Why is 'clockwise' to the right?

Ok… I’ve done a (somewhat comprehensive) search of the archives, and I have yet to find a concise answer to this question.

WHY do clocks run (turn?) to the right?
Is it completely ambiguous?
As in, does it have something to do with the fact that the majority of people are born ‘right handed’?
I ask the ‘Master’, to give an authoritative answer on this subject.

That is how the shadow of a sundial moves in the northern hemisphere. Wikipedia agrees.

A man named David Feldman wrote a series of books called Imponderables in which he answered questions much the same as Cecil. One of his books was called “Why Do Clocks Run Clockwise?” His answer was that before clocks were invented, people depended on sundials for telling time. In the Northern Hemisphere, the shadow on a sundial appears to move from left to right, or what we now know as clockwise. Clocks were invented in the Northern Hemisphere and were made so that the movement of the clock’s hands mimic the movement of the shadow across a sundial. A sundial’s shadow moves in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere, so if clocks had been invented there, the hands might have moved in the opposite rotation and that direction might have become clockwise.

ETA - Damn! Ninja’d. Dopers sure are quick!

Well, I’ve obviously been 'ninja’d here. :smack:

I have on my wall in front of me a clock that goes anti-clockwise (unfortunately it seems to be broken). I have also read about an Australian watchmaker who manufactures similar watches with the explanation that watches on the Southern hemisphere should follow the sun as well (and I want one).

Here you go:

Counterclockwise watches

Note: Commercial link, for info purposes only. I have no knowledge of the website.

A little off-topic, but only the top half of the circle goes left to right. The bottom half goes right to left. I’ve always had that kind of perception issue with left-hand and right-hand threading on screws and bolts and such,


and the sides go up and down or to and fro, depending on whether the turning thing is vertical or horizontal.

Curl the fingers of your right hand and stick your thumb out. (like a hitch-hiker) If you turn a right-hand screw in the direction of your curled fingers, it will advance in the direction of your thumb. If you do this with your left hand, a left-hand screw will advance in the direction of your left thumb.

FWIW, “Turn it to the right” always seemed ambiguous to me. However if you were riding on the hands of a clock, facing the direction of travel, you would constantly be making a right turn.

Good stuff! Thanks. I may have heard that along the way, especially in the realm of electronics and magnetic fields, but I had misremembered it as to clocks and screws.

Ah yes. I recall taking Electromagnetic Fields and Wave Theory at the university when the professor introduced the right-hand rule. One of the students interrupted the professor and said that it doesn’t seem to work, holding up his left hand. :smack: The prof gently suggested that he try using his other right hand. :smiley:

It’s a little know fact that screws weren’t invented until AFTER the phrase “Lefty loosey, Righty Tighty” was first uttered.

Oh…and I invented standing in line. Before then, everybody milled around. It was a mess. So one day I said, “Why not make a line?”

The right-hand rule works for the solar system, too. Right hand thumb up as Earth’s north pole- Earth rotates and revolves around the sun in the direction of the curled fingers, as do most of the planets and most of their moons. Really helps some 8th grade earth science students.

Obligatory XKCD comic.

Uh… Except that’s exactly backwards, n’est-ce pas? You’re talking about taking a nut off of a bolt, as seen from the end of the bolt. (ETA: And even then, you’re talking about turning the nut, not the bolt. Turn the nut in the direction of your curled fingers, and the nut advances towards your thumb.)

If you’re putting a screw into wood or metal, you turn it the the right (clock-wise) to advance it (as seen from the head of the screw).

ETA: Or, are the normal screws we use all left-handed screws?

Are you sure you’re using your right hand?

Been there, done that… I can’t grasp it. I’m always still thrown by the fact that the top is moving right, the right is moving down, the bottom is moving left and the left is moving up.

I aced every part of organic chemistry except the questions involving chirality… and I got just about 50% of those right.

If you sit around the dinner table and pass the various dishes around the table clockwise, you will be passing to your left. And that is the way it must be done in order to avoid a huge pile up of vegetables.

When I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9, I was playing behind the house, and my father was doing some gardening further back. At one point he yelled at me to “turn off the water.”
I looked confused, so he yelled “Just turn the spigot to the right.” I stared at the spigot with more confusion. More yelling: “Just turn the goddams spigot to the right.” To which I asked “The top or the bottom?” Next thing, he was right next to me, turning the (top of the) spigot to the right, bellowing “Goddamnit, I have to do every goddamn thing here myself.”

My Dad has another secret family? That explains a lot.