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A Clock That Runs for 10,000 Years

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the that-is-quite-a-marathon dept.

Technology 438

Justin Blanton writes "Discover magazine is running an article about a clock designed to run accurately for 10,000 years. It's essentially a "future-proof" clock that blurs the line between art and functionality through advanced engineering. From the article: 'Everything about this clock is deeply unusual. For example, while nearly every mechanical clock made in the last millennium consists of a series of propelled gears, this one uses a stack of mechanical binary computers capable of singling out one moment in 3.65 million days. Like other clocks, this one can track seconds, hours, days, and years. Unlike any other clock, this one is being constructed to keep track of leap centuries, the orbits of the six innermost planets in our solar system, even the ultraslow wobbles of Earth's axis.'"

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I have to change mine... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825330)

It only lasted 2000 years.


how very useful (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825331)

*sets alarm to wake himself up in 10,000 years*

Re:how very useful (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825344)

Then you put the snooze mode and it will ring again every century until finally you wake up... Sounds like a nifty accessory for Chtulu.

The clock requires maintenance (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825419)

The article i slashdotted, but if it's the clock I am thinking of, they made it deliberately so it requires regular winding (not sure how often). That is, it's not a "set it and forget it" type thing.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_of_the_Long_Now [wikipedia.org]

the article seems slashdotted.

Seems a bit silly to me for them to require that, given that we as a species get bored of things .. the should account for that. I suppose if someone finds the clock after 10,000 years they'll be able to crank it up .. that should be awesome to do. It should be placed in a hollow large chamber of obvious intelligent design, so that if the place is ever buried .. a future archaeologist will be able to detect it and recognize that it's not a natural cavity etc. Also I hope we're around and it's not the descendant of a mutant penguin who ends up cranking it back up rather than a human.

Re:The clock requires maintenance (2, Informative)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825569)

The timekeeping mechanism is self winding, but the display requires winding. The idea is that it will keep time regardless, but someone (or something) is required to read it, so "reward" them for being there by updating the display.

What Time Is It Now? (2, Funny)

deathCon4 (917867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825335)

Great, So when humans are all dead and long gone, Aliens will land on Earth and know to the trillionth of the second what time it is on Earth.

Re:What Time Is It Now? (5, Funny)

Eridanis42 (843311) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825493)

Will we leave a detailed description of Daylight Savings TIme? Goodness knows it confuses enough Earthlings.

Outta time (4, Insightful)

WiseOwl2001 (742135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825337)

How will we know it is keeping accurate time if nothing else is as accurate to check it against?

Re:Outta time (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825395)

If it tells you new year while it has summer temperature outside, you know that either the clock went wrong, or the global warming was real, after all :-)

Re:Outta time (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825451)

In the original article, it indicates he planned a sync or reset mechanism attached to a bi-metal strip. The bi-metal strip would be heated by sun and sync the clock up every day there was sunlight.

Re:Outta time (3, Informative)

ifwm (687373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825457)

By comparing the positions of the planets on the clock with the actual positions of the planets.

Re:Outta time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825464)


Still, no mechanical clock, however cleverly crafted, can keep perfect time for 10,000 years. So Hillis added solar synchronization: A sunbeam striking a precisely angled lens at noon triggers a reset by heating, expanding, and buckling a captive band of metal.

Re:Outta time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825479)

Easy. Just ask God if you can check his watch.

Star field accurate? Why no modern tech.? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825537)

Why doesnt the clock have an LCD display? It seems like they used lame tech. Sure they demonstrate some knowledge of analog mechanical computing ability .. but this ability has been around since the forties .. before the space age. We want humans of the future to know that we understood that the stars themselves are moving (ie, certain stars would no longer have the same relative positions in the sky ..example: Barnard's star is moving at 10.3 arcseconds per year against the background. We want to show we have that knowledge .. also the textures of the planets in the model including that of Saturn, triton, Mars etc. should be as detailed as possible. Evidence that we sent probes there. The moon should have a marking where Neil Armstrong landed. Heck even include a copy of Wikipedia on HD DVD in a simplified binary format without any complicated enoding scheme. Ok that may be a bit extreme. But I think that minimally the design of the clock should demonstrate the peak of the builder's knowledge and aspect of culture (ie, the use of the LCD display even though mechanical may be more easily understood). There is no reason we can't have both a mechanical display and an LCD display.

Re:Outta time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825559)

Atomic clocks maintain an accuracy of 10-9 s/day

Frost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825340)


What about the human factor? (3, Insightful)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825351)

I suppose this is a moot point, but there's always the human factor. Different countries' changing stances on daylight savings time, scientists deciding to eliminate a second here or there to gain a minute here or there, etc.

Re:What about the human factor? (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825487)

The ITU submitted a proposal [ucolick.org] this year that leap seconds be abandoned.

And if it's tracking UTC, or as the article mentioned, local solar time [bartleby.com], then it doesn't have to deal with stupid things like daylight savings time.

10.000 year is a long time. (2, Insightful)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825515)

500 years ago amirica was discoved (from the spanjard view), look what is acutally left of those ships.
2000 years ago the roman empire ended. Most what left of is are some ruins and some idea's
5000 years the piramids were build, look what is left of that. They are eroded. We have a vague clue of their purpose. (storing mummmies, but mummies were never found in it?)
10000 years ago? Star-gate might be right about it, maybe man did not exist in it's current form.

You might enineer it well enough to measure a wobble of the earth, but to actually package it so it can survive 10.000 years and still have a meaning is not only an engineering feat, it must be an antropology feat as well, to make people long after this understand what it is and leave it in pieces.

Re:What about the human factor? (1)

Sky Cry (872584) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825669)

If there's someone to change daylight saving time or eliminate a second here and there, then there's someone to reconfigure the clock, too.

By the time the clock stops working in 10,000 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825355)

years, Vista still won't be finished.

In related news... (1)

imrec (461877) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825360)

Creators of the clock were reluctant to discuss whether the primary purpose of the device was to schedule the release of WinFS..

Boring old news... (3, Informative)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825362)

We've known about this since when? Oh yeah, since 1996 [longnow.org]. Yawn...

Re:Boring old news... (5, Funny)

Baddas (243852) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825391)

Remember, we're talking about 10,000 year timescales. A nine year old story is practically lightning fast!

Slashdot Effect Alarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825366)

Does it have a alarm for when a site comes back online after slashdotting?

I'm impressed (2, Funny)

chrisnewbie (708349) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825368)

"Like other clocks, this one can track seconds, hours, days, and years"

Now i can get rid of my solar clock on my lawn

enough? (1)

tezbobobo (879983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825373)

Perhaps someone could tell me:

Whilst I appreciate that accurate clocks are important for some tasks, when is enough enough? Seriously, what is a task that the current atomic clocks aren't up to?

Re:enough? (1)

real_smiff (611054) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825398)

RTFA, this is not about accuracy, it's about longevity. or rather, both together, which is the hard part.

Re:enough? (2, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825416)

Actually, the current NIST atomic clock is accurate to 1 second in 60 million years, which somewhat trumps the one in the article. There's nothing this one can do that the atomic clock and a good computer couldn't do a lot better. What's special is that it manages to do all this mechanically, and with a degree of accuracy beyond most mechanical clocks.

Re:enough? (1)

vidnet (580068) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825499)

While the mechanicality is the greatest feature (the article mentions maintainability for any future civilisation, and insight into inner workings without disassembly), the clock isn't comparable to atomic clocks in that it keeps astronomical time, similar to UT1 [wikipedia.org]. Atomic clocks can only keep the equivalent of UTC (or more fitting, GPS time).

Of course, many slashdotters would probably value atomic time over astronomical time, but that's besides the point :P

Re:enough? (3, Insightful)

bpowell423 (208542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825624)

The thing that most impresses me about this clock is that it will run by itself with no required interaction for 10,000 years. It requires no external power, no attention at all. It is self-winding (he mentions barometric pressure change as a power source). As far as accuracy goes, it synchronizes to the sun when sunlight through a peep-hole heats a bimetal strip. That should re-sync the time every sunny day, so it should be accurate until it quits working. Imagine a future, several thousand years from now... maybe there's been another "dark ages" and people are just rediscovering bits of technology. Some explorer notices this cave in the side of this mountain, climbs up there, and discovers this massive clock. That's what this guy is after. He's trying to create something on the scale of a "wonder of the world" that will exist (and continue running) for millenia and cause future generations to marvel at the technology that these ancient people had.

Sure, an atomic clock is more accurate, and more useful, but it requires electricity, and I'm sure some attention to keep things running smoothly.

Although, I wonder if this mechanical clock will need to be lubricated every now and again... 5000 years from now there'll probably be some wierd religion where the priest pours holy oil over the sacred time keeper, or some such...

Re:enough? (1)

polysylabic psudonym (820466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825595)

The clock is intended to last. Not to be perfectly accurate. It improves its accuracy sufficiently to probably keep on the right day for 10 kiloyears by reseting itself every midday using a mirror and warmth from the overhead sun.

Once bitten, twice shy (5, Funny)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825375)

This is just a bunch of marketing fru-fru. The last 10,000-year clock I bought only lasted 6,738 years (give or take a month). Even if you take into account my time travel, I still should have gotten a good 8,500 years out of it, at least.

The real question is support. Will the manufacturer still be around in 3,000 years when you need to replace the little rubber feet? Are vendors and repair centers going to stock replacement parts? How much does an extended warranty cost?

Too Complex (2, Insightful)

N8F8 (4562) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825384)

For every variable you introduce, the liklihood of defects rises fivefold.

Re:Too Complex (4, Insightful)

Itchy Rich (818896) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825633)

For every variable you introduce, the liklihood of defects rises fivefold.

For every generalised statistic you quote, the likelihood of talking accurately about any specific application decreases fivefold.

These people seem to have put so much effort into thinking through possible variables that could effect this clock, from the value of the materials to the transparency of the operation, that I'd be very surprised if they didn't stop to consider one of the two most fundamental aspects: reliability.

Rambaldi (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825386)

In other news, scientists around the world have started collected schematics and writings made by a Renaissance-era scientist name Rambaldi.

G-forces (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825390)

I wonder how accurate this mechanical clock is when it is subjected to unusual g-forces.

Not mentioned in the article... (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825396)

It sounds nice, but is it Y2K compatible?

Re:Not mentioned in the article... (1)

benito27uk (646600) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825489)

Well his earlier prototypes were so I'd assume so:

"Hillis is in the process of rolling out these and more ideas in a series of increasingly complex prototypes. The first one, now on permanent display at the Science Museum in London, was financed by an anonymous donor who lent it to the museum. "The deal we offer is, if you fund the next stage of the development of the clock, we will give you a prototype," says Hillis. "We have spent millions of dollars so far--I don't know the exact number."

"The nine-foot-tall London clock uses a slowly rotating torsional pendulum, ticks once every 30 seconds, and tracks hours, sidereal and solar years, centuries, phases of the moon, and the zodiac--and happens to be hauntingly beautiful. Incredibly, its three-year-long construction was completed in a mad rush scarcely one hour before midnight on December 31, 1999. That meant there was no time to test it before the switch to the year 2000, the most complex date change in the Gregorian system since the year 1600 because it involved a once-in-400-years leap year exemption."

Re:Not mentioned in the article... (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825611)

The more appropriate question is it y10k compliant.

Re:Not mentioned in the article... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825673)

Actually, it is. The Long Nowers tend to write dates with a leading zero (eg October 19, 02005).

The word of the day is: bondsmen

The Danger of Vandals and Other Human Disasters (2, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825400)

Aside from Natural Disaster and Unusual Weather Events, the one thing I can imagine being a problem is the run of the mill ignorant human being.

The natives of Cairo stripped the pure white polished casing stones from the great pyramid to build a large number of building in their city. Nothing against the need for public housing, but it is a shame. There are plenty of other examples as well.

Re:The Danger of Vandals and Other Human Disasters (2, Interesting)

surprise_audit (575743) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825637)

From Wikipedia, another great building destroyed by stupidity:

In 1687 the Parthenon suffered its greatest blow when the Venetians attacked Athens, and the Ottomans fortified the Acropolis and used the Parthenon as a powder magazine. On September 26 a Venetian shell exploded the magazine and the building was partly destroyed.

Time as a cultural concept (1)

8tim8 (623968) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825413)

Isn't the whole concept of time a human-centered activity, meaning that concepts relating to time change over time? The clock might be able to tick off the seconds over 10,000 years, but will it be able to reset itself when the switch date of Daylight Savings Time (in the US) changes in a year or so? What about future changes of that sort? TFA is actually pretty fascinating but it sounds like the inventor paid much more attention to engineering problems than to human factors relating to the concept of time.

Re:Time as a cultural concept (1)

FinestLittleSpace (719663) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825453)

What? Daylight saving changes back.. and then foward again every year. Therefore the actual time never actually changes, it just is added to for a set period.

Re:Time as a cultural concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825617)

Shut up you blithering idiot.

Actually, it just occurred to me... (4, Interesting)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825420)

Anyone remember how "some" people get/got all worked up about the Mayan Calendar? How it "ends" at, oh I don't remember exactly, but it was supposed to end sometime around 2005 or 2006 I believe...


Who's to say that the Mayan Calendar creators simply didn't do the SAME thing these people did? That is to make a Clock/Calendar which is accurate for 'n' number of years into the future.

There is NOTHING cosmic, or "End-of-the-world-doom-and-gloom" about the Mayan calendar either... It was probably something as simple as some Mayan's decided to make their Calendar last for a LONG DAMN TIME!!!

It is probably just THAT Simple!

Just a thought.

Re:Actually, it just occurred to me... (2, Informative)

nagora (177841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825557)

but it was supposed to end sometime around 2005 or 2006 I believe

2014, I think. There was a difference in opinion between lowland Mayans and highland Mayans but it was only a matter of a year.

Also, they didn't think it was the end of the world; they thought the Gods would return and judge our progress. If they didn't like what they saw, THEN it would be the end of the world. So, obviously, we're okay...er...where's the exit again?


Re:Actually, it just occurred to me... (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825618)

The Mayan End of Days is December 21st, 2012.

You haven't been playing Hostile Waters enough.

Surprising (4, Interesting)

BronxBomber (633404) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825421)

I am surprised by the questions/comments regarding practicality. Whatever happened to doing something neat simply because "you could"?

Some similarities (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825427)

Everything about this clock is deeply unusual.

I wouldn't say that. The idea of charging people extra for timepieces with functionality they'll never use is quite common. How else do you explain so many watches that can withstand water to a depth of > 1 metre?

Re:Some similarities (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825644)

Buy yourself a £2 snorkel facemask and swim down 3-5m sometime. It's amazing what you see down there, even in cold British water
s. Certainly worth doing.

A clock (3, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825433)

Which lasts 10,000 years.
A server which last 10,000 Milliseconds .
A story about an atomic clock being 9 years out of date has a certain poetry to it .

I first read about this in 1998 (3, Informative)

EchoMirage (29419) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825434)

I'm not usually one to complain about the age of articles on Slashdot, but I first read about the Long Now project in a Wired cover story published in 1998 [wired.com]. Perhaps the article submitter didn't know about it until now, but this is far from a new project.

However... (1)

jettoki (894493) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825444)

...this one uses a stack of mechanical binary computers capable of singling out one moment in 3.65 million days.

Unfortunately, these computers suffer from the dreaded Y12K Bug.

But is it blinking 12:00? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825447)

Damn power cord.

American time zones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825456)

I wonder if it will convert stupid American acronyms for time-zones like EST that's nobodies ever heard of to the more sensible GMT-5 (or UTC) like the rest of the world use.
How many man years does that waste for the rest of the planet doing the conversion.

Too good to pass up... (1)

farnsaw (252018) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825459)

This is just too good to pass up so I won't!

Did they plan for the Y10K bug?

Built in 1996... must run Windows 95... must have been rebooted too many times to count already.

Current computer uptime records are very sub 100 years.

Stonehenge was designed for the same thing and it is only 5000 years old.




Great, does it have an alarm? (5, Interesting)

MrDelSarto (95771) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825466)

With all this fantastic clock technology, where can I get an alarm clock that has technology that wasn't cutting edge in 1969?

I'd like

  • Ability to set different alarms for Monday-Friday and Sat-Sun
  • Multiple alarms, so I can get up early and my parter can sleep in until the second alarm for her goes off
  • Digital tuning (AM/FM) and volume control
  • Ability to match a station/volume to a function: i.e. go to sleep with quiet AM radio and wake up to loud FM radio

Clock radios haven't changed at all since I first got one when I was about 5! Someone out there must be able to package up a glorified palm pilot with some big buttons and red led's and make a killing. These days you could put 802.11 in it and get weather/traffic reports on a led ticker ... I'm sure there is a market!

Re:Great, does it have an alarm? (1)

Flaming Babies (904475) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825546)

The "Dual Alarm" allows a time for radio and a separate time for the buzzer.

Each supports: Every Day, M-F or Sat-Sun and the RADIO alarm lets you set the station to play
when it comes on, which can be different than the station played for 90/60/30/15/ minutes
with a different volume setting.

Turning the alarms on and off is easy (just press the Radio or Buzzer buttom - each time it
turns on or off the alarm). Push and hold the radio or buzzer button to set the alarm time
for the alarm in question (radio or buzzer).

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000 1Y6J1Y/103-8033020-0764649?v=glance [amazon.com]

Sundials (1, Insightful)

zenst (558964) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825468)

Sure there many old ones about that still work without needing there battery changing or winding up ;).

Re:Sundials (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825604)

Indeed, there's the one clock known as "solar system" which already works quite fine since millions of years. Indeed, it worked great for such a long time that on one of its hands life evolved ...

Lots of nerds missing the point, here (4, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825476)

Yes, we could spend all day talking about the technicalities of the clock, the politicization of human calendars, and what the odds are of the thing not getting blown up by someone who thinks that only Allah Knows What Time It Is, etc... but the whole point of the project is cultural/philoshopical. It (as the finished project is conceived) is a conversation piece designed to make observers actually think past what they're going to have for lunch, and whether or not Battlestar Galactica is a re-run or not tonight.

By checking the clock to see what time it is, in the context of a 10,000-year swath of time (still a geological/evolutionary blink of an eye), one is at least encouraged to keep that larger context in mind. It's intended to dimish the long-term weight of petty squabbles, perhaps remind people that 10,000 years back we were in an ice age, that sort of thing. Might even make you think about your 401k contribution (or forget about it!).

Re:Lots of nerds missing the point, here (2, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825542)

whether or not Battlestar Galactica is a re-run or not tonight.

Since the current season of BSG has ended the answer to that question is yes so you need not bother to wonder.

Read the Long Now website (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825565)

indeedy - read the long now website - they are aware that for it to last 10,000 years it will need to be woven into the social/ ritual fabric of culture.

As you rightly point out, it just takes one group of people to trash it, hey in the UK lots of people got upset about the Taleban blowing up the Buddha statues in Afghanistan, but then remembered we also destroyed most of our own religious heritage through a series of political /religious fundamentalist purges - Richard Lionheart [wikipedia.org] (lets sell gold and relics to fund the war and pay for freeing the king) Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monastries [wikipedia.org] (I'm going to start my own flavour of Christianity so I can marry again, this gold will do nicely), and Puritanism [wikipedia.org] (destroy the evil Catholic relics). Seems like humans do a pretty good job of trashing their long term histories every few years :-)

Reminds me of this (3, Informative)

MikeHunt69 (695265) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825528)

The most complicated portable watch ever made is the Patek Philippe Calibre 89 [fortunecity.com] pocket watch. Although it doesn't keep track of the wobble of the earth, it does keep track of things like sunrise/sunset, the position of the stars, moon phases, leap year, etc.

I don't know the price but since their wristwatches start at around USD$8,000 and go up to over $200k, I suspect you could buy a very nice car for the price. Patek make rolex look like cheap crap (which is mostly true).

It's a beautiful idea (2, Informative)

hywel_ap_ieuan (892599) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825530)

What a beautiful concept. It reminds me of the kinds of things that I sometimes come across in fantasy and sci-fi stories. They don't have to be integral to the plot, but they illustrate the world the author has conceived - think of the statues at the Falls of Rauros in LoTR.

The references in other comments to atomic clocks miss the point entirely. Atomic clocks are about precision and accuracy. This clock is concerned with accuracy, but only at long scales. A mechanism to re-set to local noon, as described in the article, is plenty to catch the daily drift and would probably compensate for running fast/slow for many days if the sky were cloudy. For the kind of astronomical time this clock is concerned with, being a few seconds behind or ahead is irrelevant.

Applied Minds (2, Informative)

hoshino (790390) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825561)

I believe that this is the same clock that was mentioned by Time a few weeks ago in an article on Danny Hillis, the co-founder of Applied Minds [appliedminds.com].

These guys are geniuses, the kind you see in movies. Danny Hillis himself thought up the idea of parallel processing for his doctaral thesis while he was a grad student. They don't specialize in any fields, they apply their creativity to R&Ds in almost any field, be it medical, defence or engineering.

They are the ones who created that voicebox [prnewswire.com] which replies incomprehensible snippets of your voice to prevent eavesdropping, a human-size Dino [wikipedia.org] robot walking around Hong Kong Disneyland that can mingle with the tourist without any danger because it is able to shift its weight such that if its foot encounters an eggshell, it can back off without breaking it. (that's in the middle of a step) and the company also created a tabletop display that can show a 3D view of any location on earth by using thousands of pins to replicate the actual reliefs.

Impressive engineering. (2, Insightful)

standards (461431) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825615)

This clock is designed to be more of a monument than a useful timepiece - something that will help people understand their short time on earth, versus a science instrument.

However the engineering effort to make this clock as accurate and as long-lasting as promised is truly impressive. Few things built today are designed to last that long (exception: perhaps long-term nuclear waste storage?) The materials : stone, steel, tungsten - and the size of the parts, and the mechanics of the thing that allows for 10,000 years of wear, along with easy maintenance - man, these are not things that even your top-notch mechanical engineer does.

Interestingly enough, this guy is working on a long term clock, while others can't even get little clocks to work right. Some public clocks [blogspot.com] can be grossly imprecise. It's funny how someone running a time service can't get their own time right. Hopefully the telcos will hook up their time services to this clock - or NTP services. Whichever is easier.

How do you win at tic-tac-toe? (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825623)

From TFA:

``As an MIT undergrad in 1975, Hillis and his friends built a binary computer out of 10,000 Tinkertoy pieces. It could beat all comers at tic-tac-toe.''

Okay, I _must_ know this secret --- I've taught my kids to play, and while I can still beat my son (age 5), my daughter and I _always_ wind up with a tie. I even saw a movie once where this nifty supercomputer called Joshua couldn't win a game....


firmware upgrades will be needed (1)

tota (139982) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825626)

Whenever someone decides to add another leap day (every 400 years or something) or take one out (every ~2000)

or when a disaster has a big enough impact to make the earth wobble (tsunami 2004 anyone?)

How do you upgrade your watch?

Materials (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13825632)

It's almost a footnote in TFA, but it seems like the materials questions pose the greatest obsticles here. The clock is largely mechanical in it's action. So this would involve building a mechanical system that needs to run smoothly (read: without stiction ANYWHERE in the main stack) for 10,000 years. Obviously, anything that will corrode is probably not the best idea. Not only that, but the parts need NOT to bend under their own weight in 10,000 years--no way to seal out gravity. Finally, since there are a lot of moving pieces, this needs somehow to be lubricated in such a way that 10,000 years of dust and grit can't clog the mechanism. Even if you seal the mechanism in some kind of dustproof inert gas chamber, now you've got to ensure your seal holds for 10,000 years...

This is an interesting concept, but it seems like there's a LOT of cleverness that needs to come out in the choice of materials if this is going to go from something that in theory could possibly run for 10,000 years to something that we'd actually EXPECT to have run for 10,000 years.

I've got the same thing.... (0, Troll)

se7en11 (833841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825640)

I've already made one of these. If you don't believe me, you're more than welcome to come back in 500 years to check it. Na nana boo boo

Cesium? (1)

pvera (250260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825649)

Is this more precise than a Cesium atomic clock? When it comes down to it, all the leap calculations, etc. are programmatic and are not related to super-accurate timekeeping. What you really want is a really stable timing signal, which is pretty much what you get out of a Cesium atomic clock.

I don't know if this is done in the civilian industry, but back in my military satellite communication days, we used to keep no less than two Cesium clocks on site at all time. These produced insanely accurate 10 MHZ and 1 Pulse per second signals which were then distributed to all our other electronics equipment in-house. All our up/down converters, multiplexers, modems, etc. relied on this centralized clock. If one of the clocks got out of sync we were not even allowed to fix it ourselves, instead these were shipped over to the US Naval Observatory, which was in charge of dealing with these.

Is it Mac compatible? (1)

gearmonger (672422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825661)

This will be good...when the apes inherit the earth, at least they'll know the correct date and time.

Only 12,000 years? (1)

FishandChips (695645) | more than 8 years ago | (#13825672)

I guess that clocks are literally "future proof" since they can only tell the time today, right now. Bit of a limitation really.

Maybe some billionaire will end up with it. Good luck to the makers! But I suspect the builders of Stonehenge might have scoffed a little. Their clock is still going and it has no moving parts.
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