What's the Union Square "Numbers" Sign All About?

I just got back from New York City. On Union Square, there is a large billboard that is a long string of numbers. . . maybe 12-15 digits. The numbers seem to change constantly and randomly, so it doesn’t seem to be counting anything significant. Does anyone know what this sign means? Is it just something to drive tourists crazy? Please help!

Haven’t seen it, but my guess might be the national debt?

It’s a permanent art installation called the Metronome. The digit display is actually a combination of two numbers: The first part is a 24-hour clock, the second is a reverse 24-hour clock. They meet at noon and midnight.

You’re not alone in your confusion. When I last was in New York, people I talked to who lived in the area had no idea what it was.

My uncle, a music professor, wrote the music\sound effects for it. When I visited NYC we waited infront of it for 1/2 hour for the music and smoke…turns out the thing has been broken for a while. What a disapointment.

Heh. I got to see the smoke but never heard the music. Then again, maybe I did (noisy area, especially in front of the 1856 Washington statue, with lots of musicians).

FWIW, there is a national debt ‘clock’ on 42nd and 6th, financed by Douglas Durst (yep, of THOSE Dursts, poor folks).

I knew the sculpture’s name but I didn’t know not all the numbers were random. You can see the thing all way up Park Avenue South.

In LET 'EM EAT CAKE, a 1933 musical sequel to the Pulitzer-winning OF THEE I SING, the Gershwins have a whole song about Union Square. Hilarious.

From my not-so-scientific viewpoint, it’s probably the most widely hated sculpture in New York, after Tilted Arc and Civic Virtue (a neoclassical sculpture of a young man triumphing over writhing female figures of “Corruption” and “Vice.”

When it made noise - I didn’t know that was supposed to be music - it was unbearable. Now it’s just silly, almost a self-parody of everything monumentally stupid and self-indulgent in the contemporary art world.