Clocks

October 24, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

tufailBefore the invention of mechanical clocks, timepieces used the sun’s motion or simple measurement devices to track time. The sundial may be the best known ancient keeper of time, and it is still manufactured as a popular garden accessory—but for its visual interest, not for practical time measurement. Stonehenge, the giant monument built of upright stones on the Salisbury Plain of Wiltshire, England, may have been used as a sundial and for other time and calendar purposes. Sundials have obvious disadvantages; they can’t be used indoors, at night, or on cloudy days.

Other simple measurement devices were used to mark time. Four basic types could be used indoors and regardless of the weather or time of day. The candle clock is a candle with lines drawn around it to mark units of time, usually hours. By observing how much of the length of a candle burned in one hour, a candle made of the same material was marked with lines showing one-hour intervals. An eight-hour candle showed that four hours had passed when it had burned down beyond four marks. The clock candle had the disadvantages that any changes in the wick or wax would alter burning properties, and it was highly subject to drafts. The Chinese also used a kind of candle clock with threads used to mark the time intervals. As the candle burned, the threads with metal balls on their ends fell so those in the room could hear the passage of the hours as the balls pinged on the tray holding the candle.

The oil lamp clock that was used through the eighteenth century was a variation and improvement on the candle clock. The oil lamp clock had divisions marked on a metal mount that encircled the glass reservoir containing the oil. As the level of oil fell in the reservoir, the passage of time was read from the markings on the mount. Like the candle clock, the oil lamp clock also provided light, but it was less prone to inaccuracies in materials or those caused by drafty rooms.

Water clocks were also used to mark the passage of time by allowing water to drip from one container into another. The marks of the sun’s motion were made on the first container, and, as water dripped out of it and into another basin, the drop in water level showed the passage of the hours. The second container was not always used to collect and recycle the water; some water clocks simply allowed the water to drip on the ground. When the eight-hour water clock was empty, eight hours had passed. The water clock is also known as the clepsydra.

Hourglasses (also called sand glasses and sand clocks) may have been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans, but history can only document the fact that both cultures had the technology to make the glass. The first claims to sand glasses are credited to the Greeks in the third century b.c. History also suggests sand clocks were used in the Senate of ancient Rome to time speeches, and the hourglasses got smaller and smaller, possibly as an indication of the quality of the political speeches.

The hourglass first appeared in Europe in the eighth century, and may have been made by Luitprand, a monk at the cathedral in Chartres, France. By the early fourteenth century, the sand glass was used commonly in Italy. It appears to have been widely used throughout Western Europe from that time through 1500. The hourglass or sand clock follows exactly the same principle as the clepsydra. Two globes (also called phials or ampules) of glass are connected by a narrow throat so that sand (with relatively uniform grain size) flows from the upper globe to the lower. Hourglasses were made in different sizes based on pre-tested measurements of sand flow in different sizes of globes. A housing or frame that enclosed the globes could be fitted to the two globes to form a top and bottom for the hourglass and was used to invert the hourglass and start the flow of sand again. Some hourglasses or sets of hourglasses were set in a pivoted mount so they could be turned easily.

13-43

No Longer a Day at the Beach

October 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

beach

Enjoying a day at the beach has always been something fun and affordable for families in Egypt. Who wouldn’t want to take a dip in the Red Sea or frolic in the sun soaked sand? But for many residents of Egypt a day at the beach, like so many other commodities in their life, is becoming unaffordable. Now anyone wanting to spend the day at the beach must pay to play.

The reason being is that wealthy developers and governorates of the coastal property are turning public beaches into private ones, excluding the general public from setting foot on the property. Egypt, with its stunning scenery, is fast becoming a playground for the elite. Chalets and 5-Star hotels are going up seemingly over night. And while the public does have limited access to the now private beaches, in the form of an entrance fee of about $18, it is still an unaffordable rate for many families in a country where 65% of the population can barely make ends meet.

More than 100 meters of the Egyptian coast from Alexandria to Marsa Matruh have now been cordoned off from the public. There is not a single public beach in the whole stretch of land. The beaches have also been renamed to further woo tourists. Names like Oxygen, Paradise and Bianki don the most exclusive beaches whom in turn shell out thousands of dollars to the governorates to rent the space. Then the costs are passed on to visitors in the form of high entrance, food and comfort fees. Most of the private beaches will give beach-goers a chair for free, but if they want a towel, sunglasses or even a glass of water they should be ready to pay through the nose.

The private beaches are popular for several reasons. The Red Sea is close to Cairo, which is one of the biggest cities in the World with high-flying executives and wealthy Egyptians seeking to shed the city for the weekend. Another attraction is women’s-only private beaches where women, who normally wear the face veil or burqa, can shed their everyday clothes in favor of a bikini so that they too can soak up the sun, sand and surf. And let’s not forget about global tourists who visit Egypt year round to tour the Pyramids and enjoy activities like desert safaris.

The facilities and leisure activities on offer at Egypt’s most prestigious private beaches are also a massive drawing point. Snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsailing and parasailing are just a few of the activities on offer. There are also several resorts and private villages like La Hacienda, Marabella and Marina that offer live concerts, 5-star restaurants, bars and dance clubs.

With a favorable climate, especially in the winter months which is notably warm, more and more of the Egyptian coastline will be developed not for locals to enjoy but rather to cater to those guests who have more disposable wealth to pay for even the simplest entertainment.

The days of the remaining public beaches are most definitely numbered, with newly categorized private beaches going directly under lock and key.

10-42