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Earth The Almighty Buck Technology

Long Now Clock Advances With Bezos Cash 169

Posted by timothy
from the seiko-kinetic-pales-by-comparison dept.
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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Long Now Clock Advances With Bezos Cash

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      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..

    • by Needlzor (1197267) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @03:30PM (#36570382) Homepage
      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.
  • 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)

  • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @01:45PM (#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.

    • 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.

      • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @01:59PM (#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.
        • by icebike (68054)

          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 pla

    • I think the phrase is "more money than sense."

    • 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! :)

    • by evilviper (135110)

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

      We don't interpret the great pyramids at Giza as having been built by a "cult". The scale and expense is far too massive for either the pyramids or this (giant Seiko watch) to be so misunderstood.

      So, if lost to time and rediscovered, archaeologists will likely interpret this as a large governmental project, built by a large, relatively technologically advanced nation... which worshiped

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      The region (well, 700 miles to the south) has been continiously inhabited by pyramid building tribes for the last 1200-2000 years. If anything, they would assume that this is simply an extension, or peak of that civilization. Assuming they find it. It is, afterall, buried inside of a mountain in one of the more inhospitable parts of the country.

  • by rossdee (243626) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @01:49PM (#36569734)

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

    • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • by Elbereth (58257) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @02:02PM (#36569814) Journal

    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.

    • by drolli (522659)

      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.

      • by RobinH (124750)
        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.
        • by drolli (522659)

          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.

      • by kenj0418 (230916)

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

        • by drolli (522659)

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

      • by brunes69 (86786)

        The whole point of the 10,000 year clock is that it can work and keep extremely accurate time for 10,000 years with no intervention, at all. It is 100% mechanical. The clock resets it's time daily by the rise and setting of the sun causing expansion and collapse of tungsten, which is projected into it's protective cave through a 100% sapphire lens.

        It is quite an ingenious project if you actually RTFA. The whole point of it is if there is some kind of worldwide wipe-out, at least we will have some remnant of

        • by drolli (522659)

          No, i got the point. And the synchronization with the sun is also tricky. However if it needs to be wound up every hundred years, then its *not keeping the time without intervention*. And a 100% sapphire lens is *not* a purely mechanical technology.

          Making lenses is much more complicated than making a simple wire-wound coil.

    • by RobinH (124750)
      You could call Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse both useless, but they do serve a purpose.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      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.

      • 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 n
        • by Teancum (67324)

          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.

          I take it that you haven't bothered reading up on the Long Now Foundation.

          Trying to pass on knowledge is in fact one of their earlier projects [rosettaproject.org], where they are trying to create the equivalent of the Rosetta Stone, but with modern languages and the ability to translate between all currently known written languages. They are betting that one of these languages is going to survive for another 10k years or more (in some form), but they aren't betting just on English or even a European language. In addition, th

    • 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?
      • 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.

        • Just the other side of the coin. You are baffled by something that can't be quantified by "investment" and "payoff". Lack of perspective.
    • by daemonc (145175)

      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".

    • "tl;dr version: big, useless clock."

      But pyramids are so 4000 BC.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @02:20PM (#36569940) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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,

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        Not really. The "ifs" you postulate, whether energy for the chimes or sporadic visitation, are at odds with the remoteness strategy for preservation. But there's no reason to believe the location(s) will be remote for the next 10,000 years. It's not uncommon for an ice age to recede, civilizations come and go, and another ice age arrive over that scale. And we're just starting a significant climate change right now that can reverberate back and forth for the next 100 centuries.

        Yet around the world are artif

        • The beefs about location are overcome through multiple clocks being built; but beyond that the high desert location currently selected seems unlikely to be affected by a new ice age (and I agree that it's pretty likely one would be seen in that timeframe).

          The preservation of the idea of any artifact as clock is the first order of business.

          I respect your obviously greater and closer experience to the whole thing than myself; I have only read the book and followed the project with interest from afar.

          But I'm n

    • 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!

      • by msevior (145103)

        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!

        There are many, many toxic substances in the earth. Many

  • Although he might have the one-hand patent?

  • 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,
  • by maxwells_deamon (221474) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @02:42PM (#36570088) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @02:56PM (#36570196) Homepage
    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.
  • by hackertourist (2202674) <hackertouristNO@SPAMxmsnet.nl> on Saturday June 25, 2011 @03:01PM (#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?

  • 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.

    • by necro81 (917438) on Saturday June 25, 2011 @07:39PM (#36572260) Journal
      If your goal is simply to build a device that can tick off the seconds for 10,000 years, then perhaps your design has merit. But the whole point of building this is to create a human experience, not merely an horologic device. People need to be able to experience the clock and, where possible, interact with it. That experience and interaction, and the reflection about time and civilization that comes with it, is what these people are trying to create. Without the human element, the clock is just an artifact that can be easily lost or forgotten. If you put it far out into orbit, then you completely remove it from humanity, and what value can it then have? Even in this day and age, no one will be able to visit it. If civilization collapses sometime in the next 10,000 years - not inconceivable if you ask me - then no one will even know that it's there. In both cases it may as well not exist. If you build it as you describe and put it here on Earth, radioactive concerns aside, what will visitors see: a big hot ingot connected to a bunch of (possibly) indecipherable equipment, attached to a bunch of indecipherable "chips" (if they'd even be recognized as such) that would be difficult if not impossible to grasp except by someone with 20th+ century knowledge and tools. And that doesn't even begin to dive into maintenance or repair.
      • by Teancum (67324)

        The reason for the interaction it to make sure that the location is something that people will want to preserve if they happen to stumble across it. If it is something mundane looking and ordinary, or perhaps appears incredibly valuable in terms of something that can be stripped for resources rather than being admired for what it does, then this project will have failed.

        There was a huge push for "time capsules" in the 1950's, which a whole bunch of them that were scheduled to be opened at the beginning of

    • For a real working clock, I would power it with U235, kilogram produces about 1 MW of power, half life 770 million years....

      Fission or decay?

  • Is Bezos cash Jeff's answer to Bitcoins?
  • by AP31R0N (723649) on Sunday June 26, 2011 @06:10AM (#36574998)

    Anyone else find it troublesome that Bezos is putting $42M into THIS? Or more troublesome still, that Bezos HAS $42M. Or that he has $42M to THROW at anything?

    At 4% that money could generate $1,680,000 per year for scholarships, or school renovations, health education or or or or or.

    *sigh*

    • by u38cg (607297)
      And if that $42m buys humanity's focus on its long term future, it will be the best $42m anyone ever spent.
    • Stop salivating about how nobly you'd spend someone else's money.

    • by Kattspya (994189)

      No, I don't find it troublesome that he spends his cash they way he sees fit. What I do find troublesome is the amount of hypocrisy it takes for you to complain about Bezos spending while still spending money on an internet connection instead of saving some starving children with that money instead.

      You see, if you come by money or goods voluntarily you are free to spend it the way you see fit. You should afford the others the same freedom.

      Condescending, moi?

  • This is a DIRECT rip of the Millenial clock(s) described in Neal Stephenson's Anathem [wikipedia.org]. As a community of geeks, I'm surprised nobody else has made the connection.

    The millenial clock in anathem:
    - was synchronized by a shaft of sunlight
    - triggered an 'event' (in this case opening a door) every 1, 10, 100, and 1000 years (ok so he didn't describe how the 1000 year door worked)
    - was human-powered, and wound by people working on a capstan-style winder
    - had a backup power supply, i

    • The similarities are so close that this is actually a direct copy, not original work. And in the absence of any kind of credit or mention of Neal Stephenson's name, the word plagarism leaps to mind.

      No at all, Stephenson in fact does properly assign credit [nealstephenson.com]. I'd consider him entirely in the clear.

    • Dummy.

      Stephenson was involved in the early discussions of the 10K clock, and he has stated that Anathem is intended as a tribute to the project.

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