Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Review: Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time

Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed With Time by Simon Garfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time is one of those entities that we cannot buy nor store; it just grinds inexorably on; tick, tock; second by second, and once gone can never be had again. And yet we still never have enough of it. In the days before clocks, we timed our lives by the rising and setting of the sun, working and resting as the light came and went. Even your cheapest wristwatch is incredibly accurate when compared to the timepieces 100 years ago. But in this modern age we now have access to the some of the most accurate and precise measurements of time available; an atomic clock will only lose one second every 15 billion years.

Drawing together all manner of subjects on the ticking clock he tells us why the CD is the length it is, how to make a watch, how the French messed up the calendar, how the trains changed time everywhere and tries to fathom out time management systems. He gazes at some frighteningly expensive watches in the home of time, Switzerland, and learns about taking your time to eat from the slow food movement.

Garfield has a knack of getting to the very essence of a subject and has written another fascinating book, and this is no exception. Being an engineer, I particularly liked the chapters on the technology used to make a timepiece these days, just the way that they assemble these tiny mechanical marvels is particularly special. The whole book is full of curious facts, amusing anecdotes and subtle observations on the passage of time. Written in his usual entertaining style, is a delight to read as were his other books. Great stuff.

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