Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 27, 2022
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Atomic time

A projection clock by Oregon Scientific

Time remains one of the more puzzling aspects of the universe. Truth is, we haven’t yet figured out what it is. Since Einstein, we’ve come to believe it’s closely connected to speed and distance and that it’s, well, relative.

When it comes down to it, the only thing on which this planet’s time is based is the duration it takes for the earth to do one revolution on its axis, a day, and the duration it takes for the earth to do one revolution around the sun, a year.

People had been gazing at the sky for tens of thousands of years before Copernicus suggested, in the 15th century, that the earth even went around the sun. It wasn’t until 100 years after that that Galileo, with the help of the newly invented telescope, put the other planets in place and came up with the solar system, as we know it today. The church didn’t care for his ideas and he spent the last few years of his life under house arrest.

By then, we’d been trying to measure time for more than 6000 years. The Chinese used sundials, as did the Egyptians. Water clocks that measure the inflow or outflow of water into a vessel were also popular. The Romans came up with mechanical devices to more accurately measure the flow and they continued to be used in Europe until the early 14th century when clocks driven by weights first appeared.

One such clock is still in existence. It was a gift from an admirer to Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, around 1430. He kept it in his bedroom. Bedrooms are where people still like to have a clock — witness the digital clock radios that grace bedside tables in virtually every hotel, motel and B&B room in Canada. The red LED lights are irritating, the controls are tiny, setting the alarm can be a challenge as can finding a radio station in a strange city that you can tolerate first thing in the morning.

Enter the atomic clock that automatically sets itself to the US Atomic Clock, which is accurate to one second in 30 million years, more or less. The model shown here comes from Oregon Scientific and has discrete black numbers on a grey screen, which include time, date and room temperature. It also has the amusing and useful benefit of projecting the time in large red digits on the ceiling above your bed either all the time or at the touch of a button. I’ve been using one for a month and still wake up with a smile when I see those numbers above my head even if they read 5:45am, and that’s saying something.

The clock runs on two AA batteries or an included AC adapter and measures 10.8 cm long by 6.35 cms wide by 11.3 cms high.

The RM313PNA model is $29.95;


You can win a clock for your own bedroom by entering our new Win the Gadget of the Month contest online here.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.


Showing 1 comments

  1. On January 27, 2016, John Carroll said:
    I live in a place where the electricity goes out with some regularity. More than the time projected onto the ceiling, I love the idea of a clock with unquestioned accuracy.

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