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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

How Clocks Created Earth’s First Global Supply Chain in the 1700s – And Keep GPS Alive Today

00:00 54:40
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Our modern lives are ruled by clocks and watches, smartphone apps and calendar programs. While our gadgets may be new, however, the drive to measure and master time is anything but. It’s a long story that traces the path from Stonehenge to your smartphone.
Today’s guest is Chad Orzel, a psychics professor who is also author of the book A Brief History of Timekeeping.
Predating written language and marching on through human history, the desire for ever-better timekeeping has spurred technological innovation and sparked theories that radically reshaped our understanding of the universe and our place in it.
Ancient solstice markers (which still work perfectly 5,000 years later) depend on the basic astrophysics of our solar system; mechanical clocks owe their development to Newtonian physics; and the ultra-precise atomic timekeeping that enables GPS hinges on the predictable oddities of quantum mechanics.
In this episode we discuss the delicate negotiations involved in Gregorian calendar reform, the intricate and entirely unique system employed by the Maya, and how the problem of synchronizing clocks at different locations ultimately required us to abandon the idea of time as an absolute and universal quantity. It’s a story not just about the science of sundials, sandglasses, and mechanical clocks, but also the politics of calendars and time zones, the philosophy of measurement, and the nature of space and time itself.
February 17, 2022
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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