Mountain Light

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 02010 by Alex Mensing
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This timelapse is from the film TimeScapes, by the photographer Tom Lowe. It includes shots of bristlecone pine trees, which can live for nearly 5,000 years. It was featured as part of our “Long Shorts” series of short films that convey long term thinking. This Long Short was screened at Rachel Sussman’s “The World’s Oldest Living Organisms” SALT.

Timescapes Timelapse: Mountain Light from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

1,000 years in 5 minutes

Posted on Monday, November 15th, 02010 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Just saw this video of how European borders have been redrawn over the last millennium.

UPDATE: The original video was taken down, this one is from Centennia the company that made the software that made it called the “Historical Atlas 2010”, this version is less cool because its a screen capture but you get the idea.

10 centuries in 5 minutes Thanks to our friends over at Atlas Obscura for posting.


Posted on Friday, November 12th, 02010 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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CNN is running a story on the 100,000 year Finnish nuclear storage bunker.  I hope to see this at some point, I love it when people do projects that make our 10,000 year project seem short sighted…

In Finland they believe they have found a [nuclear waste] solution, with the world’s first permanent nuclear-waste repository — “Onkalo” — a huge system of underground tunnels that is being hewn out of solid rock and must last at least 100,000 years.

Work on the concept behind the facility commenced in 1970s and the repository is expected to be backfilled and decommissioned in the 2100s. None of the 40 people working on the facility today will live to see it completed.   [read complete story]

Thanks to Kevin Berry and @jetjocko for sending this my way.

Rick Prelinger Ticket Info

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 02010 by Contessa Trujillo
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Rick Prelinger on Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 5

Rick Prelinger on
“Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 5”


Thursday December 16, 02010 at 7:30pm Herbst Theatre on Van Ness

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! &#8226 General Tickets $10

About this Seminar:

Rick Prelinger, a guerrilla archivist who collects the uncollected and makes it accessible, presents the fifth of his annual Lost Landscapes of San Francisco screenings. You’ll see an eclectic montage of rediscovered and rarely-seen film clips showing life, landscapes, labor and leisure in a vanished San Francisco as captured by amateurs, newsreel cameramen and industrial filmmakers.

New material this year will include test flights over the unbuilt dunes of the Sunset District, Prohibition-era libertines partying in Golden Gate Park and drinking in their cars, lost travelogues and scenes from San Francisco countercultures.

Suzanne Ramsey, aka Kitten on the Keys, will be back to open for Rick again this year; she will regale us with vintage tunes and a vivacious style that has entertained crowds from here in San Francisco to the Cannes Film Festival.

Long Now Media Update

Posted on Tuesday, November 9th, 02010 by Contessa Trujillo
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1 – 6 of Nineteen Speakers in the
“Long Conversation”

There is new media available from our monthly series, the Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Stewart Brand’s summaries and audio downloads or podcasts of the talks are free to the public; Long Now members can view HD video of the Seminars and comment on them.

Long Quotes: Michael Cronin

Posted on Monday, November 8th, 02010 by Tyler Emerson
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Quotes related to long-term thinking. Have a favorite quote? Share it with us in comments.

“It is often said that what people strive for is the greatest happiness of the greatest number, but it is worth bearing in mind that the greatest number have not yet been born. Therefore, when we speak about the greatest good, what we really mean is the longest good. There is not much we can do to improve the quality of life of those who are already dead on this island, but we can do immeasurable good to improve the quality of lives of those who will be born or come to live on this island. In order to give force to this notion of the longest good, we need to make the taking of long-term responsibility the most important political and cultural issue of our time.”
Michael Cronin

Long Now Media Update

Posted on Monday, November 8th, 02010 by Contessa Trujillo
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(downloads tab)

Lera Boroditsky’s “How Language Shapes Thought”

There is new media available from our monthly series, the Seminars About Long-term Thinking. Stewart Brand’s summaries and audio downloads or podcasts of the talks are free to the public; Long Now members can view HD video of the Seminars and comment on them.

Who Needs a Library Anyway?

Posted on Friday, November 5th, 02010 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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I just received this nice piece on the future of books and libraries from our friends at Stanford Libraries:

Who Needs a Library Anyway?

When then-President Gerhard Casper rhetorically asked this question, 12 October 1999 – as the title of his remarks at the dedication of the Bing Wing – there was much talk in the air about the imminent demise of libraries. Were these not a bunch of dinosaurs about to be smacked by the meteoric impact of the Web? Was the book not rapidly becoming an anachronism, a fetish object of a dying pulp-based culture? Many of us, with President Casper, disagreed with these glib notions then. But that was several generations ago, on the timescale of the information world around us. How have we fared since on the extinction short list?

Last month, forecaster and chair of our Advisory Council Paul Saffo delighted a select group of our donors with a talk about books, revolutions, and timescales. In a dense web of connected thoughts, he tied the great information revolution of the late 15th century to that of the late 20th, likening the titanic publisher-scholar Aldus Manutius to Steve Jobs, linking the once-revolutionary idea that a printed book is what it is (not a cheap knock-off of a proper manuscript) to the emerging identity of digital works as being something other than bad substitutes for physical books. He reminded us of an intrinsic life-cycle law of objects: things fade, or even disappear, after about a half-century, even (or particularly) Aldine editions or 1960s bestsellers. I am reminded that we avidly collect medieval “binding fragments,” i.e., pieces of manuscripts, mostly on vellum, that were cut up and recycled as stiffeners in bindings of later books, a practice we would now consider barbaric and wasteful (and very expensive). Apparently, after a century or so of European printing, manuscripts were considered expendable, rendered technically obsolescent by the printing press (and the scholarly efflorescence it made possible).

Universities and their libraries have been around for a fairly long time, say 700 or 800 years. The great university libraries that we are familiar with – those with millions of volumes addressing myriad subjects and disciplines – evolved through the vast post-war growth of academic research, coincidentally about a half-century ago. Are they – or, should I say, we – suffering decrepitude and irrelevance? I offer as evidence our experience with the New Graduate Student Orientation program last month, detailed later in this issue. It seems that Stanford’s new crop of grad students, arguably the most savvy and motivated class of information users alive, are quite aware they need libraries. Some of them may even need Aldine editions or binding fragments. All of them will use electronic resources on various sorts of devices. Whatever the form, the libraries will stand ready to help them obtain and use the stuff of scholarship.

Also past the half-century mark,
Andrew Herkovic

Rosetta Disk at the Hammer Museum for an “Enormous Microscopic Evening”

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 02010 by Laura Welcher
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Join Long Now’s Rosetta Project on November 6 from 4 – 7 pm at UCLA’s Hammer Museum where we team up with San Francisco-based CRITTER for an Enormous Microscopic Evening.  We’ll put a Rosetta Disk under the microscope, check out the fine (and finer) print, and maybe hunt for Easter eggs…  More information on the evening’s lineup from the Hammer Museum:

Enormous Microscopic Evening examines the museum from a microscopic perspective with CRITTER, a San Francisco-based salon dedicated to expanding the relationships between culture and the environment. The evening will focus on demonstrations and workshops about building and manipulating microscopes. Materials and samples taken from around the museum will be examined. Continuing the theme of microscopy, there will be micro performances (short concerts with tiny instruments) and other related events throughout the museum.


Sounds of yesterday gone forever

Posted on Thursday, November 4th, 02010 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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1958, file photo, Duke Ellington

1958, file photo, Duke Ellington

One of the readers of this blog “Sinking777” commented on an earlier post and pointed out this digital dark age story on a recent study of sound recordings:

The first comprehensive study of the preservation of sound recordings in the U.S., released by the Library of Congress, also found many historical recordings already have been lost or can’t be accessed by the public. That includes most of radio’s first decade from 1925 to 1935.

Shows by musicians Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby, as well as the earliest sports broadcasts, are already gone. There was little financial incentive for such broadcasters as CBS to save early sound files, Brylawski said.

“Those audio cassettes are just time bombs,” Brylawski said. “They’re just not going to be playable.”

The study also calls for changes in copyright law to help preservation. As it stands now, Brylawski said, copyright restrictions would make most audio preservation initiatives illegal, the authors wrote.

[read complete story]

The last bit in the study is very good to see.  One of the dirtiest secrets of digital preservation is that it often technically illegal, and this will likely have to change if we are going to have anything approaching a representative record of our increasingly digital civilization.