Strange Science: Clocks Speeding Up in Oregon

GE Electric Clock. Photo by alexkerhead.

This isn’t exactly our usual fare here, but while browsing the web doing research on the latest tech for Mario today I found this weird bit of science on the web today and just had to share. File this under “what the heck!?”

Clocks in Oakridge, Oregon have been speeding up for the past week and scientists with the Army Corp of Engineers have just figured out why. It turns out that if the electricity coming in to your home from the grid is cycling just ever so slightly faster (in this case, 60.2hz vs. the normal 60hz), every electric clock you own will start ticking away too fast! Check it out:

“Last week, my alarm clock was 15 minutes fast,” Oakridge School District Superintendent Don Kordosky said. “I told my wife, ‘Why did you change my alarm?’ ”

Time has speeded up in Oakridge because of a switch in the city’s power source, said Dave Davanzo, spokesman for Lane Electric Cooperative. The rural electric company delivers power to Oakridge from the Lookout Point Dam near Lowell on Highway 58. But Bonneville Power Administration needed to conduct maintenance on the dam, so Lane Electric started distributing power from Hills Creek Dam southeast of Oakridge about a week ago.

The problem is rooted in what are called “digital governors” that control the amount of hydropower units that produce electricity… The digital governors are programmed to run in cycles of 60. The governors at the Hills Creek Dam currently run in cycles of about 60.2, Clemans said, which makes the clocks run faster.

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