Generally speaking, methods of temporal measurement, or chronometry, take two distinct forms: the calendar, a mathematical tool for organising intervals of time,
and the clock, a physical mechanism that counts the passage of time. In day-to-day life, the clock is consulted for periods less than a day whereas the calendar is consulted for periods longer than a day. Increasingly, personal electronic devices display both calendars and clocks simultaneously. The number (as on a clock dial or calendar) that marks the occurrence of a specified event as to hour or date is obtained by counting from a fiducial epoch – a central reference point.
History of the calendar
Artifacts from the Paleolithic suggest that the moon was used to reckon time as early as 6,000 years ago.
Lunar calendars were among the first to appear, with years of either 12 or 13 lunar months (either 354 or 384 days). Without intercalation to add days or months to some years, seasons quickly drift in a calendar based solely on twelve lunar months. Lunisolar calendars have a thirteenth month added to some years to make up for the difference between a full year (now known to be about 365.24 days) and a year of just twelve lunar months. The numbers twelve and thirteen came to feature prominently in many cultures, at least partly due to this relationship of months to years. Other early forms of calendars originated in Mesoamerica, particularly in ancient Mayan civilization. These calendars were religiously and astronomically based, with 18 months in a year and 20 days in a month, plus five epagomenal days at the end of the year.
The reforms of Julius Caesar in 45 BC put the Roman world on a solar calendar. This Julian calendar was faulty in that its intercalation still allowed the astronomical solstices and equinoxes to advance against it by about 11 minutes per year. Pope Gregory XIII introduced a correction in 1582; the Gregorian calendar was only slowly adopted by different nations over a period of centuries, but it is now by far the most commonly used calendar around the world.
During the French Revolution, a new clock and calendar were invented in an attempt to de-Christianize time and create a more rational system in order to replace the Gregorian calendar. The French Republican Calendar's days consisted of ten hours of a hundred minutes of a hundred seconds, which marked a deviation from the base 12 (duodecimal) system used in many other devices by many cultures. The system was abolished in 1806.
History of time measurement devices
A large variety of devices have been invented to measure time. The study of these devices is called horology.
An Egyptian device that dates to c. 1500 BC, similar in shape to a bent T-square, measured the passage of time from the shadow cast by its crossbar on a nonlinear rule. The T was oriented eastward in the mornings. At noon, the device was turned around so that it could cast its shadow in the evening direction.
A sundial uses a gnomon to cast a shadow on a set of markings calibrated to the hour. The position of the shadow marks the hour in local time. The idea to separate the day into smaller parts is credited to Egyptians because of their sundials, which operated on a duodecimal system. The importance of the number 12 is due to the number of lunar cycles in a year and the number of stars used to count the passage of night.
The most precise timekeeping device of the ancient world was the water clock, or clepsydra, one of which was found in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I. They could be used to measure the hours even at night, but required manual upkeep to replenish the flow of water. The Ancient Greeks and the people from Chaldea (southeastern Mesopotamia) regularly maintained timekeeping records as an essential part of their astronomical observations. Arab inventors and engineers in particular made improvements on the use of water clocks up to the Middle Ages. In the 11th century, Chinese inventors and engineers invented the first mechanical clocks driven by an escapement mechanism.
The hourglass uses the flow of sand to measure the flow of time. They were used in navigation. Ferdinand Magellan used 18 glasses on each ship for his circumnavigation of the globe (1522).
Incense sticks and candles were, and are, commonly used to measure time in temples and churches across the globe. Waterclocks, and later, mechanical clocks, were used to mark the events of the abbeys and monasteries of the Middle Ages. Richard of Wallingford (1292–1336), abbot of St. Alban's abbey, famously built a mechanical clock as an astronomical orrery about 1330.
Great advances in accurate time-keeping were made by Galileo Galilei and especially Christiaan Huygens with the invention of pendulum driven clocks along with the invention of the minute hand by Jost Burgi.
The English word clock probably comes from the Middle Dutch word klocke which, in turn, derives from the medieval Latin word clocca, which ultimately derives from Celtic and is cognate with French, Latin, and German words that mean bell. The passage of the hours at sea were marked by bells, and denoted the time (see ship's bell). The hours were marked by bells in abbeys as well as at sea.
Chip-scale atomic clocks
, such as this one unveiled in 2004, are expected to greatly improve GPS
Clocks can range from watches, to more exotic varieties such as the Clock of the Long Now. They can be driven by a variety of means, including gravity, springs, and various forms of electrical power, and regulated by a variety of means such as a pendulum.
Alarm clocks first appeared in ancient Greece around 250 BC with a water clock that would set off a whistle. This idea was later mechanized by Levi Hutchins and Seth E. Thomas.
A chronometer is a portable timekeeper that meets certain precision standards. Initially, the term was used to refer to the marine chronometer, a timepiece used to determine longitude by means of celestial navigation, a precision firstly achieved by John Harrison. More recently, the term has also been applied to the chronometer watch, a watch that meets precision standards set by the Swiss agency COSC.
The most accurate timekeeping devices are atomic clocks, which are accurate to seconds in many millions of years, and are used to calibrate other clocks and timekeeping instruments.
Atomic clocks use the frequency of electronic transitions in certain atoms to measure the second. One of the atoms used is caesium, most modern atomic clocks probe caesium with microwaves to determine the frequency of these electron vibrations. Since 1967, the International System of Measurements bases its unit of time, the second, on the properties of caesium atoms. SI defines the second as 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation that corresponds to the transition between two electron spin energy levels of the ground state of the 133Cs atom.
Today, the Global Positioning System in coordination with the Network Time Protocol can be used to synchronize timekeeping systems across the globe.
In medieval philosophical writings, the atom was a unit of time referred to as the smallest possible division of time. The earliest known occurrence in English is in Byrhtferth's Enchiridion (a science text) of 1010–1012, where it was defined as 1/564 of a momentum (1½ minutes), and thus equal to 15/94 of a second. It was used in the computus, the process of calculating the date of Easter.
As of May 2010attoseconds (1.2 × 10−17 seconds), about 3.7 × 1026 Planck times.
, the smallest time interval uncertainty in direct measurements is on the order of 12
Units of time
The second (s) is the SI base unit. A minute (min) is 60 seconds in length, and an hour is 60 minutes in length. A day is 24 hours or 86,400 seconds in length.