Michal Paszkiewicz


What if clocks were Australian?

Something I have found throughout my life is that few people question things, fewer people attempt to find the answer, and only a small fraction of those find it.

Simple questions that a child might ask no longer remain interesting to the narrow-minded adult who reserves his thoughts for other things. Even if they should really be common knowledge.

One of the questions I have found that prove this is:

  • Why do clocks go clockwise?

A simple question, with a simple answer, yet most adults cannot answer it satisfactorily.

So why DO clocks go clockwise? Obviously clocks are man-made, so we will need to read some history. The first methods that humans used to measure time were the celestial bodies: the Sun, the Moon and the stars. These would have been used for a very long time to figure out the seasons and lengths of time in terms of days or months.

Various monuments have been discovered that align with celestial bodies during various astronomical events, including Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and the Pyramids of Giza.

At some point, someone, or some people, decided that it would be really cool if they could measure time more accurately. More accurate methods of measuring time were originally:

The last one is the one that really interests us. Sun dials are great, in that they don't need refilling, worked accurately and well(apart from in Great Britain) and could be made cheaply and easily. The earliest sundials known from the archaeological record are the obelisks and sundials are mentioned in old texts such as in Isaiah 38:8.

Now, what we find, is that sundials all seem to go ... clockwise!

This is due to the shadow from the sun moving around clockwise as the day proceeds, due to the Sun moving clockwise round the Earth. Or rather, the Earth spinning anti-clockwise.

However, this is not entirely true. In the Southern Hemisphere, these directions are reverse. When we are standing on the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun and its shadows seem to be moving round the Earth anti-clockwise, since the Earth there seems to be spinning clockwise, as they are upside down!

Clocks were designed largely from sundials, so if clocks had first been invented in Australia, clockwise would be our Anti-clockwise!

Crazier still, if we flew into space, went through a Klein bottle and then came back to Earth, you would think everyone's clockwise was actually their anticlockwise. And you would be right. But so would they.