A sophisticate's primer of relativity by P. W Bridgman

By P. W Bridgman

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They cannot be used at temperatures so low that water would freeze, but even at higher temperatures there are serious problems. The viscosity of water, the property that controls the ease with which it flows, is highly temperature-dependent and this would control the rate at which a stream of water would escape through a narrow channel. Another factor is humidity which, together with temperature, would control the rate at which water evaporates — a serious problem if a quantity of water is being used to measure the passage of time.

It was modified in the 17th century to incorporate a pendulum to better control the timing and in 1884 it was discarded in favour of a new and more accurate clock. In 1928, the remains of the original clock were found in the clock tower of the cathedral and finally, in 1956, the clock was restored to close to its original condition, which involved reproducing parts of the timing mechanism that had been lost. The early timing mechanism involved a combination of two components known as a verge escapement and foliot.

This means that the receiving vessel can be of cylindrical shape and equal intervals of water level correspond to equal intervals of time. The use of outflow water clocks was recorded in China in the 6th century BCE, but from about the 2nd century BCE they were superseded by the inflow type. The problems associated with the changes in the properties of water with temperature and the effects of evaporation were well understood by the Chinese and the performance of water clocks was sometimes checked by comparing them with sundials.

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