The Brooklyn College Vanguard

Fix The Damn Clocks!

 When I do count the clock that tells the time, I have been sitting in one of those all-night, once-a-week Computer Science classes in Ingersoll. The professor, a newly-minted adjunct who comes from a university where infrastructure works, looks at the clock and sees the wrong time. The class has to correct him, lest we stay there another three hours.

   Walking through (old) Ingersoll, I see that none of the clocks work there either. These clocks have a beautiful illustration of the library tower and they read Brooklyn College, so you know exactly which college operates without functional clocks.

   I am impressed with the library tower. It’s an urban jukebox that can play Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” in a symphony of muzak. However, we expect our practical needs to be met, and classroom clocks are important. They allow professors to furtively keep an eye on the time without interrupting their flow. They allow students to gauge how much time they have left on a test without pulling out their phones and risking being accused of cheating. A college without working clocks is like a guitar without strings.

   As a computer science student, I can’t stress how important clocks are to the inner workings of your computer and your phone. In fact, there are two working clocks. There is a hardware clock that runs even when your computer is shut down, and a software clock, which is the one that tells you that you are late for class. These clocks make it possible for you have a thousand tabs or apps open at the same time. It makes it possible for your device to boot or turn off properly. When you start getting to the guts of the system, you see the clock is pivotal. 

   If you have used a GPS, there is a fascinating piece of Einstein’s General Relativity that involves clocks. When you use GPS, you are triangulated by three or more different satellites.  These satellites are moving much faster up there than you are on Earth. Since gravity curves space and time, the satellite’s time moves faster, so there has to be an offset applied to the time so that they will be able to sync with time on Earth, or your doesn’t GPS work.

   Maybe research in relativity theory is what the Brooklyn College administration had in mind all along by keeping the clocks broken. Einstein looked deeply in the medieval watchtower known as the Zytglogge in the heart of Bern, Switzerland as a patent clerk and imagined being on a street car racing to the clock at the speed of light, looking at his watch and seeing it ticking while the clock was not. Now, a Brooklyn College student sitting through Professor Mate’s Linear Algebra course looks over to the broken clock and contemplates the Lorentz invariance, which states that the laws of physics are the same for different observers. Next, that same student imagines himself running through the college at the speed of light from broken clock to broken clock, searching for a working clock with the correct time. Eventually, he finds a violation of the Lorentz invariance, which rectifies relativity and quantum mechanics. Take that, Brian Green! 

   Of course, the administration is not making one campus wide laboratory of broken clocks. There is probably an infrastructure plan which is ongoing. I would hope. The college did a push to fix these infrastructure problems last year. They called it the 90-Day Challenge, but the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Bottle Cap Challenge seem to have gone down better.

   Like picking up the trash and keeping the toilets working, keeping the right time is essential to the basic needs of the students. We appreciate that no institution raises people to the middle class more than CUNY, but get the clocks to work. In rent-controlled apartments which border on Section 8 housing, which Brooklyn College, even those places have working clocks. 

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