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Long Now Clock Advances With Bezos Cash

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the seiko-kinetic-pales-by-comparison dept.

Earth 169

heptapod writes "Wired has an in-depth article about the 10,000 Year Clock and The Long Now Foundation which has begun moving forward with Jeff Bezos's investment of $42 million. Recently he put up a website with more information." My favorite-yet article about the 10,000 Year Clock appeared on Kevin Kelly's site earlier this month. (Kelly always seems to be involved in interesting projects, and is one of the movers behind this one.)

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169 comments

Saving the planet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569688)

This is important, by starting our own 10,000 year clock we should have plenty of time we can use once the Mayan calendar runs out.

Re:Saving the planet (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569978)

This is important, by starting our own 10,000 year clock we should have plenty of time we can use once the Mayan calendar runs out.

Get ready for Y10K, or the Chalam Balloon..

Re:Saving the planet (4, Funny)

Needlzor (1197267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570382)

Somehow I think they only created this project to fuck with future generations' brains. Picture this: nuclear war, everybody forgets about the clock. Year 9434: archaeologists discover the clock, somehow make it work and then all the idiots start wondering why the clock only goes up to 10 000 and make up doomsday scenarios.

Cool idea, but... (0)

cmprsdchse (656291) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569696)

won't this involve a lot of maintenance over a 10,000 year period? Are they establishing a perpetuity type scenario to support it?

Re:Cool idea, but... (3)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569708)

The idea is to build a clock that lasts that long, not pay for repairs and maintenance to run a clock for 10.000 years. RTFA

Re:Cool idea, but... (0)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569780)

The idea is to build a clock that lasts that long, not pay for repairs and maintenance to run a clock for 10.000 years. RTFA

You'd think that kind of information would be in TFS so we know WTF they're talking about. OMGWTFBBQ.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569942)

No, you'd think that kind of information would be in TFA or else TFS would be rather un *summary* like.

Re:Cool idea, but... (2, Interesting)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569982)

You'd think that kind of information would be in TFS so we know WTF they're talking about. OMGWTFBBQ.

I'd say something about how you must be new here, but I think that a six-digit ID indicates otherwise (even if it's hardly something to brag about).

Merely leaving out critical information is pretty good for a slashdot summary. I've given up complaining unless the summary actively lies or misleads. (This still leaves me plenty of opportunities to complain!)

I'm just glad the Long Now Foundation is getting some publicity! Too many people in the industry have a hard time thinking past the next couple of years. 10k years may seem like a lot when you're dealing with human history, but in other fields (astronomy, geology, archeology), it's an eyeblink. I'm glad that a time_t on 64-bit Linux handles such date ranges, but a lot of UIs still assume that years have four digits.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570372)

I'm just glad the Long Now Foundation is getting some publicity! Too many people in the industry have a hard time thinking past the next couple of years. 10k years may seem like a lot when you're dealing with human history, but in other fields (astronomy, geology, archeology), it's an eyeblink.

Astronomy, geology, and archaeology deal with things created in the long past, most of which were not created by people, and those that were human creations served their purpose in their own time. (Someone is sure to mention the Pyramids, which were supposed to protect their dead inhabitants for an unspecified long time, but which were mostly looted often within living memory of the death).

Will future generations even want a 10k year clock? Other than a curiosity, do the Jaipur Sundials [wikipedia.org] serve any purpose? In spite of their size, their accuracy is limited to about two seconds. They were obsolete before they were completed.

Would not a similar fate befall a 10k year clock? Would it not become a quaint, but useless curiosity, inaccurate enough to be useless in short order?

Building something that is obsolete before its even started, won't be maintained, is not even close to state of the art, but is expected to last 10000 years is mostly an exercise in grandiosity. "We thought this was cool, and it would make us cool, and we built it, so now all you wipper-snappers have to maintain it for centuries in our honor."

Re:Cool idea, but... (2)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569830)

Maybe it will, based on their site, they're making it as reliable as it's possible, with multiple power sources and timekeeping instruments. I don't think the costs or the knowledge will be an issue: by design, it's made to be maintainable with Bronze Age tech and its purpose and workings are to be as clear as possible to allow even a primitive civilization to take a look at it and figure out what goes where, and what does what.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570406)

it's made to be maintainable with Bronze Age tech and its purpose and workings are to be as clear as possible to allow even a primitive civilization to take a look at it and figure out what goes where, and what does what.

Bronze Age tech? I don't think so. Have you even looked at all the stainless steal in it?

The most likely fate will be that it will be melted down after the last tourist loses interest.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570502)

It has stainless steel in it now. But it can run with other materials too, I suspect the choice of materials now is optimized for initial longevity: the later they need replacements, the better chance of someone with the appropriate tech being around to fab them.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570592)

The whole thing has a post-apocalyptic mysticism about it.

Why would anyone suspect that it has to last a long time before anyone would be able to repair it?
Were you expecting the end of all human civilization and the rebirth there-of in the next 10 thousand years?

Someone has been watching too many movies.

Re:Cool idea, but... (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570666)

Were you expecting the end of all human civilization and the rebirth there-of in the next 10 thousand years?

The more appropriate question is: Can you exclude the possibility? Ten thousand years ago, we were still in the stone age. There have been civilizations which appeared and collapsed since then. And there's always the possibility of a global thermonuclear war destroying our civilization (although honestly I wouldn't expect the clock to survive an atomic bomb).

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570734)

Oh, I think it would survive easily. It's not near any important targets, has no military value to warrant pointing a warhead at it, and it's buried pretty deep to survive strikes nearby (up to certain values of nearby). Point is, there's no reason it shouldn't survive The Button.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571084)

And no reason for it to survive either. There is simply no need of a musical clock in a post-apocalyptic world.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571126)

That's true as well. But we were talking about whether it would survive the war itself. What comes afterwards is another thing, and it's quite possible that it'll be melted down for the raw materials to be used in rebuilding.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571192)

Yeah, because we all know there won't be any metal laying around once the bombs go off.....

Re:Cool idea, but... (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571134)

At no time did civilization collapse.

Societies and governments have collapsed, but civilization persisted, machines still ran, farmers still planted, and clock makers still made clocks. Nothing was un-invented. Various disasters made small localities uninhabitable, often with loss of life, but people moved on, their education (such as it was) and capabilities intact, and civilization always survived. At no time did mankind say you know what, this isn't working, lets all go back to caves and rocks, and rules of behavior, and to hell with this whole mess.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

h1q (2042122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570984)

Yeah, maybe I will start a multi-generational cult whose most holiest quest is to seek down these kinds of hipster projects and return them to the chaotic elements from whence they were forged. A portable laser could vandalize the mechanism through the quartz glass with a slashdot symbol, couldn't it? Most certainly.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570584)

it's made to be maintainable with Bronze Age tech and its purpose and workings are to be as clear as possible to allow even a primitive civilization to take a look at it and figure out what goes where, and what does what.

We have CT machines and we still can't figure out exactly what the Antikythera device did. On the plus side the LNC will be quite a bit bigger and will (perhaps) not be flooded with ocean water.

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570674)

Last time I checked, it was an astronomical computer and mechanical calendar rolled into one. Granted, this came from the translation of what was left of the inscriptions, which match up with some months of the Metonic calendar...

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570820)

Maybe it will, based on their site, they're making it as reliable as it's possible, with multiple power sources and timekeeping instruments. I don't think the costs or the knowledge will be an issue: by design, it's made to be maintainable with Bronze Age tech and its purpose and workings are to be as clear as possible to allow even a primitive civilization to take a look at it and figure out what goes where, and what does what.

But wouldn't it make more sense to produce some replacement parts in advance, instead of relying on future people to be both able and willing to produce such replacement pieces with the necessary precision (note that it is not enough to understand the basic principle; unless you are able to produce the part with sufficient precision, it will be basically worthless).

Re:Cool idea, but... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570896)

Sure, it would only be prudent. The same way they recommend testing out your newly built RepRap by printing yourself a new one.
Maybe they will leave a cache of parts, maybe just the vital ones that make the whole thing go. After all, leaving basically a duplicate of the 60-meter clock you just built would likely be prohibitively expensive...

Bozos (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569710)

If Bozos likes stuff which lasts for a long time maybe he should stop selling so much cheap through away crap in his store!

the minute hand is years? (1)

waddgodd (34934) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569712)

Great, now I'll NEVER get to work on time

(on second thought, I'll take two, one to keep at the office to prove why I'm late)

Re:the minute hand is years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569746)

LOLOLOLOLOL.

No, wait. That wasn't funny.

Archeologic interpretation (4, Interesting)

rasmusbr (2186518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569714)

Will future archaeologists interpret this as a sign that there was a cult based around timekeeping in Texas in the 2000's?

Probably not, but it is an interesting thought that it may be the case that many if not all of the most durable and long-standing monuments of ancient times essentially tell us nothing that's representative about the ancient cultures that built them. Take Stonehenge for example. Imagine if Stonehenge was built by a small group of people with too much money or resources on their hands who thought that it would be awesome to build a really, really big stone circle.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569740)

What do you think the pyramids were?

Re:Archeologic interpretation (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569906)

Well, they weren't a cult based around timekeeping in Texas in the 2000's, that's for damned sure.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569762)

Uhh. . . look at the seven wonders of the world and most all have a -well- defined purpose.

Stonehenge and easter island are some of the more obscure artifacts in the world, but its pretty well accepted that stonehenge was a somewhat mystic burial site, although its use changed over its long history several times.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (3, Interesting)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569792)

IIRC Stonehenge has an astronomical purpose - in particular determination of the equinox for calendar keeping. Kinda important if you want to know when to go out and saw your fields. The easter island statues are indeed more obscure, but most likely the result of an epic dick waving competition between competing chieftains.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570474)

Saw your fields? Oh, you mean perhaps sow....?

Seriously, all of this nonsense about huge construction projects in ancient times JUST to tell them when to sow is utter nonsense that even the most casual observer knows is demonstrably not true, yet is it mumbled authoritatively by archaeologists as if it were the pinnacle of knowledge.

How did there come to be enough people to build such a project if they did not already have a clear understanding of the seasons and were not already good judges of when to plant?

People who lived off the land for thousands of years knew the seasons. They didn't need huge monuments to tell them when to sow. If they did, they would be dead of starvation long before they built them.

These things were built for religious or political purposes, by a population which was ALREADY SO SUCCESSFUL at farming that they had a great deal of time on their hands waiting for crops to mature, or the next season to arrive, and plenty to eat.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570704)

These things were built for religious or political purposes, by a population which was ALREADY SO SUCCESSFUL at farming that they had a great deal of time on their hands waiting for crops to mature, or the next season to arrive, and plenty to eat.

Or, possibly, they got tired of continually having to rebuild the wooden structure they used to tell what season to sow the fields (it was known as Woodhenge but no traces of it survive) so they finally made the investment to produce the stone version.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571170)

You've bough into the same fallacy.

How did the survive long enough to build wooden structures to tell what seasons to sow?

Look, (puts on Gieco hat), its not hard to know when to plant. Snow melts. Ground gets warm enough to dig in with bare hands. Wild plants start growing all by themselves. Even a Cave Man could do it.

The very earth under your feet tells you when its time to sow.
Nobody needs an observatory.

Re:Archeologic interpretation (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569804)

I wonder more about whether they'll be playing the Indiana Jones march when they open it up. I know I will when I visit it when it's completed! :)

Re:Archeologic interpretation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569850)

Maybe. Every once in a while I wonder about some rock that I picked up on the beach in South Carolina when I was a kid, findig its way to France via a yard sale or something. Nevermind cow tipping. Let's get a truckload of cow bones from the butcher and burry them 10,000 feet up a mountain someplace. The future will really be scratching their heads over that one.

First priority (5, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569734)

Should be abolishing daylight saving so you don't have to change it every 6 months

Re:First priority (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570082)

From what I've read earlier (I'm now too lazy to check if that information is still up to date) this clock is intended to be automatically synchronized to the sun. Which should rule out daylight saving, I think.

Re:First priority (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570396)

But think about how much they'll save in power consumption over ten thousand years.

it won't last that long because of humans (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569744)

Even if the engineering challenges of it could be overcome (and I'm a little doubtful) humans will destroy it. Vandals 500 years from now, someone who thinks it'd make for a fun filled evening to piss on somebody's ambition.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569774)

RTFA. The location, materials, structure and building all take into account these facts. Will it actually last that long? who knows, but you arent the first person to have that thought, and if you read a little more you would realize that.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569856)

If any part of it is accessible to humans, it will be destroyed by those human. The power comes from a solar winder. That solar source must be exposed to the sun. It will be destroyed.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569928)

And I'm just the asshole to do it! In fact, sometimes I think I would have found it quite amusing to burn down the Library of Alexandria.

Hey, maybe I should form a secret society now, so that we're ready when it's finally built.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570176)

The clock can last a century with no solar power.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570578)

Which means when the solar collector and winding mechanisms are damaged, as they will be, it becomes a 100 year clock, not a 10000 year clock.

It's a great concept, I like their vision, but it isn't going to last 10K years.

Re:it won't last that long because of humans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570024)

Yes but what will the Apes do when they find it thousands of years?

The headline and article ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569752)

The headline and article should be taken out back and shot. It's the humane thing to do.

What the fuck is this? (5, Funny)

Elbereth (58257) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569814)

Since the summary doesn't tell you, I will: it's a huge, useless clock being built in the desert. It's called the "10,000 year clock" because the hands of the clock move glacially slowly. It will truly be a wonder to behold, unless it stops working after 100 years and people forget that it's even there.

tl;dr version: big, useless clock.

Re:What the fuck is this? (2)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569876)

Yes. If it requires any attendance on the scale of 100 years, then i know many cheaper, more accurate and stable methods to do it. Clock normally work over 100s of years. and if you build them electronically using high-grade components and the right circuit type, then i have no doubt you can build them redundantly with power for a longer time. The clocks on the Voyager work for over 30years and they were limited by external limitations in a substantial way.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569900)

From my understanding of the design, this isn't electronic at all. It's mechanical. Its design uses bronze age components so it can be repaired and maintained.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570282)

No. If you try to repair it, then i predict really bad chances using bronze age technology. WIth bronze age technology, a clock consisting of electromechanical relais would be more realistic to repair. You can build circuits which are very tolerant to manufacturing deviations. If you use vacuum switches, this will work for a long time.

Re:What the fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569964)

The clock is self-powering (solar cycle) and self-adjusting (solar cycle). Thus it is superior to any electronic device that isn't compensated for irregular movements of heavenly bodies.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

kenj0418 (230916) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569998)

Yeah, but those crappy Voyager clocks are always running a few milliseconds slow.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570312)

O my god! that adds up to seconds in 10000 years! God they build a mechanical clock.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

RobinH (124750) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569910)

You could call Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse both useless, but they do serve a purpose.

Re:What the fuck is this? (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570058)

The purpose of Mount Rushmore was to glorify Manifest Destiny. Does it have a purpose other than shitting on native americans?

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570732)

Since it does that adequately well, why would it need to have any other purpose. Besides being a tourist attraction and giving people an actual reason to want to visit the Black Hills, of course.

Re:What the fuck is this? (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569954)

I disagree with them building a durable physical clock and claiming success. But your post shows that you didn't get the first thing right about the Long Now project. Even this clock's design folly was useful, because it shows how far so many (probably practically all) of us are from having truly longterm vision skills.

Re:What the fuck is this? (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570280)

However, instead of focusing on building a clock, I'd focus on how to pass our current knowledge into the future so it may survive a possible collapse and re-building of civilization. This is of course a much harder problem than building a long-living clock, but also much more worthwhile.

There are three points to consider:

  • First, the knowledge itself must be stored on a medium which is durable enough to survive thousands of years. That means, it must be stored on a medium which is both durable enough that natural degradation doesn't affect it too much so that the information is basically intact after thousands of years, and on the other hand should not be useful for any other purpose (because otherwise it will disappear by humans reusing it for other purposes) and/or be stored in a place inaccessible without sufficient technology (which would make access to it available only if a minimum standard of technology is achieved). One could even plan in several stages, to be found by increasingly difficult means, so for each stage, only the information they can grok at that stage is to be found. Each stage would explain where to find the next, and contain all information about how to reach it (e.g. if one repository is in the deap sea, the previous one would convey all knowledge about submarine building).
  • Second, the knowlege must be decodable by the future people. That is, one must find a way to tell them the language the knowledge is stored in. In other words, there must be a sort of language course involved. And in case some language of today is known then, but it's not the one the information is stored in, also maybe add a sort of Rosetta stones for different languages.
  • Finally, there's the problem on how to make them find the information. This is probably the hardest part. Here, maximal redundancy would be needed. Probably a combination of cult building, writing stories involving that repository (so it gets into common knowledge in a form which is more likely to be re-told to future generations) and artefacts pointing to it distributed all around the globe (like little burned clay medals helping in locating it, which are of course mentioned in all stories about the repository).

Indeed, there could be a multi-level approach with redundancy on all levels (e.g. the burned clay medals point to one [or better, several] of many local information centers which contain a bit more information about finding more central repositories, which ultimately point towards a list of maybe one main repository per continent, which then contains the actual information.

Re:What the fuck is this? (0)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569958)

God beware someone endeavors something that is beyond the scope of the next fiscal quarter or the next election period. You of little mind are really scared by that thought, aren't you?

Re:What the fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570390)

Bezos has this habit of spending a lot of time on projects that may *eventually* pay off.
This is a phallus project and nothing more.

FTA:

Bezos says, “In the year 4000, you’ll go see this clock and you’ll wonder, ‘Why on Earth did they build this?’”

A lot of people now will still ask the same question.

Re:What the fuck is this? (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570748)

You would have a point, there, if there were a reason why anybody would care about this clock 50 or 100 years from now anymore than they do now. This isn't a "make big investment, get long-term payoff" project. To put it crudely, it's dick-size stuff.

Re:What the fuck is this? (1)

daemonc (145175) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570076)

It is obvious that:
1. You didn't read the article.
2. Even if you had read the article, and understood how they are engineering it to run for 10,00 years without human intervention, you are not the sort of person who would understand the "why".

Re:What the fuck is this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570112)

Eh, so it's like manned space travel?

Noble sentiments... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36569894)

I guess Stonehenge and the Pyramids if Gizeh evoked many of the same feelings when they were built. It seems to me mankind needs to have some sort of monuments to remind it of the majesty of time. It's easy to say that the universe is 13,7 billion years old, but it's hard to wrap your mind around the lenght of time it actually implies, the scale is simply beyond human. Things like these help us realize that. So i applaud the initiative.

Proving Themselves Shortsighted (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569940)

A project to build a clock that will ring periodically through 10,000 years must include assurance that people will recognize the clock ringing, and what time it is on it, or it's just a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear. It would demonstrate nothing about a long duration "now" in planning, execution or just thinking through as a span, except that we presently suck at it.

Which is why this project is folly. All its effort is making a physical object durable, which is of course no assurance of longevity. The chances are high that sometime in the next 10,000 years some people (if not a nonhuman natural event, like volcano) will damage, dismantle or disable the physical clock - no matter how strong some of their ancestors once made it. But even if it does last, without ensuring people around throughout the 10,000 years can read it when it rings will mean they have failed to make a "10,000 clock", though they might have made a "10,000 year machine".

The project should focus on how to enable people to recognize that it's a clock ringing through its 10,000 year lifetime. And indeed the project could be limited to only that: ensuring that people can read how stars, the Sun, the Moon and planets align to "ring" when they reach certain layouts would use the much more long lived celestial bodies as a durable clock. If they want to build a machine that will point to the skies every decade/century/millennium that's a decent next step, even if the machine is just the caption to the real clock. And to the real achievement: planning 10,000 years of viable function.

All is answered (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569990)

A project to build a clock that will ring periodically through 10,000 years must include assurance that people will recognize the clock ringing, and what time it is on it, or it's just a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear.,

Actually it generally does not ring without people there to provide energy for the chimes.

As long as there are people around, there will be at least some sporadic visitation.

The chances are high that sometime in the next 10,000 years some people (if not a nonhuman natural event, like volcano) will damage, dismantle or disable the physical clock - no matter how strong some of their ancestors once made it.

The chances are lowered a lot by the clock being quite remote, and you have to know where to look for it - no blazing neon signs.

Furthermore it's built on a scale that would make it very difficult to come away with anything from it, or to damage.

Also there is not just ONE clock. Other clocks are planned, the next to be in Nevada.... the places they have chosen are pretty geologically stable (at least on the order of 10K years).

The project should focus on how to enable people to recognize that it's a clock ringing through its 10,000 year lifetime. And indeed the project could be limited to only that: ensuring that people can read how stars, the Sun, the Moon and planets align to "ring" when they reach certain layouts would use the much more long lived celestial bodies as a durable clock.

That is in fact the POINT of the Long Now foundation, to make people think about such things. As for the celestial clock, that is in fact described in caves located inside the clock...

The physical clock is meant to act as a focal point to make people think about the more abstract concept of time and longevity.

You really need to read the book "The Clock of the Long Now" to understand philosophically what is going on here.

Re:Proving Themselves Shortsighted (1)

jmottram08 (1886654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570020)

RTFA. The clock has a astrological display. If in 10,000 years people cant look at a pendulum and imply passage of time that is their problem. The clock makers shouldn't give up because of the -possibility- that people wont understand it years from now.

On a whole other subject... (1)

Poingggg (103097) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570834)

Which is why this project is folly. All its effort is making a physical object durable, which is of course no assurance of longevity. The chances are high that sometime in the next 10,000 years some people (if not a nonhuman natural event, like volcano) will damage, dismantle or disable the physical clock - no matter how strong some of their ancestors once made it. But even if it does last, without ensuring people around throughout the 10,000 years can read it when it rings will mean they have failed to make a "10,000 clock", though they might have made a "10,000 year machine".

The weird thing is that some people think this will be a failure because of possible natural disasters and people possibly not being able to read this clock etcetera, and get hissy fits about it, while the many of the same people don't mind at all that really, REALLY, REALLY!! dangerous nuclear waste has to be safely disposed of for about 25 times as long as the period this clock is designed for and still insist nuclear energy is safe.

People are weird!

Re:On a whole other subject... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36571010)

France stores its nuclear waste in a single room. In the United States it is illegal to reprocess spent fuel. This enriches industry at the expense of the environment, and can be considered to generally fail at preventing proliferation---its stated purpose. The general rule of thumb would be that anything sufficiently radioactive to be dangerous could be reprocessed into fuel.

People are fractally weird. Economics no more or less than any other social phenomenon, including laws and the views of those that make them. Read Mandelbrot's writings on economic theory, or the more accessible books by Nassim Taleb (Black Swan, Fooled by Randomness). You yourself are 'weird' for not knowing a damn thing about nuclear physics or its practical application, and insisting (to yourself if no others) that you know better than those with that knowledge.

This is a great start (1)

djlowe (41723) | more than 2 years ago | (#36569980)

While I think that this is a great start, I think that we need to broaden its scope. I propose that we start a "Y10K Long Range Planning Committee" NOW. What's going to happen to the world's critical software systems after December 31, 9999? We need to think about this: Will there be a sufficient number of COBOL programmers available for remediation? Why, the entire financial system of the future is potentially at risk!

As I have no intentions of dying any time soon, I hereby volunteer: Please vote for me, so that I may become a board member.

Tongue in cheek,

dj

Most be built as something temporary (3, Funny)

maxwells_deamon (221474) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570088)

If you want this to last this long and not have somebody salvage it for the metal, you must make it temporary, Example: The Eiffel tower.

Re:Most be built as something temporary (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570252)

Or put it into a high orbit around the earth, and make it reflect the sunlight. At least when civilization collapses, it will be out of reach of scavengers.

Re:Most be built as something temporary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570370)

Better place it far enough out to not have to worry about orbit decay ...

Better yet, build it on the moon, large enough to be seen from Earth with a reasonably cheap telescope. Build it well and alien archaeologists will find it long after our civilization is gone.

Mayan Calendar 2.0 (2)

Ribbon Cable (1269770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570154)

The world circa 12010 C.E.: The mainstream media generates unwarranted hype concerning a time-keeping device built by an ancient civilization purported to indicate the world's imminent demise.

West Texas? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570164)

Of all things, they're building this in West Texas.

West Texas.

Because, Texas as a whole is known for its long-term thinking.

The Long Now is truly awesome, but... (3, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570196)

When Jobs finally transfers His Eternal Spirit to a glossy obsidian iThrone deep in the heart of towering Mount Sosumi, built entirely from smashed Windows and Android devices, it's going to make the 10,000 year clock look like a bit of a silly ephemeral trinket.

Winding the clock (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570232)

FTA:

It takes two or three visitors to push around the capstan of the clock and to lift its 10,000-pound stones.

The real question is: do they need to sing?

Re:Winding the clock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36571214)

He didn't mention that it was weighted by a meteorite.

Art project, not a working 10k clock (2)

h1q (2042122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570272)

For a real working clock, I would power it with U235, kilogram produces about 1 MW of power, half life 770 million years, use custom designed sub-threshold MCML circuit that uses maybe 5 nanowatts of powers, suitably redundant and protected against, trace migration, micro thermal cycling, micro accelerations, cosmic rays and so forth and boost it into an orbit outside of geosynchronous so that it will take a million year plus orbital decay.

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570608)

Of course you'll have to find a way how people are supposed to see your orbital clock. Even people without the technology to listen to radio broadcasts. Maybe blinking signals?

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (1)

h1q (2042122) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570700)

Considering each clock is using orders of nanowatts when you have almost a milliwatt to play around with, a wireless time on demand circuit could be designed to be powered by the excess power generated by your U235. How about a transmitter that would occasionally beacon with the electromagnetic signature of something uncommon, such as 294Uuo which has a half life of under a millisecond. Now a flash of that would stand out, eh?

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570786)

How about a beacon of one video frame of an analogue clock face with the correct time (relative to the clock) directed toward the earth a few times a year? Or an AI alongside the clock who in the short time it has finds an open gateway, logs on to YouTube or its successor and uploads a video if itself musing about what time it is now?

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36570864)

Considering each clock is using orders of nanowatts when you have almost a milliwatt to play around with, a wireless time on demand circuit could be designed to be powered by the excess power generated by your U235. How about a transmitter that would occasionally beacon with the electromagnetic signature of something uncommon, such as 294Uuo which has a half life of under a millisecond. Now a flash of that would stand out, eh?

To someone who has no idea what 294Uuo is? Or what even an electromagnetic signature is? Not at all.

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570936)

Well, when you are talking about million year projects, it doesn't pay to be too parochial about the electromagnetic spectrum. Whatever the dominant creature around to observe or care about an artificial time marker considers the relevant portion of its spectrum is hard to say. 294Uuo is a very short lived element a beacon of which would be unlikely to be confused with a random cosmological phenom. One especially unlikely to be just drifting around the earth.

Who is to say that that beacon would look like to our successors as a garish flashing neon sign saying GIRLS! is to us?

Re:Art project, not a working 10k clock (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36571274)

Actually, for any creature which developed on earth and is able to percept light, we can say for sure that they will be able to perceive that sort of light which reaches earth in non-negligible amount, which is mostly the visible range and neighbouring frequency ranges (UV, IR). OK, radio frequencies also reach the earth, but apart from being far less in natural intensity, due to their longer wavelength and lesser interaction with most materials they are far less useful for the main pupose eyes are developed: Perceiving the things around you.

BTW, would your 294Uuo signature radiation actually reach the ground, or would is share the fate of most electromagnetic radiation, namely be absorbed by the atmosphere?

The unlikely-to-be-natural would be in the signal the satellite sends. That signal would have to be made obviously artificial, like a sort of Morse code. Note that e.g. the DCF77 time code is also a sort of Morse code, with signal durations of 0.1 and 0.2 seconds (where "signal" means a decrease of intensity). Now to be human-perceptible, the duration of the peaks (at least the long ones) should surely be longer (and probably the signal would be appearance of light, rather than pauses, because short flashes are more easily spotted than short pauses of light).

Long clock ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570286)

... is long!

Enough titanium in that pendulum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36570424)

To build a three meter cockpit!

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