Suppose you wanted to build your own sundial. Where would you start? If you know how to use MATLAB, I can tell you exactly what to do. As part of my day job, I work on an online community called MATLAB Central. Recently we’ve added the ability to upload web pages there that have been published from MATLAB files, thereby allowing a nice mixture of prose and algorithm. Here is a document I created called Building Sundials. All the code demonstrated was derived from code I found on De Zonnewijzerkring, a real treasure trove of material on sundials.
Sundials have historically shown an appealing blend of art and science. Computation shows you where the sun will go, but the form presented can be quite beautiful. Sundials dating back to antiquity are often adorned with mottoes, exhorting the viewer to carpe the diem or reflect on the passage of time. One of my favorites is also one of the briefest:
HEU QUAERIMUS UMBRAM
We pursue a shadow.