Pencil tip of the long now


Drifting off to sleep, I thought of the clock of the long now, extinction #6, the moving finger having writ, and … pencils.

It’s said that a typical wooden pencil can write for 35 miles. According to a back-of-the-envelope calculation, the thickness of a pencil line is to the length of the pencil as 10,000 years are to the age of multicellular life on Earth.

17,000 years ago the dog was domesticated, 14,000 years ago the North American megafauna were extinct, 12,000 years ago sheep and goats were domesticated, 11,000 years ago cereal crops were domesticated, and today our human changes to the biosphere are only accelerating.

But all of this is happening in a tiny slice of time, a layer or two of pencil smudge.


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