Here's something different in a timepiece: It has no hands. It's actually designed to run in erratic fashion, slowing down and speeding up from time to time. It aims to disorient and dazzle, to remind people of their mortality and to pay tribute to one of the most famous watchmakers of all time. Stephen Hawking unveiled the nearly $2-million masterwork at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge yesterday.
The "Corpus clock" is the brainchild of inventor John Taylor, who used his own money to build it, in part to pay homage to the genius of John Harrison, the Englishman who in 1725 invented the "grasshopper" escapement—a mechanical device that helps regulate a clock's movement. Taylor has designed a fantasy version of a grasshopper, a chronophage, or "time eater," at the top of the clock face; its jaws begin to open halfway through a minute, then snap shut at 59 seconds. "My object was simply to turn a clock inside out so that the grasshopper became a reality," says Taylor.