Mysterious Union Square digital counter now even more confusing
Oh, well now it’s clear!
Manhattan’s inscrutable Metronome digital clock — which for decades has confounded Union Square passersby uncertain of what it’s actually measuring — now tracks the amount of time until scientists believe the effects of climate change will become irreversible.
The conversion was announced at 3:20 p.m. Saturday when the towering LED display flashed the ominous message “The Earth has a deadline” then began counting down from 7:103:15:40:07 — the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds to go, according to The New York Times.
That point of no return is based on calculations by the Berlin-based Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change, according to Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, the artists behind what they’ve dubbed the Climate Clock.
“This is our way to shout that number from the rooftops,” said Golan just before the Saturday switch-over, The Times reported. “The world is literally counting on us.”
Golan and Boyd arranged the change with the blessing of Andrew Ginzel and Kristin Jones, the original artists behind Metronome — a name that actually refers collectively to multiple pieces of art overlooking Union Square, with the 15-digit LED display formally known as The Passage.
Since coming online in 1999, The Passage — once panned by a panel of experts as part of one of the city’s ugliest buildings — has stumped native New Yorkers and tourists alike, spawning speculation about what the numbers represent.
One popular word-of-mouth theory has held that the figures are somehow tied to the national debt.
The numbers, however, are simply a clock offering multiple ways of measuring time.
Read from left to right, the first seven digits show the current time in 24-hour format, down to the tenth of a second.
The last seven digits represent the amount of time left until midnight, again to the tenth of a second, though they are meant to be read from right to left — that is, with the two rightmost numbers representing hours.
The 15th and middle figure is often a blur, as it represents hundredths of seconds.
But the display will for now instead hold Golan and Boyd’s countdown through Sept. 27 — the final day of Climate Week — at which point they hope to find a long-term home for it, whether overlooking Union Square or elsewhere.
“This is arguably the most important number in the world,” Boyd said Saturday, according to The Times. “And a monument is often how a society shows what’s important, what it elevates, what is at center stage.”
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