Life, Minutiae, Toys, Irrational Phobias, Peeves, Fiber

The Magic Clock

Posted on | January 4, 2006 at 10:20 pm | 15 Comments

Prepare to have your minds blown, gentle readers. Not since the Saga of the Missing Forks have we here at FlasshePoint encountered a household mystery so tantalizing that this blog deserves a Google PageRank of 6 (instead of the measly 4 that it is). Here now, I present the Mystery of the Magic Clock.

Despite (or maybe because of) my superpower of always being able to correctly guess the current time, I have a fetish for time pieces that keep perfect time. For other reasons that I am too adrenalized to go into detail about right now, I purchased yet another “atomic” radio-controlled time display device. (For the uninitiated among you, these devices synchronize themselves with a radio signal originating from the atomic clock at NIST in Ft Collins, Colorado, so that they always display the absolutely correct current time.) I now have two wall clocks and two watches that operate this way.

This latest atomic wall/desk clock I bought also has (among other features) temperature displays for the inside and outside temperatures. I don’t really need that, since I already have various instruments for that, including a Radio Shack wireless thermometer with indoor/outdoor sensors. I have two (out of a possible three) outdoor sensors hooked up to that, which gives me temperature readings from the front and the back of my house. An average of the two values usually yields a fairly accurate measure of the outside temperature. This is extremely useful for determining what to wear when I go out running in the morning. Anyway, this new clock also came with a battery-powered wireless temperature sensor that you are supposed to mount outside.

Here’s a picture of the new clock:

The Magic Clock

Notice anything unusual? That box on the left is the wireless temperature sensor. It is shown with the battery compartment open and no batteries. I have never put the batteries in it. The object on the right is the display from my Radio Shack sensor. Okay, look at the outdoor temperature reading on the new clock (37.5 °F). It’s not even supposed to have a reading without the sensor activated. And yet, there it is, and if you compare it to the temp on the RS sensor (36.0 °F), they’re pretty close. What’s going on? Is the clock psychic? How does it know the outside temperature?

I briefly theorized that the clock was picking up the signal from one of the Radio Shack sensors (maybe the transmission protocol for temperature sensors is standardized across brands?), but quickly discarded that theory since the displayed temperatures (both front and back) are close to the one on the clock but not exact.

The only thing I can figure is that one of my neighbors has the same model clock and has a sensor mounted on their house somewhere very close to my house. Since the houses here are packed fairly close together, I suppose this is not out of the realm of possibility. The instruction manual lists the transmission distance as “maximum 300 feet (100 meters) in open field, depending upon surrounding structures, mounting location and possible interfering sources”.

I bet you guys won’t be able to sleep tonight pondering this one. Sorry to lay this massive headtrip on you.



15 Responses to “The Magic Clock”

  1. Janet
    January 5th, 2006 @ 9:14 am

    Never mind the magic clock. You have books stacked in front of other books there, dude. And books stacked on top of other books. You going to read any of those for NaJuReMoNoMo?

  2. Flasshe
    January 5th, 2006 @ 9:29 am

    Sheesh, are you a Librarian or something?

    The books in that picture are ones that I’ve already read. Obviously some have not been filed yet (and may never be). However, if I had not cropped the picture, you would’ve seen a stack of unread books just to the right of Preacher there. They may remain unread for awhile, as I’m trying to catch up on my comic reading first. No NaJuReMoNoMo for me, unless you can count “Graphic Novels”.

  3. Alan
    January 5th, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    It’s also possible that the clock is picking up the signal from the other sensor, but it’s not calibrated the same way. I imagine the signal is some simple binary transmission, which this clock may interpret differently. You could try putting a cup of hot water near the sensor you know the other monitor is reading, and see if the clock temperature changes.

  4. Flasshe
    January 5th, 2006 @ 9:45 am

    Maybe, but it sounds unlikely. I could also take the batteries out of the other sensors to test that out.

    300 feet is actually a pretty fair range, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was picking up a neighbor’s signal. I know at least one of my neighbors down the street has a similar (or same) clock with sensor. It ends up being a bad thing that the range is so long, as your average house is not 300 feet wide. They need less powerful transmitters.

  5. dennis
    January 5th, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    could you move the clock and take another picture of just the books. we’re nosy and want to see whats actually on your shelves. Is that the paperback edition of Neil Gaimen’s American Gods?

    How often do the atomic clocks “phone home”? I’m curious if you have several sitting near each other so you can see whether they are always displaying the same time. That whole atomic clock thingy seems kinda cheezy to me unless they are syncing up like once an hour or something. :)


  6. Flasshe
    January 5th, 2006 @ 10:46 am

    Yeah, that’s American Gods. Read that a couple of years ago. Haven’t bought the new pseudo-sequel yet.

    How often the atomic clocks and watches phone home depends on the make and model. I think most do it at least once a day, usually in the early morning. Some do it like four times a day. Since none of them usually lose any time during a single day, they all seem to stay in sync pretty well. The new one doesn’t display seconds though (which is a bummer, and which I didn’t notice till after I bought it), so it’s a little harder to tell if it’s synced up with the others.

  7. 2fs
    January 5th, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

    Rog has books stacked on top of and in front of other books because they’re in this picture solely to block all the porn from view! We’re onto you, buddy!

  8. Flasshe
    January 5th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    Oh c’mon – gimme some credit. My porn is hidden much better than that.

  9. Doug
    January 6th, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

    OK, you’ve all weekend to get to the bottom of this thermometer thing – even if you have to actually converse with your neighbors to do it.

    We expect a full report explaining what the hell is going on first thing Monday. And it better not involve a hatch or a polar bear…

  10. Paula
    January 10th, 2006 @ 10:19 am

    There was a Nanny and the Professor episode about something similar, where a radio was picking up signals even though it had no batteries. Is your housekeeper a magical British lady? That’s really the only explanation.

  11. Alan
    January 10th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    That would explain why so many silly things keep happening.

  12. Flasshe
    January 10th, 2006 @ 1:39 pm

    Actually, these strange things have been happening only since I found that bottle on the beach after my splash landing…

    I have nothing new to report on the mystery. I walked a good swath of the development with clock in hand and didn’t lose the temperature reading. The transmitters must have a really good range. Or else everyone in the development has the same clock.

  13. Paula
    January 12th, 2006 @ 9:59 am

    Or else everyone in the development has the same clock

    Now that’s really creepy, and has the makings of a Stephen King novella!

  14. Miles
    January 16th, 2006 @ 9:59 pm

    Forget the clock – on the right, is that a Lou Reed action figure?

  15. Flasshe
    January 16th, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

    No, man, that’s Preacher.

    Besides, wouldn’t it be a Lou Reed inaction figure?

Comments are closed.