Perfecting The Elizabeth Tower Clock
Perfecting the Clock2>
The Great Elizabeth Tower Clock Proposal
The Great Elizabeth Tower Clock at Westminster is a cherished monument and
perhaps the world's most special timepiece. Its 15 ton bell,
"Big Ben", is a familiar chime. And its 660 pound
pendulum swings back and forth every two seconds.
The Great Clock was designed to vary by roughly
('a second per week'). But weather conditions are causeing
significant variation. As with most clocks, changes in
pressure, temperature and humidity cause the rate to drift
by seconds every week.
To compensate for these constant changes, the "Clock men"
must "put a penny on" (or "take a penny off" ) to alter the
rate by about 4.6 tenths of a second per day. But resetting
does not improve its accuracy.
As of 2009, some of the old coins were replaced by a larger
5 Pound Coin. But resetting the clock remains a constant
chore. The Great clock does not need these jerry-rigged additions.
It could run true - in all weather.
In 2016 I proposed a special restoration which would allow
the clock to run accurately --the perfection of Big Ben.
Changes in the weather can be compensated for with
subtle adjustments to the clock. These are exceedingly subtle
in design. Yet they are in keeping with the
clock's historic nature and they are designed to be "right"
for the antique mechanism. They properly correct the
clock's (non compensating) design.
But these subtleties are not available elsewhere. They could have been used
but, had not been not found. They are simply right for the job.
These new adjustments would offer tourists something magical every second.
The Great Clock corrects for temperature. (although
slowly) This could be improved to compensate for people
coming and going which also affects temperature. People
breathe. And humidity changes affect the going.
The building can be climate controlled. Yet
visitors would still make an impact. Footfalls and street
traffic can also cause error. These can be partly
alleviated by rubber flooring and smooth paving. Even
the drive train of the clock has minor practical criteria which
can improve precision.
However, the major need is to correct for atmospheric changes.
Normally a clock's pendulum is isosyncronus, such that
changes in the amplitude of swing cause no difference in
timing. However, changes in the atmosphere disrupt that
perfection. Pressure can be mechanically compensated.
The sister clock at trinity college in Cambridge has
tested some pressure correction methods. But the tools
are not historic to the clock. And there are issues of
adjustment. So new methods were needed.
To correct 'Big Ben', I have developed unique methods
which are familiar to the clock's historic place in time.
Already sophisticated computers measure performance and
are a great aid in monitoring accuracy. But a fine clock
needs to compensate for the weather. In multiple ways. And
the adjustments must permit highly accurate tuning.
A pennyweight is hardly sufficient to set the tempo.
One might as well leave a pint on the pendulum, and it could
be set more quickly - and more often.
The Clock is meticulously maintained and operated,
but its fundamental tuning remains incomplete and imprecise.
In my Career I have invented a number of superlative things
valued in billions. So it is reasonable to accept that I have
also found the right methods for the Great Clock.
I am happy to say that such adjustments to the clock would
correct the going with exceeding precision. Physics is perfect.
So the clock should be perfect.
It is an element of praise that we should make the
effort. The quantum wave of our world will be a little
more perfect. And the implementation will not change the
historic nature of the clock mechanism.
One could argue that any change would be non historic.
So why add pennies, electric motors and a computer?
These are already in use! Yet we want to
maintain the original escapement design. And I can.
Horologists will argue over the great landscape of methods,
but Elegant and subtle adjustments can be made which will
keep the timing in line with modern clocks!
From Day to Sunny day, the clock will run accurately.
It will be mechanically correct.
Even the procession of the Sun and moon cause gravity
effects which alter the going by many milliseconds each
day. These become visible in well-adjusted clocks
when pressure and humidity are compensated. I have
designed gravity corrections as well. They are
The corrections for the full suite of pressure,
temperature, humidity (and gravity), will make the
Great clock a miraculous image of hope in our time.
It seems the more technology we have, the more
dangerous and unpredictable the world becomes.
My proposal to perfect Great Clock is just the
opposite. It is engaging science and trade to make
something better. Not just paint and rhetoric, but
a marvelous fascination and a system that rings true for all
to enjoy. It will be more than a beautiful clock. It will be
a clock with something amazing inside.
Naturally, if I publish my techniques, they would be
copied immediately. This paper already circumscribes
and presents this opportunity. I am asking a large
fee for the remarkable work. It will be a delight. And
it is only a fraction of the value to society.
British Tourism is 250 Billion per year. And there are
at least 10 major monuments. Lets say business and social
travel, is 90% of tourism. That estimates Big Ben to be
a hefty 2.5 Billion per year institution. The value of
the clock will simply double. Though a judicious estimate
gives about 4% perceptible improvement.
That is, happily, a 100 Million (Per Year) value. This is certain.
A second estimate: (using statista.com)
U.K. "travel and leisure" is 89.6bn GBP/yr (3.9Million jobs)
74% of that is "travel and tourism" (business spending 26%)
13.7bn "Inbound" and 34bn GBP "domestic"
(24.2 GBP domestic day trips, 9.8bn GBP overnight)
And "inbound London spending" 6.2bn (visiting about 6 major monuments and Big Ben being
"one of the most recognizable sights in London".)
(outbound travel expenditures 13.7bn GBP)
From this we can estimate that the Elizabeth Tower Clock receives about a billion
dollars "inbound" (London) tourism each year. And a smaller fraction of the 34bn GBP
domestic tourism. Tourist pages list between 15 and 40 sights in London.
Averaging say 27.5 monuments over the 34bn domestic travel gives an additional 1.2
So here we are looking at a scant 2.2bn GBP (clock power) rather than the previous
The value to tourism is clear. But what about the value of the improvements?
While we still face the catch-22 problem of "explaining" work without casting it to the
wind; Such work could be predicted to represent a 1/Pi squared function. About 10% of
the population will be crazy for the new super accurate adjustment. Either "Got to see
it." or "Extra psyched to visit." (says the inventor/expert in science museum exibits)
But how much extra? This remains a question of the number of "attractive components".
The Great Clock has many attractive elements. It's a nice location, a pretty building,
Even guilded!, it is much used and sentimental. It was even recently refirbished!
And it's big! So how many is that? About 7 features. Its about par for a nice running
clock. But it does not compete wth modern clocks or 'perfect the past'. Number 8..
But it could. We could add an extra 1/7th. (Of 2.2 Billion/yr). Interested yet?
Thats 314 Million GBP per year.
Saddly the likley estimate is perhaps only 1/Pi^2 of 2.2 Billion. (instead of 1/7th
more) The craze factor.
Or about 223Million/yr in cash flow to London Tourisim. Just by adding another
superlative. Oh how we love fine things.
Swimming in cash. Where to put it all.
For now I must leave it to enthusiasts to contemplate
the precise methods of tuning. They are very subtle. They require
just the right science, applied the right way. One needs a
special familiarity with math, physics, horology.
Hopefully decision makers will honor this sincere
request. It is a wonderful humanitarian effort. It will
be a comfort even to conteplate. Truly, Noblesse meets
Obligue. The results will be beautiful.
I can guarantee the clock will easily multiply
attendance, bolster education and enhance
tourism. But that's not really the point.
The enjoyable thing about clocks is
knowing they work just right. And that's priceless.
Notes on nay sayers:
I have all but explained the work here. But even the
best clock people might doubt the
certainty of this effort. I can assure that the physics
is unassailable. There are already Harrison clocks which
operate within a second every hundred days. The Great
clock should be tuned to a similar degree of quality. But
how can the client know I will deliver what I claim, in
the way that I claim? I hope my other work helps to
answer that conundrum. My finding the age of the Shroud
or inventing safer smoking should light the way.
The Artistic Side:
When the Franklin Institute hired me to create a feature
Robot for their atrium in 2000, they were promised an 8
degree of freedom robot with 6 sonar channels and two
arms which would mimic visitors arm positions, in six
weeks. I don't think they expected it to be done. But
it was on time and on budget. And two days early. There
were 50 pages of code, 12 songs, twin 3D
sonar systems, all custom electronics, dual processors
and lively internal lighting for
panache'. I simply had the key knowledge to do it. The
Great Clock project is much the
same. The Physics is unassailable.
I hope that such works are reassuring. I will admit the
Robot project was 40 days dawn to dusk, impossibly
laborious and virtually un-repeatable. But the clock
will have maintenance and crafts support to assist in
some aspects. My principle roll is engineering and
implementation. But my care for the great clock will be
on spec, in character and will work superbly.
Notes on the "Short Synchronome Clock:
The Great Clock has a natural rival in the Shortt
It is virtually perfect and the most accurate mechanical
pendulum clock because it suspends a 'free' pendulum in a
vacuum and propels it by a second 'sympathetic' pendulum
which only is optically coupled and controlled to pulse
the drive pendulum every 30 swings (only if needed).
This mechanism is accurate to 200 Micro-Seconds (1/5
millisecond) per day. (about 1/40th of the influence of
the Sun and Moon on the clock) Other mechanical clocks
have also achieved similar high accuracy with careful
The Great clock at Westminster has some excellent advantages in
its massive pendulum and custom gravity escapement. So
it's expected results will be very close.
As a business person, I propose things which are a
benefit to patrons. And I look forward to this very
special public work.