Product: Clock
Uncertainty Timepiece   (+23)  [vote for, against]
For those who need help with their punctuality

I'm appalling at being at the right place at the right time. I miss my bus, usually by a couple of minutes, nearly every day. A well-worn trick is to set your watch five minutes fast, so that even if it looks like you're running a few minutes late, you'll actually still be on time (or even early).

After a few days of doing this with diminishing success, I found I'd adjusted the way I read my watch to compensate for the extra 5 minutes. Because I knew my watch was 5 minutes fast, the trick didn't work, and I missed my bus again.

The Uncertainty Timepiece may or may not show you the real time. At random intervals it will adjust the time it shows you to be fast, somewhere between the real time and an upper limit which is user-definable. Since, unless you witnessed the moment of changeover, you have no idea what the temporal offset is, you will have no choice but to take the watch at face value. Hopefully, this will on the whole lead to better timekeeping.

Obviously this isn't going to work if the user of the Uncertainty Timepiece just goes and looks at other clocks or asks people for the time.
-- -alx, Jun 15 2001

(?) US Patent 6,753,760: Random Offset Alarm Clock http://www.google.c...ts?vid=USPAT6753760
Cites this idea. [jutta, Mar 20 2007]

Get the bus company to use an uncertainty timetable. Oh, they do that already.
More seriously, if only marginally, this could be accomplished in a mechanical timepiece by putting the wheels on epicyclically-mounted axles. Inherent variations in friction would make the wheel run randomly more quickly or slowly than normal.
-- angel, Jun 15 2001

Could this be done so that it doesn't run more slowly than normal? Otherwise it might make my punctuality even worse than usual...
-- -alx, Jun 15 2001

What happens if you put the uncertainty timepiece in a box? Would it both read the wrong time and the right time at the same time?
-- Aristotle, Jun 15 2001

[-alx]: Of course. If you assume that it varies by plus or minus 0.5%, you then set it to run 0.5% fast so it actually runs between 0 and +1%. It's like the DC offset on a waveform.
-- angel, Jun 15 2001

Sounds like just the job. Now I just need to get somebody to make it for me.
-- -alx, Jun 15 2001

I was in Times Square not too long ago, and I wanted to know what time it was (I don't wear a watch). I was terribly amused to find that while I was surrounded by moving displays and tickers and television billboards of all kinds, none of them had a clock on them.

I eventually found an intraday chart of the NASDAQ, from which I could get the approximate time by looking where the plot ended on the time scale.

I suppose I could have asked a bystander, but this was New York -- I don't think you're supposed to talk to people.
-- egnor, Jun 15 2001

What my father did to combat his problem of sleeping through an alarm clock by reading the time, thinking 'I can sleep for another 10 minutes' then going back to sleep for an hour was to get about six clocks and set all of them to varyingly incorrect but near times. Since when he wakes up he's not firing on all cylinders anyway, the overall impression is that he better get up when they start to go off. <They go off at random times for a total of half an hour.>
-- StarChaser, Jun 16 2001

I had a similar problem, but got through it by taping over the snooze button on my clock.
-- -alx, Jun 16 2001

I solve it on the rare occasions I need to be awakened by an alarm clock by having it across the room from me, requiring me to get up and go over to it, at which time I'm awake anyway...
-- StarChaser, Jun 16 2001

It would have to self-correct every so often, or the uncertainty will increase until the watch's display has no correlation to the actual time.
-- bookworm, Jun 16 2001

'A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure'.

All the clocks I control show the same time, within one minute or so, except the one on my computer here at work. That one shows the <incorrect> time that we clock in and out by.
-- StarChaser, Jun 17 2001

What if the watch could be synched with the schedule in your palm, if there was someplace you needed to be ther'd be a 2/3 chance it'd be fast otherwise just 1/3?
-- futurebird, Jul 16 2001

so it speeds up the sooner your apointment is? that could work... exept for the bug in the beta version where it speeds up twice as much if there are 2 apointments within an hour etc. ...
-- RobertKidney, Jul 16 2001

Hey alx, let's go out for drinks to discuss your idea further. Meet me at 8:00.
-- snarfyguy, Jul 16 2001

Nooo a broken watch is perfectly correct ... twice a day.
-- futurebird, Jul 17 2001

I bought a cheap quartz watch to use while I was a camp counselor once. For some reason it became a random number generator. Strangest thing I've seen in awhile. It wouldn't just drop out and blink 12:00, it would just pick any number with no noticable loss in power.
-- RayfordSteele, Feb 07 2002

I once managed to electrocute my watch...Through two layers of nylon webbing and the body of the watch. I felt the static hit me, and looked; it claimed it was 93:71 oclock on tuesday, wednesday and saturday.
-- StarChaser, Feb 07 2002

"...whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea..."
-- -alx, Feb 09 2002

Hmm, this is an interesting idea... I would suggest (and I think this may be what you have in mind) that the timepiece actually keep proper time, but just add from zero to whatever number of seconds to the display. To avoid having a large transition spoil your temporal uncertainty, the device should actually add zero, one, or two seconds to the display for every real second, constrained by the need to never be "slow", nor faster than some limit, say five minutes.

It is kind of a selfish invention, though. What I mean by that is it ceases to be useful at all if everyone has one. In fact, there is a rather suprising inversion which causes the original problem to become worse instead of being solved if the invention were to become universally used.

To explain, the device could be universalized in two ways. One way would be if the same psudorandom sequence were used for everyone's Uncertainty Timepiece. Lets say this is how its done, and you need to be at a job interview at 1:30 PM. You look at your watch, and see that it says 1:00 PM. At that same moment, everyone's watch will also say 1:00 PM, and that will generally be accepted as the official time. So you think you have a half an hour. But what if it actually is 1:00 PM in real time, and the course of the psudorandom sequence takes it to the five minutes fast state within the next half hour? It turns out you really only have twenty five minutes. Oops! Your late!

You might think you can solve that by making every individual Uncertainty Timepiece follow a unique psudorandom sequence. Unfortunately, this does not solve the problem, since you may look at your watch and see 1:28 and think you are two minutes early, but your prospective employer may see 1:33 and think you are three minutes late.
-- JakePatterson, Feb 10 2002

random, halfbakery