The ‘time-eater’ of Cambridge

It’s ugly and rather disturbing but very intriguing and I did spend a long time staring at it. The Corpus clock at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge is surely not your regular time piece.

There is a beast sitting on the clock’s gold plated dial that devours time. With its long needle teeth and barbed tail it rocks back and forth, ultimately inserting its talons in notches at the top of the clock to move it forward. Halfway through the minute its jaws begin to open, snapping shut at 59 seconds. “Time is gone, he’s eaten it,” says John Taylor, its creator. This part-lizard, part-stag beetle creature is a Chronophage – the time eater.

“Time is not on your side. He’ll eat up every minute of your life, and as soon as one has gone he’s salivating for the next. ” And to rub this in further, for tolling every hour, the clock clanks of a chain that falls into a coffin, which then loudly bangs closed. “The sound was to remind me of my mortality.”

Did I mention it is all a bit weird ;-) Can you tell the time when this pic was taken from this clock?

The Corpus clock, four feet in diameter, displays time using light-emitting diodes. The light races around the outer ring once every second, pausing briefly at the actual second; the next ring inside indicates the minute, and the inner ring shows the hour. It features the world’s largest ‘grasshopper escapement’.

Weirdly, the clock’s pendulum slows down or speeds up. Sometimes it stops, the Chronophage shakes a foot and the pendulum moves again. Therefore, the time display may be as much as a minute off, although it swings back to the correct time every five minutes

“There are so many expressions in everyday life about time going fast, time going slow and time standing still. Your life is not regular, it’s relative to what’s going on”.

The Corpus clock was inaugurated by Stephen Hawking in 2008

from King’s Parade: the Taylor Library and the Corpus Clock on the northwest corner of Corpus Christi College.

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