Digestive Clock (2/03/2010)

With the intent of designing a time keeping device that is based off of a human life cycle, the concept for a clock which mimics the body’s digestive process was conceived.


For most people, the timing of our meals and our trips to the bathroom are fairly regular and a framework for measuring the passing of time. Not only is this approach novel and unique, but it would likely encourage people to be more connected to their body, more aware of the food they are putting into themselves, and more aware of the extremely important cycle of flushing waste from our systems.

The initial concept emerged as a alternative type of hour glass. Rather than sand falling from one conical section to another, instead food and liquids would pass from virtual mouth to virtual anus. The details of the form were developed in a series of sketches in which the human digestive system was incrementally abstracted.


Combining inspiration from the steampunk aesthetic found in the below lamp by Frank Buchwald and the classical chemistry set shown below, a developed form was created.

Frank Buchwald_steamp punk lamp

chemistry set

Developed Concept Sketch

Developed Concept Sketch

To visualize the idea, Processing was employed to program an animation of particles moving through the clock and measuring the cycles of a day. The below sketch indicates the intended design of a simple processing test in which a single particle would move along a curving path.

Illustration of intended Processing sketch

Illustration of intended Processing sketch

Unfortunately, the needed curving movement was much more difficult to program than originally estimated due to the complex math involved to capture the curvature of the path. Several equations were investigated in Grapher, seen below, to begin to flesh out this program, but much more resource will be needed to implement the idea as an animation.

Grapher equations for curved paths

Grapher equations for curved paths

At this point in time, the concept has been visualized to communicate the form and styling of the piece.


It is still under debate whether a user would “feed” the clock throughout the day to match their own eating schedule, or whether the clock would recycle the liquid and solid elements, much like a fountain. The daily cycle would include several feedings, several liquid waste expulsions, and one single solid waste expulsion. The concept of sleep would be of importance as well, as it’s function within digestion is thought to be critical.

Consistent with the overarching message and spirited tone of the book, “Everybody Poops,” this clock is intended to be universally appealing and engaging to all human beings.