After Hours

Prototype of The Long Now Foundation's 10,000 year clock

10,000 year clock

The Long Now Foundation is building an icon for the future with its mechanical 10,000 year clock. The first prototype was designed was computer scientist Danny Hillis.

For more details, read my Geekend post about The Long Now Foundation.

All Photos by Rolfe Horn courtesy of The Long Now Foundation

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Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

25 comments
krzyst0ff
krzyst0ff

pretty cool, but I doubt it will last even a quarter as long -- will the final version come with a lifetime warranty ?? in any case, future civilizations will look at this clock (as we do with the Mayan calendar) and wonder why it stops at 10,000 years -- is it the predicted end of the world ??

boxfiddler
boxfiddler moderator

Wonder just how weighty it is. [i]The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years...[/i] Optimism indeed. edit I want one.

TobiF
TobiF

What year is it now? 2010, 5771, 1421 or... The latest change, from Julian to Gregorian, finished its roll-out only in last century (although the Julian calendar is still used a lot by the Orthodox Churches.) If a mechanical clock would be able to work for 10000, then there's a huge chance that we'll come up with a new prevailing calendar in the meantime. Oh, and the view of the galaxy will also change substantially over 10000 years! But, most important: This is a really beautiful piece of art and engineering. Thanks for sharing!

scorch
scorch

It is not only functionally cool, but artistically beautiful. Just needs a few bits of polished rosewood...

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

not that I will get to see it work for very long. If I am really lucky I may see it tick for 40 years. Delightful to see folks looking so far into the future while others say, oh woe are we. Thanks for the positive note.

paulf
paulf

You think it will last that long??? What with the ways that humans fight with wars and the like not to mention natural disasters and finally the thing is made of metal....how long before is wears and corrodes? methinks money would be better spent on worthwhile projects!

cory.schultze
cory.schultze

Erm, as it's mechanical, the 'century' bezel can only have a limited number of indications. Besides, I'm sure the metals have a limited lifetime before the mechanical motions erode the components and the natural decay of the metals affect the precision of the instrument. Aside from that, I think more than enough thought went into theorising the complex variables and constructing the mechanisms required to realise such a project. Very well done guys, don't be put-off; there will always be doubters.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

The completed unit will be monumental, 60 to 100 feet tall.

mckinnej
mckinnej

I have to agree. I don't see anything with moving parts being able to last anywhere near this long. We just don't build stuff to last, so we really don't have any experience to draw on. I'm sure they tried to take all this into account, but like I said, we have no experience base. There will undoubtedly be problems they never envisioned. Sadly, the only things humanity has constructed that have significant longevity involve the stacking of rocks...no moving parts required.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

metal doesn't naturally decay. Redox isn't decay, it's corrosion, which is avoidable. If the works are large enough, wear will have an insignificant impact. A bit like Tycho Brahe's twelve-foot sextant.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

The remains of our civilization to those around in 10,000AD include Mt. Rushmore, the Great Pyramid, the Stone Mountain carving, the (finally completed) statue of Crazy Horse, the remnants of several concrete dams, and the 10,000-year clock. And they will be thinking of us as we think of the ancient Greeks and Egyptions: "How did they do all this without modern technology?" Humanity is ever thus...

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

Let me mark that down as another one to give thanks to, Happy Thanksgiving. It is that time of year, and it should be held all year long to look to the good and the positive. Negative thoughts, are well, just negative.

dogknees
dogknees

Of the project. To look at how to do these things. We need to learn to think long term in the modern age. If you look at the great cathedrals of Europe, many took a century or more to build. Can you imagine how we would go about getting a project off the ground that no one alive now will see completed? That no one alive now will profit from? We've lost something fundamental to society and it's going to bite us. We need to start thinking about the long term, and our responsibilties to the unborn. This project is an attempt to get people thinking in these terms.

Peter Ridgers
Peter Ridgers

'Only Fools and Horses' presented us with Trigger's everlasting broom - it had many new heads and handles but it was the 'same broom'.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

it's only meant to last for a measly ten millennia... ;)

santeewelding
santeewelding

Is thinking [i]very[/i] long time, as in, proton decay.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

from what we think we know about Antikythera, the devices are very similar.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Delicious. I recommend it be enjoyed to the music of Erik Satie, for example the "barefooted pieces".

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

do not know if they will ever finish that work. In reaching for the stars, we may never get there, but to give up the attempt is to lie down and die. You are so right, it is all about long term thinking, a concept almost lost on this modern world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sagrada_Fam%C3%ADlia