nass news 2019 feb king twilight of sundialsIt's rare that a sundialist casts a shadow on UK education, but that's exactly what Dr. Frank King did the other day in a BBC interview ( Dr. King, a Fellow in Computer Science at Churchill College, has long been intrigued with time remarking to the BBC in an interview, "Anything from atomic clocks to the most ancient of sundials I can tell you about." He is Keeper of the Clock, responsible for Cambridge University's official timepiece on Great St. Mary's Church. But the number of people interested in sundials is on the wane. As president of the British Sundial Society,(a group like the North American Sundial Society who all truly enjoy time systems and the anciernt and beautiful art of designing sundials) Dr. King notes with sadness that the number of people who "really understand" the science behind sundials "are few and far between..... There seems to be no teaching of spherical triangles, and very little teaching of solid geometry. How many school leavers have heard of Euclid?"

Some could argue that who needs sundials in this age of digital watches, GPS navigation, and fit-bit monitors? The UK Register reports that "[Dr.] King would likely be deeply saddened to know, then, that there are people of adult age out there incapable of reading analogue clocks." But for those interested in promoting STEM in schools and getting students excited in something beyond designing a video game, the study of sundials offers a wonderful perspective. As stated by the BBC, "Dr. King strongly believes the sundial - 'the perfect collaboration of science and art' - has a place in the digital age. But he is concerned that the skills needed to create them may dwindle, and believes education could play a greater role."

The development of an aethetically pleasing sundial involves using digital computer aided design tools that sometimes significantly altering classic designs. Sundials requires artisan skill and craft for the selection of materials, casting, engraving  and even 3D printing of dials. A sense of artistic proportion is needed to create pleasing embellishments that still remain true to the underlying mathematics that convey acurate time. Artist, sculpture, craftsman, geometer, mathematician, computer programmer, engraver and metal worker are but a few of the talents encompassing the talents of a dialist.

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