Blog Archive for the ‘Clock of the Long Now’ Category

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Edward Burtynsky: The 10,000-year Gallery – A Seminar Flashback

Posted on Wednesday, March 19th, 02014 by Mikl Em
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In October 02008 Edward Burtynsky spoke for Long Now on The 10,000-year Gallery. Burtynsky, an internationally-recognized photographer, presented his ideas for a gallery of images to accompany the Clock of the Long Now.

Twice a month we highlight a Seminar About Long-term Thinking (SALT) from our archives. Long Now members can watch this Seminar video here, and this talk is even better with the visuals.

SALT audio is free for everyone on our Seminar pages and via podcast. Long Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view.

Burtynsky’s The 10,000-year Gallery talk includes a formal proposal for a permanent art gallery in the chamber that encloses the 10,000-year Clock as well as the results of his research into methods of capturing images that might have the best chance to survive in the long-term.

Photographer Edward Burtynsky

From Stewart Brand’s summary of this Seminar (in full here):

On the stage Burtynsky showed a large carbon transfer print of one of his ultra-high resolution photographs. The color and detail were perfect. Accelerated studies show that the print could hang in someone’s living room for 500 years and show no loss of quality. Kept in the Clock’s mountain in archival conditions it would remain unchanged for 10,000 years. He said that making one print takes five days of work, costs $2,000, and only ten artisans in the world have the skill, at locations in Toronto, Seattle, and Cornwall.

Edward Burtynsky‘s photographs are collected in museums all over the world. He is known for his large-format photographs of industrial landscapes which include mining locations around the globe and the building of Three Gorges Dam in China. His work has been noted for beautiful images which are often at odds with their subject’s negative environmental impacts. In recent years his work has focused on water including oil spills around the world.

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. The series is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Long Now members can watch the full video of this Seminar here—you must be logged in to the site. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits. Join Long Now today.

Chime Generator Table for The Interval at Long Now

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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We want to share some of the details about The Interval, our public space in San Francisco which opens this Spring. We’ve planned a series of updates that will include an introduction to our Chalkboard Robot, more about Brian Eno’s sound & light installations in the space, documentation of the final construction work, and details on when the doors of The Interval will open, later this year.

First we’d like to tell you about our Chime Generator Table, which will be a centerpiece at The Interval. The Chime Generator prototype itself was a much-enjoyed feature at the first incarnation of our public space.

Here is the prototype in 02006 on the opening day of Long Now’s Museum and Store:

Long Now Chime Generator Museum 02006 Scott Beale

At the 02006 opening of Long Now’s Museum and Store, photo by Scott Beale

This Chime Generator is a prototype at about one tenth the scale of the one that is now being built for the Clock of the Long Now. The mechanism rings a series of ten bells, utilizing an algorithm designed by Long Now Board members Danny Hillis and Brian Eno to vary the order each day for more than 3.5 million permutations in total. This allows our Clock to play a different bell sequence for nearly every day of the next 10,000 years. Learn more about the Chime Mechanism.

The prototype was originally designed for us by Paolo Salvagione and Greg Staples, and was built by Christopher Rand. It is made mostly of waterjet aluminum with steel gears, screws, and bearings.

Over the years we have used both tubular bells (seen above) and metal “singing bowls” to demonstrate how the Clock will generate its daily song. For its life as a table, we’ve designed around the mechanism itself. While it is not built to last 10,000 years, this prototype did a vital job in proving a concept that we are now using in building the full-sized Clock. Now it has a job to do at The Interval.

As a table, the Chime Generator will be both a functioning piece of furniture and a museum artifact. As shown below, it awaits a slab of plate glass which will be placed on top. When you visit The Interval you can set your coffee or cocktail down and gaze into the inner workings of this piece of our Clock design. We hope it inspires as many questions and conversations as it has bell ringing permutations.


We have only weeks left to finish our fundraising for this space, and are currently about $100,000 short of our goal. We’re asking for your help: please consider donating to support this project. Any amount you can give brings us closer to the finish line! We have unique gifts to offer our donors, amongst other benefits. As an Interval supporter, you’ll be the first to hear news about the venue, you can suggest books for the Manual for Civilization and vote on other submissions, and best of all, you’ll receive invitations to our special pre-opening parties, the very first events at The Interval!

Here’s one more shot of the Chime Generator, this time with singing bowls attached, from the Anathem release event in 02008. It shared the stage with Long Now co-founders Stewart Brand and Danny Hillis, as well as Anathem author Neal Stephenson, who is himself a donor to our Interval ‘brickstarter’.

Neal Stephenson donated to The Interval

Long Now intro – sound by Brian Eno

Posted on Monday, July 22nd, 02013 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Today we’re debuting a 10-second animated Long Now intro that will soon be seen at the start of all Long Now videos and clips. It’s a brief glimpse into parts of The 10,000 Year Clock in virtual form as you watch 20,000 years tick by. Sometimes the long-term can be contemplated in small increments…

It features sound by Brian Eno that uses recordings of the 10,000 Year Clock (in progress) and visuals taken directly from the clock design as well.

This intro video was conceived by Alexander Rose, James Anderson and Chris Baldwin. The sound is by Brian Eno with additional recordings and arrangement by Chris Baldwin which includes sounds from the workings of the 10,000 Year Clock. The animation was created by James Anderson using actual model geometry of parts used in the Clock. The animation is © The Long Now Foundation 02013 and the sound is © Opal Ltd., London 02013.

Brian Eno vists the Long Now Clock shop

We hope it is enjoyed by everyone who already knows about the Clock and will be a compelling clue for others to want to learn more. Thanks to James, Chris, Brian and everyone else who contributed to making this well-crafted representation of The Long Now Foundation.

Last week we announced that Brian Eno is designing the ambient sound for the Long Now Salon as well as a dedicated light-painting installation for the space.

Brian is a founding member of Long Now’s Board of Directors.

Photo of Brian Eno by Alexander Rose

The Present

Posted on Monday, March 18th, 02013 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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ThePresent from m ss ng p eces on Vimeo.

The Present is a clock with an annual dial that was funded originally through Kickstarter by design collective m ss ng p eces. The inspiration for this clock seems to come from a similar place as the Clock of the Long Now.

This was one of those early blockbuster Kickstarter projects that reached 4x its fund raising goal. After a couple years figuring out how to produce these as a product, it has finally shipped and we just received ours. It has excellent build quality from what I can tell and auto-magically sets itself as soon as you put batteries into it.  Since we are only a few days away from the March Equinox ours moved directly to nearly the “3 o’clock” position in the middle of the green section (see pic below).  As we approach summer the hand will move into yellow, then reds for autumn etc.

You can get your own at


The Time Keeper

Posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 02012 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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One of the early ideas for the 10,000 Year Clock was to simply endow a family whose job it would be for 400 generations to just shout out the time every day.  I had no idea there was already someone like that… RIP John Votta.

“The Washington Square timekeeper was a link back to a very ancient tradition of people who both tell time and look out for the public good,”

The whole story at Washington Square News

YES Watch Father’s Day Sale

Posted on Wednesday, June 6th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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Long Now’s 10,000 Year Clock will tell time not in hours and minutes, but by keeping track of the astronomical cycles underlying those units. We can’t predict how the calendar and timing systems will change over the next 10,000 years, but we know they’re likely to be built on top of the very same things we’ve built our system on: the rotation of the earth, the cycles of the moon, and the ebb and flow of light and dark throughout the years’ seasons. For most of human history, time wasn’t  a matter of digits ticking by, but rather a complex interplay of these overlapping rhythms.

The makers of YES watches seem to similarly appreciate this long-view of time-keeping. Into thoroughly modern digital timepieces with all the standard functionality you’d expect in a digital watch, they’ve incorporated a taste of our deep history with the sky. YES watches feature an analogue hour hand that rotates once each day, indicating along its way the rising and setting of the sun and moon.

It’s because of this resonance that we’ve carried them for years now in our Museum & Store in San Francisco, but between now and Father’s Day, Yes is also giving Long Now a 20% commission on each watch bought online through this link: For Father’s Day, they’ve created a new style of watch with two 24-hour bezels.

Bjorn Kartomten is the brains behind this innovative design. He worked with a global team of manufacturers to realize his idea of making a watch that tells modern time along side the cycles of the sun and moon. The hand movement is made in Switzerland, the sapphire crystal in Germany and the chip is made in Japan. The Yes Watches are used by film directors, photographers, adventurers and more – anyone who would like to to have an accurate understanding of the day and night’s natural cycles.

Time in the 10,000-Year Clock

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 02012 by Austin Brown
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Keeping time for 10,000 years isn’t tricky just because its hard to build a really durable clock. It also forces us to recognize and account for changes in things we normally think of as immutable, like the length of a day.

Long Now co-founder and lead designer of the 10,000-Year Clock, Danny Hillis, published a paper recently along with Rob Seaman, Steve Allen, and Jon Giorgini, with the American Astronomical Society.  The paper discusses the different kinds of time that the Clock needs to track in order to show accurate time for the next ten millennia, and how these systems interrelate.

The 10,000-Year Clock has both a pendulum (generating an approximation of absolute time) and is also synchronized to the sun at noon. Therefore the Clock must reconcile Universal Time, Terrestrial Time, and Barycentric Dynamical Time and also deal with unpredictable changes in the Earth’s rotation:

“The variation is caused by a variety of effects including tidal drags, shifts in the Earth’s crust, changes in ocean levels, and even weather… This creates an uncertainty in the average length of day of about 10 parts per million, an uncertainty of plus or minus 37 solar days over the design lifetime of the clock.”

So, not accounting for these variations could theoretically leave the Clock over a month off at the end of 10,000 years. Read the paper to see how each system is accounted for.

The paper was presented at a colloquium in October 02011 called Decoupling Civil Timekeeping from Earth Rotation. Attendees, including astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, discussed the paper and the 10,000-Year Clock. Notes taken during the conversation show that, while the technical success of the Clock’s durability is yet to be determined, its ability to inspire long-term thinking is already taking hold:

Neil deGrasse Tyson jested that the Long Now should put some signage on the 10,000 Year Clock so that a post-apocalyptic Earth will not think that the world will end when the clock stops working.

Clock Project Update from Jeff Bezos

Posted on Thursday, January 19th, 02012 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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Below is the Clock Project update by Jeff Bezos published at

Quick Update and Video of the Raise Bore Milestone

We just completed the 12½ foot diameter, 500 foot deep vertical shaft for the 10,000 Year Clock. We used a mining technique called raise boring. Take a look at the video – it’s an interesting operation. Instead of drilling down from the top, you pull a large diameter reamer up to the surface from the bottom using a smaller diameter pilot hole – more efficient than a top-down drill because the rubble isn’t fighting gravity. It rains down beneath the advancing bore and gets hauled out a horizontal shaft at the bottom. Our next major step will be cutting the spiral stairway using a robotic stone cutting saw. In parallel, we’re also manufacturing and testing the Clock components.

The Clock team continues to do an impressive and amazing job – they are organized and ingenious. Extra special thanks to Danny Hillis and Alexander Rose who deserve big kudos for driving to this key milestone. Big thanks as well to Swaggart Brothers, Cementation, and Geomagic, all of which played a crucial role. I encourage and invite you to become a member of The Long Now Foundation, the non-profit that was founded to foster long-term thinking and has focused tremendous energy on the Clock, as well as other noteworthy projects. You can visit their website to learn more and become a member.

Many thanks for your interest in the Clock and in the long view!

Jeff Bezos


Posted on Tuesday, November 22nd, 02011 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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click image above to enlarge

The 10,000 Year Clock is mentioned on the November 28th cover and listed as one of the 50 best inventions of the year by Time Magazine.

Brian Eno on Colbert Nation

Posted on Friday, November 11th, 02011 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
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The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Brian Eno
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Founding Long Now board member Brian Eno was on Colbert last night and he got a chance to discuss Long Now and Clock Project.  Also not to be missed is the end segment where Brian, Steven and Michael Stipe sing a-cappella.