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The first extragalactic sundial


Part 1. A Historical Treatise concerning Certain Observation in the Construction of Artificial Intelligence. The Galvanized Knowledge.

Aleksandr M Boldyrev, Tod O’Bow, Tomas Sawyer



Harry Harrison. Godfather of Slippery Jim (Stainless Steel Rat). Photo from Harry Harrison New Blog.

The story has its beginning in the middle of nineties when quite by chance I came across a book by Harry Harrison. Sitting on a bench I was waiting for a bus, a bottle of beer being half emptied in my hand, when a gay passing by asked me to get a light from my cigarette. A gay looked like he had taken at least ten times more beer than I had. He breathed out the smoke, fished out a small book from his pocket and told – “Take it. It is cool”.

Now I think that it was Harry’s souls transmigrated for the short moment from the USA into the body of local Moscow tramp in order to bring some more sense in my life for the nearest 20 years. The book’s name was “The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted”. One day, reading this novel for the thousandth time, I found the following dialog:

“You, behind the door. Drop those chains now or you ain’t going to live to be shot in the morning.” I muttered a curse and buried them across the room and went and sat by the back wall. It was a well-concealed optic bug.
“What time is it, sergeant?” Morton asked.
“Sixteen-hundred hours.” He held his gun ready while the other MPs removed the trays and chains, “I got to go to the toilet.”
“Not until twenty-hundred. General’s orders.”
“Tell the general that I am already potty trained,” I shouted at the closing door.


Cover of the book «The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted».

No doubts, Harry means the double decimal time measure system! The day is divided into twenty hours, every hour being divided into 100 centihours.

The episode unfolds on a rich, warm and fertile planet Chojecki populated with peace-loving peoples. They have no police, government, army and laws. Instead of all of them they have a pacifistic doctrine named The Individual Mutualism invented by Mark the Fourth, a frisky robot who is energetic, playful, difficult to be controlled, and who seems does not quite agree with his own social concept, which has led the population of the planet to such a high level of well-being.
The only prison on the planet is built by extra planet invaders. Here, Slippery Jim diGriz, better known as Stainless Steel Rat, and his friend Morton wait for the morning execution.

Two interesting questions arose

1. Is it possible to make a sundial to measure time in the decimal system of measurement?
2. Is it possible to construct a sundial designed to operate outside our galaxy?


вид с запада

The first extragalactic sundial. View from the west.

The first question is obvious. It is possible to make a sundial like that. During the Great French Revolution the attempt was made to introduce into the everyday life a decimal system of the time measurement. However, it lasted only two years, from 1793 to 1795.


The drawing of the first extragalactic sundial.

The answer to the second question is not so obvious. I did not know the planet Chojecki rotation speed around its axis, the period of its revolution around the local star, and how its equator is inclined to the ecliptic. Thus, it was clear that my mind was not enough to make an instrument designed for use in another galaxy because my experience in making sundials was limited with our provincial solar system. Although it should be noted that once I tried to move the annoyed me humankind on Mars, providing them with a set of sundials. However, this attempt did not seem to have caused quite a stir (see. Report). For good advice, and for the approval of my ideas I asked to Harry Harrison himself. At that time, Harry, the great classic of science fiction, lived in a small village Ringmer in East Sussex.

“Go on!” He said. “I like your idea!”

Therefore, in the absence of opportunities to teleport to another galaxy, I decided to apply the method by © Sawyer and install the sundial on the planet Earth, so that later, when I have free time, to convince the humankind that the correct name of our planet is Chojecki. I confess that until now I have not find time for this. However, it does not matter, as Harry himself was agree with this idea and had not seen a reasonable alternative for it. (Remember, Tom Sawyer could not climb up to the second floor through the lighting conductor, used an ordinary stairs and had to think that he climbs a lighting conductor).

The first extragalactic sundial. View from the east.

The first extragalactic sundial. View from the east.

The support was not limited with the approval only. It was Harry Harrison who invented the motto for the sundial. This is the last line of the novel “The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted”. The motto is written in Esperanto because this language is spoken by all the characters of novels by Harry Harrison. Here's the motto: Iru, Jim, iru. La steloj estas vian! — Come on, Jim, come on! The stars are waiting for you!
Only a few details was to be clear. In particular, I needed a portrait of the robot Mark IV. On Chojecki this portrait can be seen in any home. I asked Sergey Korsun for help. Sergey is my friend and one of the best Russian cartoonists. Several years ago, he created a series of drawings under the title «The planet Iron.» Its virtual world is populated with robots, which do the same things and we do on the planet Chojecki (the old name is Earth). They nurse grandchildren, drink beer, fight against the robot police, and even work as managers in a sex shop for adult robots.

The similarity of the planets Iron, Chojecki and Earth was so obvious that in my mind they united into one and I stopped to see the differences between them. It was an excellent result! Bringing my mind into to this state, I finally started the calculations.

Calculations and manufacture.

I usually use modern computer programs. They all neither involve any use of mind, nor even its existence. We simply click on the buttons and get the result. Among the huge number of programs for sundial calculation there was no one that would have an option offering the breakdown of a scale not on the 24 division only but on any other number of divisions. Regrettably, that humanity is in the thrall of its own stereotypes! I had to remember what sinuses and cosines are and perform all the calculations manually.


The gnomon of the first extragalactic sundial.

The instrument diameter is 380 mm. The height of the gnomon is 225 mm. There are three scales. Here they are in order from the periphery to the center. A peripheral scale measures time in the double decimal method. This scale is designed for those who like Harry and I do not see any difference between Earth and Chojecki. The second one is designed for those who believe that the day can be divided only for 24 hours. I feel sorry for these people! Nevertheless, let them know what time it is in the village Ringmer (England). The third (internal) scale measures time in the town of Stamford in the East of the United States. Harry Harrison, the spiritual father and creator of Steel Rat, was born in this city in 1925. The specially designed anniversary line marks 12 March, the Harry Harrison birthday.

When everything was almost ready, I etched on the gnomon a large quote from the book by Tod O’Bow. He yanked the handle of the switch and let the new and wonderful electrons to galvanize the first artificial intellect in the Universe. Later he put down his enthusiastic memories on a big book. I covered the gnomon with 24 carats gold. Tod O’Bow is a co-author of this article and I could not have done otherwise.

«Slippery Jim would have loved to share a few drinks--too many!--with you».

Here is what Harry said when he finally got this sundial. No one has yet assessed my work so highly!

On August 15, 2012, Harry Harrison has died.


I would like to build a sundial as big and beautiful as his talent. Maybe I'll get lucky someday, and be able to build a monument to him in Russia, a country where Harry is loved.
My small sundial was one of the last things that have brought him joy. I know that he was going to put it in his garden and even looked for a pedestal. But, I don't know if he could see it. All I have is a letter of his daughter Moira.

«I just wanted to let you know how much he loved his sundial and how much your exceptional gift but to him. The sundial sits in my garden and for me it is a constant reminder of my father, his work and the important people is his life».

Harry went to the stars. But, we still live here — in the worlds, created by the imagination of this great man.

Thank You, Harry!

The literature.

1. Harry Harrison. Steel Rat gets drafted.
2. Mark Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
1. Tod O’Bow. A Historical Treatise concerning Certain Observation in the Construction of Artificial Intelligence. The Galvanized Knowledge. Bellegarrique University. H. Harrison Publishers. 143005 A M4, P. 8672.


Part 2. A monument.

For two years, I was looking for an opportunity to build in Russia a monument to Harry Harrison. In the summer of 2014 I found such an opportunity. Now in Russia there is a large equatorial sundial dedicated to Harry Harrison! However, this sundial is not as big as I would like. I mean that it is less than my love of books written by Harry Harrison. But, it is set in a very beautiful place. This is the river Klyazma embankment in Schyolkovo city. Geographical coordinates are 55º55'24,92''N, 37º59'53,76''E.


First, using AutoCAD, I made a parametric 3D model and 2D drawings for masters machinists. The complete kit of parts (without screw-bolts) consists of only 43 items. If you want to see what the assembly of parts looks like, please, download this image..

Then my friends from Klimovsk mechanical factory manufactured parts and assembled them into a whole thing. When manufacturing the parts, everyone was busy with his own matter. Therefore, no one imagined how the final product might look like. It became clear only after the assembling. We all liked the result.

Все детали собраны в единое целое. Молодая дама слева лично делала все токарные работы.

All parts are assembled into a single whole. A young lady on the left did the lathe work personally.

The polar axis is made of stainless steel rod with a diameter of 30 mm. All other parts are made of brass. The polar axis is fixed in two support bearings. Therefore, equatorial disk rotates with the polar axis.

Then I etched the scale and the names of 114 cities on both sides of the equatorial disc. Rotating the equatorial disk, you can find out what time it is in one of the 114 cities. Then I etched the list of novels written by Harry Harrison on the outer surface of the polar-equatorial dial.

Шкала и названия 114 городов на экваториальном диске.

The scale and the names of 114 cities on the equatorial disk.

Список романов, написанных Гарри Гаррисоном.

The list of novels written by Harry Harrison.

The time is recorded by the position of the polar axis shadow on the inner surface of the equatorial belt. The equatorial belt has three scales. One of them measures time in currently accepted way in which the day is divided into 24 hours. The second scale measures time in decimal units, the day being divided into 10 hours (1000 centihours or 100,000 millihours). This method of time measure was in use during the French Revolution. The third scale is to measure time in decimal units, the day being divided into 20 hours (10 day hours and 10 night hours) and contains 2000 centihours or 200 000 millihours. This method of measuring the time is described in the novel by Harry Harrison «Steel Rat gets drafted».

More pictures.

Погрузка солнечных часов в грузовик.

Loading the sundial into the truck.

Монтаж солнечных часов на гранитном пьедестале.

The installation on a granite pedestal.

Церемония торжественного открытия

The opening ceremony.

Зимой эти солнечные часы не работают. Это правильно. Лучше просто ждать лета, чем считать зимние часы.

In winter the sundial does not work. That is correct. It is better to wait for the summer than to count the winter hours.