This is the context:

In my pessimistic moments, I think that in 10 years string theory is not going to be complete, because what's going to have to happen is a genius is going to have to appear and that doesn't occur on anybody's time clock.

I searched for it and didn't find anything useful except these examples:

They were up at 9, not on anybody's time clock but their own.

Freckles: Angel on Her Shoulder By Eric G. Waggoner


Bart, wait here a few moments and talk to Jerry. Up here. Where it's safe. You're not on anybody's time clock right now.

Paradise Mine By Charles Bright

Can anyone help?


2 Answers 2


A time clock is what is used to check in and out at work. There could be a rack with your time card in it, which you would put in the slot and stamp with the clock time.

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So now you are on their time clock, and your time is theirs.

The first example

that doesn't occur on anybody's time clock

means that this event (the appearance of a genius) hasn't been scheduled, but it's a poor choice of phrase by the author here.

The second example

They were up at 9, not on anybody's time clock but their own

means they got out of bed when it pleased them, not to suit someone else.

The last example

You're not on anybody's time clock right now

means that their time is their own - not for anybody else to control.

  • This answer is correct with regard to the second two examples, but in the context of the original quote it's much more likely the author meant to say "timetable", and instead mistakenly used "time clock".
    – Andrew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:20
  • @Andrew I tweaked the answer to take account of that. Oct 14, 2019 at 21:43
  • Ok, good enough for me. :)
    – Andrew
    Oct 14, 2019 at 21:53

The author is saying that you can neither schedule nor anticipate genius; that genius happens in its own time, not according to anyone else's plan.

In this case "time clock" is probably a variation on the more common timetable, which is to say,

a detailed plan showing when events or activities will happen

The author believes that only a genius can make sense of string theory, and there is no way to know when such a genius may show up.

"Time clock" is not necessarily wrong, as I can understand what is meant -- but I would not use it for this context, as the standard definition

a clock that employees use to record the time when they arrive at and leave work

does not make sense. The author mentions a specific time frame in which it would be nice for a genius to appear (the next ten years, or, presumably, sooner), which has no relevance to the concept of tracking or measuring time, but is directly relevant to the concept of forecasting events.

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