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Building the 10,000-Year Clock

Posted by Josh Rothman  November 3, 2011 02:30 PM

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Over at IEEE Spectrum, David Kushner has a great story about the Clock of the Long Now. It's being built in Texas by a consortium of investors, including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and is designed to run for 10,000 years:

Over the course of its 10 000-year life span, it will be able to power itself enough to keep time, synchronize that timekeeping with the sun, and randomly generate unique melodies on its chimes so that visitors will never hear the same tune twice. And it will do so entirely without electricity. Think of it as "the slowest computer in the world," says project manager Alexander Rose....

The designers believe there's much more to the project than just geek chic. A clock that's meant to last for 10 000 years poses a fundamental challenge for a speed-obsessed age: How do you engineer something for the very distant future and get people to care about it today?

It'll be built into a spiral staircase cut into some geologically stable rock. Just to put it in perspective, 10,000 years, as one engineer puts it, is "about how long human technology has been around." The clock will still be running in the year 12011.

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