Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Building a 10,000-Year Clock

How do you build a clock that will run for 10,000 years? The engineers and designers of “The Long Now Foundation” think they have the answer. They are now busily building one deep inside a mountain near Van Horn, Texas. And the 10,000 Year Clock isn’t just a clock. It has bells that chime a melody every once in awhile, and the song will not be repeated for at least 10,000 years. Sometimes, if a visitor winds the clock, it will ring out a tune, but at other times, it will ring when no one is around.

The clock is the brainchild of Danny Hillis, an inventor, computer engineer, and designer. He and Stewart Brand, a biologist and cultural pioneer, set up the non-profit Long Now Foundation. The project is being funded by Amazon.com’s founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns the property where the clock will be installed. Rock musician Brian Eno named the organization and composed the melody generator that will ring the clock’s chimes.
An 8-foot tall prototype was completed in 1999. At midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1999, the prototype chimed twice before a small crowd in the Presidio, San Francisco. It was later moved to the London Science Museum.

When completed, the real clock will be about 200 feet tall. It is being built primarily of marine grade 316 stainless steel and titanium. Dry-running ceramic ball bearings eliminate the need for lubrication. The parts are being made and assembled in California and Seattle.
It is designed to run on energy captured by changes in air temperature on the mountain top. The power will be stored by a large weight hanging on a rack gear, which can be wound either by visitors, or by the solar winder.

The Texas clock is the first of what its builders hope will be many. They have already acquired a site in Nevada for a second clock, even though there is no scheduled completion date for the first one.

The Long Now Foundation has a phenomenal website devoted to the 10,000 Year Clock. You can find it here

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