10,000 Year Clock Sounds Like An Indiana Jones Flick – Makes Us Wonder If We’re Being Trolled

So you hear that someone is building a clock that will run for 10,000 years and you think ‘oh, that’s neat’. Then you start looking into it and realize that it’s being built on a mountain-sized scale in a remote part of the US and things start to get a bit strange. As much as it might sound like a Sci-Fi novel (or some creative trolling), the Long Now Foundation is in the process of building and installing a clock that will chime once per year for the next ten millennia.

The clock, currently under construction will be over 200 feet tall, residing in a shaft drilled in a limestone mountain in West Texas. The allusion to [Indian Jones] sprung to mind when we read that the shaft will be drilled from the top down, then have a shaft with a robot arm installed to mill a spiral staircase into the stone walls. And this isn’t the only clock planned; a second site in Nevada has already been purchased.

There are a lot of interesting features, not the least of them is a ‘chime engine’ that plays a unique tune each year that will never be repeated again. [Alex] sent us the original tip to a Wired article that covers the project in incredible detail. But we also found a SETI talks video that runs for an hour. You’ll find that embedded after the break.


54 thoughts on “10,000 Year Clock Sounds Like An Indiana Jones Flick – Makes Us Wonder If We’re Being Trolled

  1. It is certainly not a troll, and it is to my mind one of the most beautiful and meaningful public art projects in history. Fascinating engineering and a very important concept all in one.

  2. They featured it on ‘Life After People’. It’s just a prototype and it requires humans to wind it. The eventual live version was supposed to last ten thousand years. But the prototype won’t.

  3. “Why is this a hack?”

    Because they took a nice, useful mountain and turned it into a pointless, piece-o-crap.

    Ah, so it’s a Steampunk hack.


  4. In thousands of years, archaeologists will discover this thing and theorize about why some ancient mysterious civilization would build such a device, and try to figure out what it was for, much like we do now with the pyramids, Stonehenge, etc. Building this elaborate, large complex structure is nothing but trolling future civilizations!

  5. Someone is thinking economical there. This will be a Times Square ball drop murderer. Every year people will flock to these clocks, stay in a fancy hotel, get shitfaced, strip for beads, and leave the place trashed January 1st until some other tourist attraction is made in low earth orbit.

  6. @ss: And… why is this a hack?

    Because they are planning on building something mechanical that is planned to work for thousands of years. Because it is a marvel of engineering beauty, yet devoid of economic rationality. Because it will be our only intelligible trace beside from co2 and heavy metals.

  7. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen Vonskippy say anything besides how the latest Hackaday post is somehow not a hack, or sucks, or is worthless or doesn’t belong on this site. Has he ever done anything worthwhile here?

    Or in his entire life, for that matter.

    I, for one, think this is awesome, and hope to visit some time. Think about it. We dig up stuff people made five thousand years ago. Five thousand years from now, someone will find these clocks, and they’ll say “Somebody BUILT this.”

  8. @zacadee16
    Not quite. They don’t want people visiting it en masse so they’re not even planning to build roads to the mountain. That’s part of the goal of having it last 10,000 years without being vandalised into oblivion.

  9. Keeping it secret would probably be the most important part of having it last 10000 years.

    (Ok, that’s not true; having it last the lifetime of the builder with him completely convinced it will last the full 10k is the most important. If it explodes the year after he dies, he will have no less satisfaction than if it goes on for another million.)

    Society is not stable on a ten millennium time scale. At some point it will be scrapped, vandalized, replaced, etc. You’ll have someone show up like Herostratus, who burned down the Temple of Artemis just so that he would be remembered as the guy who burned down the temple of Artemis.

  10. I agree that this would be a beautiful monolith left to future discovery, and a testament to engineering with the long-term in mind, something I find woefully missing in our disposable-everything society.

    However, we’re missing an incredibly important detail here. If you’re going to build something to last 10,000 years, why the hell would you put it in a mountain of LIMESTONE? Yeah, it’s easier to cut than granite, but limestone is going to erode away much more quickly. Maybe 10,000 years isn’t enough to make a difference in that limestone, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Unless that’s what they’re going for. “And over thousands of years, the mountain eroded away to reveal a giant sphere at its core, which many believed to be the source of all creation…”

  11. @Simon: Really? Then how come the first thing you see on their page is:

    “The full scale 10,000 Year Clock is now under construction. While there is no completion date scheduled, we do plan to open it to the public once it is ready.”

    If they do open it to the public, I’m definitely expecting some kind of road to be there, and besides, once you are public, how many will show up to see it is kinda out of your hands.

    Unfortunately though, I tend to agree with the view that on that sort of timescale it will either be a) completely forgotten or b) destroyed during some large-scale historical event or by J. Random Lunatic way before it runs out of warranty…

  12. You have to remember that the Long Now Society is a group of transhumanists who think that the secret to immortality (or at least functional immortality) will be discovered in their lifetimes — hence the term ‘long now’. They don’t expect their children to be using this; they expect to use the ten millennium gongs as an alarm clock.

  13. And in 100 years after the fence around it has fallen down, some kids will vandalize the whole thing and it will be gone. Or in 50 years, people will steal the gears and other parts as they are valuable metals.

  14. @kalleguld – yup!

    bearings that will last for 10000 years?

    I’m not even sure that semiconductors we build now would last the duration…

    @Insipid Melon – Taliban and Buddhas of Bamiyan.

  15. @David
    The plans and mechanical details and everything are available on the cock’s website, http://longnow.org/clock/prototype1/

    the long now foundation embraces ideas of long term thinking and considering consequences not just generations but thousands of years away. This clock is a time piece designed to withstand such a time scale and still function with minimal human interaction when these time scales are realized.
    When im from, the church of the clock is very popular.

  16. This closk has one hell of a major design flaw. It assumes you will always be able to see the sun at noon from that mountain. There are many likely scenarios within the span of 10,000 years that would occlude the sky and it would stop.

    Seriously, think about it, we might not make is the next 100 years without nuking us all to hell

  17. I think they should include dials for the visible planets like the Antikhytera device. Will it compensate for precession?
    Maybe they should include a copy of Stonehenge, the Mayan calendar disk, the Rosetta Stone and that solar “dagger” on the indian reservation just to further confuse future archeologists, oh yeah, and the Book of Mormon.

  18. I hope they aren’t basing the year’s end on our current calender. Something of this magnitude needs to invoke the natural timekeeping of our earth’s cycle and the sun.

    And it won’t have to share the occasion with the dropping of the ball at Times Square.

  19. There is no project so good, no idea so correct that some anonymous twit can’t make fun of it on a web board.

    Here’s their website: http://longnow.org/

    You can read their reasons that they think it’s a good idea. If you disagree, do your own damn hack, send it in here, and I’ll be glad to applaud you.

  20. “I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.”
    Plant the trees already

  21. Crap it sent itself…
    “I cannot imagine the future, but I care about it. I know I am a part of a story that starts long before I can remember and continues long beyond when anyone will remember me. I sense that I am alive at a time of important change, and I feel a responsibility to make sure that the change comes out well. I plant my acorns knowing that I will never live to harvest the oaks.”

    Just plant the trees, but make them tree that will feed people, and where the people can take the fruit for free.

  22. So who owns the mountain? This is going to keep some question eternal. Who built it? Why did they build it? Why eas a society capable of building it, not capable of surviving?

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