How Every Floor is the 13th and Why Every Clock Tells the Correct Time
Our latest investigation into timelessness was inspired by Francis Ford Coppola's Twin-Peaksian film Twixt. The film features a very strange town with a very strange clock tower -- seven clock faces, no two hands alike, thereby making it impossible to measure time, à la Marquez. In the film, the tower chimes pretty much continuously, which is so lovely. We got to wondering whether it was possible for seven mismatched clocks to chime continuously or whether it was all a bit of movie magic. To get a sense of the durations of the chimed melodies for first quarter, half-hour, third quarter, and full hour, we timed a recording of Big Ben in action. We decided not to count reverberations after the numbered hour strikes, just to keep the data tidy. In a twelve-hour period, there are 20 minutes and 51 seconds of chiming (if each chimed note of melody and each hour-counting chime were played continuously). Divided among seven clocks, there's almost 3 minutes of silence between soundings. So yes, the continuous chiming in the film is courtesy of Hollywood.
So we're in the midst of programming a widget in which one adjusts the hands of eight (or more) clock faces in an attempt to achieve continuous chiming. One recalls Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach's proverb, "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day," and we conclude that eight mismatched clocks ... [drumroll, please] ... give the correct time constantly. Every clock, even a broken one, tells "the time," and what we do with that information is our own concern. Even the atomic clock gets adjusted occasionally with a leap second because even the earth's rotation isn't a reliable timepiece. One reason we're trying to determine the proper settings for continuous chiming is that we're envisioning an entire wall of clocks that ever-signal that "the hour is nigh." And we wish to discover how that might affect one's metabolism of time.
Somehow related to a broken clock being "right," the last time we were in a hotel, our room was on the floor labeled 14 because the building had no 13th floor. We imagined that there must be some folks who want to be on a 13th floor. We concluded that anyone can be on the 13th floor by installing a small plaque that says, "Thirteenth Floor." Sure, Hyman Ruchlis totes the party line: "Painting the number 14 on floor 13 doesn't change it from being the thirteenth floor" (How Do You Know It's True?, 1991). But we suggest that painting the number 14 absolutely makes it the fourteenth floor, for such is the floor's official name. "In a nominal scale, each number refers to one thing but the numbers are arbitrary" (Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don't Students Like School, 2009). And it goes without saying that the Brits call the first floor the ground floor and the second floor the first storey.
So, we are simply saying that every floor is the 13th and every clock tells the correct time.