image of new york's metronome clock

New York City's Metronome Clock

Updated Sep 23, 2020 at 08:31AM EDT by andcallmeshirley.

Added Sep 22, 2020 at 04:27PM EDT by Matt.

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New York City's Metronome Clock is a public artwork found in Union Square in New York City. The work includes a digital clock, which features 15 LED digits called "the Passage," which tells the time in a 24-hour format. The work also features a large void surrounded by concentric circles that releases plumes of white steam from the center throughout the day. The whole piece is 10 stories high. In 2020, the Metrome's digits changed to a countdown for how much time humanity has before the effects of climate change are irreversible.


Designed in 1999 by Kristen Jones and Andrew Giznel, The Metronome is "an investigation into the nature of time." It one of the costliest private commissions of public art ever at $4.2 million. On October 26th, 1999, "The Metronome" was dedicated.[1]

In their artist statement, Jones and Giznel write:[2]

Metronome is an investigation into the nature of time. The work references the multiple measures of time that simultaneously inform and confound our consciousness of the moment. The composite work intends to evoke contemplation on the dynamic flux of the city. The elements suggest the instant and infinity, astronomical sequence, geological epoch and ephemerality. Metronome is meant to be integral to the very history, architectural fabric, spirit and vitality of the city.


Debate Over Meaning

For years, many expressed confusion over the Metronome, unable to tell what the digital numbers mean. However, the digits tell the time in a standard 24-hour format. It tells two digits for hours, two digits for minutes, two digits for seconds. Following those, the clock tells how much time remains in the day. Bloomberg[3] explains:

The numbers, however, do tell the time. The 15 digit LED display (there are 76,800 LEDs total) is called The Passage (okay, that's a little pretentious) and on the left-hand side, you have the time (in a 24-hour format)--hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths of a second. The central digit counts off one-hundredths of a second. The digits on the right show the number of hours remaining in the day, in the same format; basically the left side counts up and the right counts down. You can think of it as time draining from right to left; a sort of horizontal digital hourglass.

Climate Clock

In commemoration of Climate Week, on September 19th, 2020, artists Andrew Boyd and Gan Golan reprogrammed the clock to include the message "The Earth has a deadline." The clock also shows the numbers in years, days, hours, minutes and seconds until the effects of climate change become irreversible.[4]

On September 21st, the Washington Post shared a photo of the clock. They wrote, "A new digital clock unveiled in Manhattan’s Union Square over the weekend promises to tell you exactly how long the world has left to act before an irreversible climate emergency alters human existence." The post received more than 505,000 likes in less than 24 hours (shown below, left).

That day, Twitter user @AmayaNYC shared the post on Twitter, where it received more than 92,000 likes and 50,000 retweets in less than 24 hours (shown below, right).

Several media outlets covered the update to the Metronome, including the New York Times,[4] Daily Dot, [5] Washington Post,[6] Gothamist[7] and more.

David Amaya @AmayaNYC Dawg. wp) washingtonpost 7 s 102 12 : 02:01 YRS DAYS Liked by itsnatalieedgar and 84,136 others washingtonpost A new digital clock unveiled in Manhattan's Union Square over the weekend promises to tell you exactly how long the world has left to act before an irreversible climate emergency alters human existence. The Climate Clock unveiled by artists Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd warned at 1:30 p.m. Monday that there were 7 years, 101 days, 17 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds until Earth's carbon budget is depleted, based on current emission rates. A total depletion would thrust the world into further turmoil and suffering through more flooding, more wildfires, worsening famine and extensive human displacement, according to the artists. The timer counts down how long it will take for the world to burn through its carbon budget if swift action isn't taken to keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius. If Earth's temperatures increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the planet will fall victim to extreme heat waves, fires, droughts and limited water availability, a 2019 NASA report on global climate change warns. The clock's second figure, displayed in green, is labeled a "lifeline." It tracks the percentage of available energy being supplied from renewable sources. Read more by clicking the link in our bio. (Photo by Ben Wolf) 9:34 PM · Sep 21, 2020 from Los Angeles, CA · Twitter for iPhone > :

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Captain Alliance
Captain Alliance

Isn't it already irreversible at this point? What do they expect people to do, give up all electronic devices and go back to the neolithic era? What makes them think that 7 years is a long enough time for any significant changes to the carbon that's already accumulated in the atmosphere?


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