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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Timing of Biological Clocks

Timing of Biological Clocks

Arthur T. Winfree

Henry Holt and Co.


"A clock," writes Arthur T. Winfree, "is not much good if you can't pull out its stem and set it."

Similarly, the most critical property of biological clocks--which rhythmically organize the processes of life--is their ability to reset on cue.

This ability allows enables biological clocks to regain synchrony with a changing environment (as when we travel across time zones) or to maintain the alignment between certain physiological rhythms and the natural solar day.

In The Timing of Biological Clocks, Winfree explores circadian rhythms. In reporting experiments on animals, plants, and single cells, he not only illustrates the principles that guide the resetting of biological clocks but reveals that each of these clocks has a vulnerable phase, a moment in each "turn of the dial" when a cueing stimulus of a particular intensity results in an abnormal, unpredictable resetting--perhaps even annihilating the clock's rhythm entirely.

A singular feature of the author's exploration of these phenomena is his use of a range of colors to represent the passage of cyclic time. By this device, Winfree not only removes the purely arbitrary discontinuity of a conventional clock dial but makes reasoning about the real discontinuities of biological clocks transparently clear.

The Timing of Biological Clocks

Chapter One
Time Zones
... it was Thursday, which was a great cause of wondering to us, since with us it was only Wednesday.
9 JULY 1522
A hardy little...

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Arthur T. Winfree

Arthur T. Winfree is one of the world's foremost theoreticians of circadian rhythms. Trained as a biophysicist, Winfree was the recipient of a MacArthur Grant for his work on biological clocks. Formerly at the Institute for Nonlinear Science at the University of California at San Diego, he is now with the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Arizona at Tucson. Professor Winfree is the author of the classic work The Geometry of Biological Time and of When Time Breaks Down, a technical monograph on circadian rhythms.