sundials: marrying science & art
January 16, 2005 8:54 AM   Subscribe

There are many different types of sundials, from the very large to the small and portable. Some of the more unusual specimens include the spectacular new Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA, topiary and garden sundials in Britain, and, perhaps most lovely, stained glass sundials, rare now, but more common from the 16th through the 19th centuries.
posted by madamjujujive (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That's one heck of a bridge.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 AM on January 16, 2005

I really liked the "Sundial of Human Involvement" in Wellington, New Zealand (pic1, pic2). In this kind of sundial you are the gnomon. You stand on the analemma at the position of today's date and your shadow tells the time. It's the first time I really understood the analemma. There's a good explanation of a Sundial of Human Involvement in Sydney. And you can make your own.
posted by Nelson at 9:16 AM on January 16, 2005

Great post, juju. Thanks!
posted by homunculus at 9:24 AM on January 16, 2005

Sundials are good, we like them. The bridge is fairly gay, in the nicest possible way. Water lit from underneath at night??? So nocturnal flying insects are not a problem locally?
posted by asok at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2005

Digital sundial.
posted by euphorb at 10:13 AM on January 16, 2005

madamejujujive, the stained glass sundials are absolutely lovely, and before this, I had no idea such things existed. Thank you for brightening a dreary weekend with this fabulous post.
posted by melissa may at 10:26 AM on January 16, 2005

euphorb: I remember reading the Scientific American article that is apparently based on, but I was under the impression it was one of those theoretical, limits-of-computation machines that Dewdney was so fond of - like devices to find prime numbers in linear time, or computers made from rope and springs.

To find out someone actually built one... wow.

Love the stained glass pieces, too.
posted by Leon at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2005

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. And I pass through Redding all the time on long road trips, next time I'm going to stop to see that bridge.
posted by wolftrouble at 10:42 AM on January 16, 2005

I particularly enjoyed the stained glass with embedded houseflies. Tempus fugit!

But once again, this begs the question, "How come they use IIII instead of IV on clocks?"
posted by steef at 10:46 AM on January 16, 2005

I nicknamed that bridge the Hyperopia Project when I lived in Redding. Originally budgeted at $3-5m, the landed cost was around $23m. The additional cost was swallowed by the McConnell Foundation, a philanthropic organization in the city.

During the time period that the bridge was being conceived then built (1997 - present), the city was consistently near the top of California's unemployment, illiteracy, teen pregnancy and methamphetamine production lists.

They've also been struggling for years to replace a severely outdated public library system, with a campaign called "New Library Now!"

Anyone else have examples of a small, struggling community completely overlooking the immediate needs of its residents in favor of a high-minded "progressive" project?
posted by FairWitness at 1:03 PM on January 16, 2005

I've seen some nice sundails painted onto the flat external walls of houses here in Vienna.

Nice post...
posted by syzygy at 2:23 PM on January 16, 2005

[Completely offtopic, but answering FairWitness' question]:

Portsmouth, UK, planned a 500-foot "Millennium Tower" overlooking the harbour. If we're lucky, it will open in 2005 (needless to say it's been rebranded the "Spinnaker Tower").

The local council wasn't competent to manage a project like this, and has repeatedly been screwed over by people smarter than themselves. Current costs are estimated to be 25 million UKP, a large chunk of which is being footed by local taxpayers, who never had a choice about whether or not the thing should be built. In addition, it looks like the visitor estimates were hopelessly optimistic, with a resultant revenue shortfall.

This is against a background of a city where crime, education, housing and deprivation statistics can best be described as lacklustre (picture a one-company industrial town where the factory closed ~25 years ago).
posted by Leon at 4:15 PM on January 16, 2005

Great post. A shining example of how to craft a front page post. Thanks!
posted by geekyguy at 4:52 PM on January 16, 2005

I remember back in college an instructor who made us find issues of Architectural Digest that featured Calatrava's first bridge of that design. I was so in awe of it. I always wished it was closer to where I live so I could see it up close, and now I can! Thanks so very much, madam, for posting this.
posted by LouReedsSon at 6:17 PM on January 16, 2005

Sundials and Calatrava in a single post? - lovely stuff, thanks mjjj!
posted by carter at 6:28 PM on January 16, 2005

Cool post, MJJ. Wonder if one can hear music/sounds from the cables during strong winds. That would be freaky. (It really looks like a harp of some sort)
posted by dhruva at 6:48 PM on January 16, 2005

Excellent, excellent, excellent post. And I pass through Redding all the time on long road trips, next time I'm going to stop to see that bridge.

Wolftrouble, be sure to stop at the Turtle Bay museum, too. It's an excellent small-market museum. In the summer they have a great butterfly house.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:58 PM on January 16, 2005

Man, I had no idea something as cool as that exists in freakin' Redding?!?!?!? And the stained glass sundials , oh yes, I gotta have one now. In the room with my room-sized orrery....:)
posted by Lynsey at 9:59 PM on January 16, 2005

Well, apparently I am not yet worthy to post a link, but here's my favorite sundial, if only because it's such a hidden corner of San Francisco:
posted by ereshkigal45 at 1:01 AM on January 17, 2005

Yeah, Redding sucks. Don't move here. I'm serious. You're not welcome here, anyway.
posted by keswick at 10:15 AM on January 17, 2005

This is great, I love these. There's a wonderful sundial by Charles Greening in Seattle at Gasworks Park. These were the only images I found that came close to doing it justice--here and here. (Large images, sundial is at the bottom.) It has so much detail, lots of inlaid stuff, it collects rainwater so it looks like a tidal pool, apparently there are even burnt shards of a police helicopter.
posted by lobakgo at 3:37 PM on January 17, 2005

keswick--hate to break it to ya--nobody in this post talked about moving to Redding. Leave it at the door.
I like your input, what do you think of the bridge? I visited on it opening day and thought it was fanatstic.
posted by mcchesnj at 1:37 AM on January 18, 2005

i love it. now stay out of my town. [loads the shotgun with rocksalt.]
posted by keswick at 8:42 AM on January 18, 2005

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