality and weirdness that the Greek philosophers seemed to embody.

      2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

        I love Pythagoras but oh, Euclid!

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

          I was once asked if I had any interesting/humorous suggestions for the title of a chapter on Euclid in a math primer a friend was writing.

          I suggested "Here's looking at Euclid."

          He went with that after shouting at me that he'd been working on a pun title for over two days and come up mostly dry.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

            I suggested "Here's looking at Euclid."

            I'm not accusing either party of plagiarism - such things get conceived independently - but I remember this same joke/pun being used on a Radio 2 comedy show about 15 years ago, "The Ape That Got Lucky". It was part of a list of books supposedly written by the guest academic on the program...

            "Here's Looking at Euclid", Geometry In The Films Of Humphrey Bogart

            "Pop Goes The Weasel - A Treasury of Vivisection Anecdotes"

            ...being the only two I can remember.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

      If only somewhere taught non-Euclidean Geometry... The old ones would be pleased....

      Mines the one with the Miskatonic University syllabus in the pocket...

      1. tfb Silver badge

        Re: I'll Bite.... Yes, I know he was trolling

        Well, anyone who wants to understand gravity...

  12. Dippywood

    Pocket Sundial

    When sorting though my late father's belongings I came a pocket sundial - a nice embossed brass folding thingie with a compass embedded in to too.Of archaic interest, but at least it IS interesting!

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Would the death of sundials really be that terrible? Not only are they imprecise to read (oo, erm, is it 11:31 or 11:32? YES, IT'S IMPORTANT)

    Well, actually if you make them too accurate, they'll point out how inaccurate our current time is. Famously, it was the introduction of railway timetables that forced standardisation of the meridian at Greenwich on us; Bristol is about eight minutes behind if memory serves. However, depending on where you are in the world, the classical design may be of little utility if you don't have a lot of direct sunlght, like much of the west side of the UK. But then again, being accurate to the minute is perhaps less interesting than watching time change in the course of the year so that when the sun starts to rise over point X, is a good time to start planting.

    I'm a big fan of having analogue and/or non-networked timepieces even though I have a plethora of digital devices using different techniques (NTP, mobile networks, radios) to synchronise and find it funny that they often have several seconds of drift. And then there is digital broadcasting…

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Unless you live in a time zone subject to periodic shifts due to Daylight Saving or whatever. Trying to reset a dial clock hung high up on a wall where the adjustment knob is normally concealed by the wall is no fun.

      Incidentally, I actually decided to make my own GPS-disciplined NTP server (so while I still use networking, it's on the LAN so doesn't depend on the Internet to work) using a Raspberry Pi 3 and an Uputronics GPS HAT. It's been a fascinating exercise, and I'm right now working to add on one of those little OLED displays to display time and status.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Bristol is about eight minutes behind

      Only temporarily - it's about 50 years behind culturally..

    3. Stevie Silver badge

      Famously, it was the introduction of railway timetables that forced standardisation of the meridian at Greenwich on us;

      Really? I'd always thought it was because we needed a way to stop ships crashing into places because they didn't know where the hell they were, and that we'd had the meridian long before we learned how to weld a boiler.

      Learn summat every day.

  14. Huw D

    Even the The Queen doesn't get sundials...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pC-iHk9FKr8

  15. SVV Silver badge

    four unambiguous numbers

    11:32 is actually two unambiguous numbers. Each consisting of two digits. I don't know, lack of eduation, youth of today, all going to to the dogs grumbe grumble as indeed expressed by the venerable Dr King in this article.......

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: four unambiguous numbers

      That's rational

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: four unambiguous numbers

      And the "11" could refer to a.m. or p.m. Which makes it the polar opposite of "unambiguous".

      1. Persona

        Re: four unambiguous numbers

        In the context of sundials 11 is unambiguously AM unless you live in a very polar location.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: four unambiguous numbers

        That is one advantage of sundials - they do detect nighttime unambiguously (solar eclipses excepted)

    3. Alumoi
      Coat

      Re: four unambiguous numbers

      11:32 is actually 0.34375, so nothing ambiguous here.

      Now I'll just get my coat and be on my way, my work here is done.

  16. Stuart Halliday

    I was in the village of Aldbourne in England where I saw a tall stone pillar about 20ft long in the middle of the green. It has a cross on top leaning at 45°

    I was surprised to learn that it's a sundial!

    I had always assumed that sundials were set at waist level!

    1. LDS Silver badge

      I'm sure the cross wasn't angled at 45° - I hope - it needs to be an angle equal to the latitude.

      About large sundials, Cassini (the astronomer) build a meridian in the cathedral of Bologna which is 67 metres long. A hole in the ceiling 27m above projects the sun disc on it at midday - this kind of sundial isn't used to tell the hour, but to measure the length of the solar year, and will tell the day of the year (including equinoxes and solstices).

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        you can see it here: https://goo.gl/maps/EA4wSbo6djQ2

    2. smudge Silver badge

      I had always assumed that sundials were set at waist level!

      You often get them on vertical walls, set quite high up - at the height you'd expect a clock to be.

      Plenty of National Trust properties have them...

  17. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Coat

    I went to see a clockwork sundial

    The man winding it up asked me if I didn't have a gnomon to go to...

    1. Black Betty

      Re: I went to see a clockwork sundial

      Too busy gyring about the wabe.

  18. Velv Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Former Office

    I may in the past have spent some time watching the hours pass on the giant sundial outside the office of a former employer

    55.934076, -3.314049 (Lochside Place, Edinburgh)

    Then again, this is Scotland, so I can't have spent THAT many hours watching the Sun (and my office didn't overlook this part of the grounds)

  19. IanRS

    Sundials are the easy bit

    Sundials are easy enough to get hold of - I have a nice one just sitting on a shelf.

    Nice pedestals to mount them on in the garden at a sensible price are another matter entirely.

  20. Toltec

    Local sundial

    I live quite close to this-

    https://www.rmg.co.uk/sites/default/files/styles/rmg_portrait_image/public/willett%20sundial.jpg?

    A few of us use it as a meeting point to go out for a bike ride.

  21. Ed3

    Blame

    Would it not be the fault of the teachers for failing to pass on knowledge?

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Blame

      More the fault of those setting crap syllabi and lowering the level of education. The teachers are only allowed to teach the approved syllabi.

      1. PhilipN Silver badge

        Re: Blame

        Trivium .... quadrivium ....

        By repute the typical school marm in the one-room school in every one-horse town in early US of A could teach Euclid

  22. steelpillow Silver badge
    Boffin

    Will somebody get those trolls outta here?

    Perhaps ironically for this item, spherical geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry. However the science of sundials is in fact a branch of projective geometry, which is different again, being classed as neither Euclidean nor non-Euclidean (mathematicians - don'ch'a love 'em?). We have Euclid to thank for his geometry, the likes of Gauss, Bolyai and Lobackevski for the existence of the non-Euclidean, and a whole shedload of brains culminating in von Staudt and Klein for the projective formulation. That a fellow philosopher from my old College should not make this clear must surely be down to the work of trolls.

    1. DaveB

      and a whole shedload of brains

      or as we know them "the boys in the band"

  23. smudge Silver badge
    Facepalm

    My next-door neighbour...

    ... has a sundial in her garden. Just on the north-eastern side - we're in the UK - of the junction of the high hedge and the high fence!

    I've never asked her if it works...

  24. pendingmath
    Holmes

    Hasn't been wound in over 100 years.

    Here's a sundial that tells time for over a dozen cities.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamhisskoul/13946477816

  25. JLV Silver badge
    Trollface

    four unambiguous numbers

    How are 4 numbers unambiguous, absent the AM/PM qualifier? Or the, rare, sanity of 24 hour timekeeping? And don't get me started on the 11pm (11:59), 12 am (12:01), 1 am (1:01) “logic”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-1752,00.html

    1. Tikimon Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: four unambiguous numbers

      Or you can use ten to show time and date for most purposes. Right now it is 021919.1137. One could add seconds if needed, but I'm never that rushed thank goodness.

      AM/PM is for preschoolers. Days have 24 hours, learn to count over 12 for heaven's sake...

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: four unambiguous numbers

        "Right now it is 021919.1137"

        Sorry, but that makes no sense. Surely largest unit should be at the left? As in 190219-1137?

        YYMMDD-HHMMSS makes more sense than MMDDYY-HHMMSS, shirley?

        Takes away the ambiguity of your unambiguousnessness, as it were.

  26. Fursty Ferret

    One sympathises. I got tired of adjusting my ancient stone circle for Daylight Saving Time.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      I got tired of adjusting my ancient stone circle for Daylight Saving Time.

      Adjusting for the precession of the equinoxes must be a bit of a bugger as well.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Happy

        ...which is something you should have worried more about, had you been the Druid in charge of Stonehenge.

        Oh, well, he's dead now...

  27. Lee D Silver badge

    I can read an analogue clock.

    I can build a sundial. I can even align it properly by several different means to make it more than accurate enough for everyday use.

    And yet, every clock in my house (with the exception of one that's there to look pretty) is digital. And any time I reference the time, I use a digital display. The only "analogue" timekeepers in my house that are ever used are the time dials on the microwave and the egg timer. Even then, that's because the digital egg timer I bought was too quiet so it's useless, all I had otherwise was a spring/clockwork one, and the microwave was cheap.

    In work, everything is synchronised to GMT to within a second or so. I mean, everything. Wall clocks, phones, computers, access control. Why that would be any other way in a modern workplace, I can't imagine, because you just plug the NTP settings in and off you go.

    I hate watches now (phones are my time source now), but I have spent half my life with a Casio digital watch on my arm because one glance tells you day, date and time without any interpretation required. And if you bought the right model, it was MSF too.

    I literally have one clock to change when the summer time idiocy takes effect - that's to that analogue clock. Sure, I can get MSF versions of it but it's not worth it as I never refer to it.

    Basically, to me a clock has to be a) synched, b) numbers you can read quickly, c) unambigious (AM/PM), d) have alarms you can set on it.

    Now if we could just sort this "60 minutes to the hour, 24 hours to the day, 28-31 days in a month, 365.25 days to the year" imperial-like shite, then I'll be a happy man. Pick a time base, stick with it. Hell, we have no need to tie it to local noon or even the orbit of the planet any more. Just pick a timebase and stick to it, and then you *calculate* things like sunrise and sunset just like we have to do now, but with some sensible numbers.

  28. katrinab Silver badge
    Flame

    No, millenials did not kill the sundial

    The pendulum clock killed the sundial. It was invented in 1637 by Galileo, long before any millennials were born. Gilileo also killed the flat-earth industry.

    But of course baby boomers like to blame millennials for everything.

  29. DropBear Silver badge
    Trollface

    Getting millennials interested in sundials...? Easy! Just tell them each one comes with its own gnomon. And mumble something unintelligible when they get excited and ask if they come with goblins and trolls to...

  30. cshore

    Mass dials

    I have seen one or two of these on bellringing trips to rural churches. A surprising number survive, even though the gnomon is almost always missing. They were used to advertise the time of mass.

    http://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/mass-dials/mass-dials.htm

  31. herman Silver badge

    Oh, come-on. What is so hard about night time use?

    Just install the sun dial under a street lamp.

  32. drewsup

    Funny timing on this...

    I was traveling the back roads of Cheshire last week and stopped to get a few pics of a pub named The Cock, ( tee hee to my American friends) , and it has a sundial mounted vertically on the wall about 15 feet up, had never even contemplated a vertical sundial before, but yes, it works!

  33. Alterhase
    Pint

    What happened to being able to tell time by looking at the sun?

    It is my understanding that part of the education of a gentleman was the ability to tell the time to within fifteen minutes by looking at the sun. Then the pocket watch and later the wrist watch came along and the need disappeared.

    Ahh, progress!

    Icon because how else would you know it was time to head to the pub?

  34. Airborne Cigar

    Note also the sundial and calendar on the wall of the London Stock Exchange building in Paternoster Square

  35. John Sturdy
    Boffin

    An internet-readable sundial

    There's a wall sundial in Pembroke College, Cambridge, designed by Dr. King. When there was a computing research lab in sight of it, someone wrote an online sundial reader: https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/research/dtg/attarchive/sundial/

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