Dispatches from the Long Now

Tom Marcinko @ 14-11-2008

Some cool items from the Long Now Foundation:

Since we hope to build the space for the 10,000 Year Clock underground, for the last 10 years I have been collecting references and images of the great, ambitious, and or inspiring underground spaces and stonework of the world (in some cases they are also lessons of what not to do).

The pictures more than reward a click.

And if this project seems more than a little monkish, well, a wine seems appropriate:

Long Now’s eponymous red wine by the Pelissero winery was recently reviewed by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. … The labels are printed with archival inks on acid free paper and the corks are flame marked “Long Now”.

[Photo: Laughing Squid]


Time is fleeting: Strange clock at Cambridge

Tom Marcinko @ 20-09-2008

“Conventional clocks with hands are boring,” says inventor John Taylor. Much more interesting to build a four-foot-wide mechanical timepiece that has no hands or numbers, uses blue lights flashing through slits to tell the time, and is accurate only once in five minutes. Watch it work in a short video narrated by Taylor.

He based the clock on a design by longitude pioneer John Harrison, who was calibrating the one he built himself when he died in 1776. The ominous grasshopper sculpture atop the face is a tribute to another Harrison invention, the “grasshopper escapement” that releases a clock’s gears with each swing of the pendulum. The “Chronophage” (time-eater) was unveiled at Cambridge by Stephen Hawking, in a ceremony that ran 14 minutes and 55 seconds late. Taylor says:

“I … wanted to depict that time is a destroyer – once a minute is gone you can’t get it back …. That’s why my grasshopper is not a Disney character. He is a ferocious beast that over the seconds has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening, then on the 59th second he gulps down time.”

[Hawking unveils the chronophage by rubberpaw]


Playing games with time

Paul Raven @ 12-12-2007

Timewarp Time has a strange attraction for many people – it’s the one dimension that we can perceive but can’t control. But we can hack at the edges of it, like the Time Nuts: a 400-strong geek clade who collect high-precision atomic time-pieces. If you find you never have enough time to spend with your family, you may want to look into their methods – it’ll help you scrape up a few precious extra nanoseconds. [Awesome ‘shopped image by fdecomite]

Other people are trying to map time, instead – MetaFilter points out Miomi, a web2.0 startup with the tagline “user generated history” that aims to round up all the information in the world and assemble it into one coherent browsable time-line. Insert your own joke about conspiracy theorists and alternate history writers here.

On the subject of writers and time, the relentlessly provocative and controversial Mundane SF blog reminds us of DeSmogBlog’s “100 Year Letter” project, and decries the fact that science fiction writers seem to have taken no interest in it at all. Of course, they may simply not have know about it – this is the first I’ve heard of it, at least – but the Mundanistas lay a much weightier charge:

“… here, in 2007, the Science Fiction community has abandoned the future; or the future has abandoned it and gone on its merry way, following the laws of physics and thermodynamics with absolutely no consideration for our fantastic dreams. What a shame.”

What do you think – is it science fiction’s duty to deal with contemporary issues, or is it just for escapist purposes?

[tags]time, clocks, history, mundane, science fiction[/tags]