Monthly Archives: March 2008

The long now

The Clock of the Long Now is a proposed mechanical clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years, to get people thinking about the future, the l-o-n-g future. It’s a problem-solving thought-project with time as the enemy — how do you make a clock that runs 10,000 years and protect it from wars, the environment, etc.? The more one thinks about these questions, the more they imagine civilization lasting for millenia to come. It’s a “counterpoint to today’s ‘faster/cheaper’ mind set and [serves to] promote ‘slower/better’ thinking.” From one of the founders of the project:

When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 2000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.

– Computer scientist Daniel Hillis

Happy birthday peace symbol

The peace symbol is turning 50 this year. It was designed by Gerald Holtom for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), in Britain, and completed February 21, 1958, in time for the Easter march planned by DAC from Trafalgar Square, London, to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England. Of course it later became the internationally recognized icon for the 1960s anti-war movement and the general counterculture of the time.

A bit of geeky trivia: The symbol does not represent a bird’s foot as is often suggested. It’s actually semaphoric signals (flag signaling) for the letters “N” and “D,” standing for Nuclear Disarmament.

Semaphore November Semaphore ‘N’

Semaphore Delta Semaphore ‘D’

These two signals imposed over each other, surrounded by a circle, form the shape of the peace symbol.

Holtom later told the editor of Peace News that there was also an intent to convey despair through the symbol. “I was in despair. Deep despair,” he wrote. “I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.”

Peace out.