h a l f b a k e r y
It might be better to just get another gerbil.
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Essentially two ideas mixed together, this could work for both a lava lamp clock and a clock based on a Galileo Thermometer [link]
First: Lava Lamp Clock
Picture three tubes filled with clear oil. Inside each tube is seen a ball of wax. Each tube is then heated and cooled to create a time display.
The rightmost tube is heated and cooled over the space of one minute, so that when the wax is at the bottom of the tube, the time has zero second, when it reaches the top, 30 seconds have passed and when it returns to the bottom, 60 seconds have elapsed and the tube is ready to begin it's return journey.
For the minute and hour hands, the time period is indicated only by rising, and a quick (not instantaneous) drop would occur at the end of every 60 minute or 24 hour period.
Second: Galileo Clock
Again, three liquid filled tubes. However, the ball of wax is replaced by one of the balls seen in a Galileo thermometer. By adjusting the temperature within the tube, the ball will rise and fall to a set level. By setting, different temperatures at specific times of the day, the balls will rise and fall to show the current time as per the lava clock.
How Galileo Thermometers work [reap, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]
||I don't know if I'd use crystal. All of that thermo expansion / contraction stuff at the top of the hour would be likely to bust it.
||First: The wax would dissipate quickly in heated flammable liquid.
||Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times reported today that the tiny hamlet of Soap Lake, Washington, USA, has been trying to figure out how to bring tourists back to its' once famous geothermal spas. The local chamber of commerce has proposed to build a sixty foot "lava lamp" in the center of town as an attraction that would be a beacon of their sophistication, and a reference to the area's volcanic origins. Needless to say, townspeople are a bit skeptical of this plan and less than forthcoming with the cash necessary to undertake the project.
If you could get them to envision a "Galileo Clock/Thermometer", however, I'm sure the practical advantages would be readily apparent, and you would be credited for having saved the town of Soap Lake from everlasting ignominy. People would come from miles around and all fifty states just to synchronize their clocks and compare the calibrations on their household thermometers. Plus the different colors of the moving balls within the device's tubes would make a pretty kinetic sculpture on the town square.
||Of course it'll bring tourists! There's a flight leaving for Washington in half a hour... see you at the lava lamp?
||Bizarre, yet strangely attractive. Croissant.