Atomic skull clock reminds us we’re dying


Whether you like it or not, every second that passes brings you one step closer to your own demise. It’s not a comforting topic to dwell upon, but it’s reality. This art installation entitled ‘Memento Mori’ is a haunting reminder of just that. Even with all the advanced technology we have today, we still have absolutely no way of knowing just when our time will come.

[Martin] cast a real human skull, then added a 4 digit LED display that’s attached to a rubidium atomic clock (running a FE-5680A frequency standard). The display counts down a single second over and over, measured in millisecond-steps, from 1.000 to 0.001. He built a custom electronic circuit to convert the 10 MHz sine wave into a 1 kHz pulse signal, and used ATmega8 chips running an Arduino sketch to do the rest of the dirty work.

Watching the video after the break, with that smooth mysterious music in the background, one can’t help but ponder our mortality. On a personal note, this totally feels like something you’d find in a video game.

[Thanks Martin]


  1. Matt says:

    Where did he get the human skull to make the mold with?

  2. aliveoneee says:

    judging by the quality, the nice springs on the jaw, and the cut to remove the top piece of the skull, I’m gunna guess he BOUGHT a cast of a real human skull.

  3. smilr says:

    2 things:
    Should’ve named it “moment”o mori
    Needs to tie into a heartbeat monitor or something, so it stops when the owner dies for that extra creepy effect.

  4. RafMan says:

    As creepy as it is, I like the idea, but in my humble opinion the atomic clock is over kill for a 1 second countdown, the ATmega8 would have been sufficient. Not like anyone will be able to tell the difference anyway, but I guess it gives it that ‘wow’ factor. I am considering making a copy (without the atomic clock) for next Halloween…

  5. Apollo says:

    Not what I meant when I said I wanted a little head

  6. NeoZeroo says:

    Well, that’s really fitting, as it’s my today birthday.
    Thanks for pointing me to this post today, universe.

  7. Darkflame says:

    Can someone fix this “death” thing? Its bothering me.
    (I suggest we ask Lobsters nicely for their fountain of youth)

  8. In the name of... says:

    rubidium atomic clock:

    Custom electronic circuit to convert the 10 MHz sine wave into a 1 kHz pulse signal: Check

    ATmega8 chips running an Arduino sketch to do the rest of the dirty work….. REALLY?

    Ok, so you have a super high dollar (I would assume) atomic decay based clock, custom circuitry, some microcontrollers and then you have to have an freaking arduino running a sketch to top the thing off?

    Ferrari engineer to self: “Hmm, you know, this thing could really use some fuzzy dice and one of those mickey mouse antenna toppers to finish the over-all look. – Wait, what? no antenna on this car? Add one!”

  9. Paul says:

    I’m not sure I understand why the rubidium atomic clock was necessary. It counts down so fast and it’s only going between 1 and .001 it’s not like there is a need for an accurate reference point. Over “engineered” solution.

  10. mjrippe says:

    Seven segment LED display is so ugly in the mouth of a skull. Should have used more organic looking Nixie tubes.

  11. static says:

    Need to cover the power cord with vertebrate, add some hip structure around the wall wart.

  12. HALD says:

    Why the custom circuit? The FE-5680A can be programmed to 1 Hz :P

  13. Will says:

    Ooh, so people die? Thanks for the news flash.

  14. Adam says:

    Real question is why have that 4th digit? It just stays lit 8 the whole time

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