Ten-thousand-year clock: a project of the Long Now Foundation for constructing a clockwork with a running time as close to eternity as possible.

The private ►Long Now Foundation was founded in 1996 in San Francisco to promote a public awareness that reaches far into the future. The foundation pursues several ►eternity-related projects, including the ten-thousand-year clock, as well as the Rosetta project to record and permanently preserve all languages on Earth.

Prototype of the ten-thousand-year clock

To run for at least 10,000 years without human intervention, the clockwork has to be built of extremely durable materials. As far as possible it should not contain any gear wheels, for they would tend to wear down over the millennia. At the same time, the clock should be of low material value so that future generations will not be tempted to ransack it even in during drastic economic or social crises. The source of energy should be renewable, but should not be something that can be stolen. The clock should be very precise, but not require electronic equipment, since it should be possible to repair it with the most basic tools. For the same reason, the clock should not contain any hidden or encapsuled parts, so that its mode of operation can be easily discerned. Moreover, it should be scalable, meaning that we can construct it in virtually any size using the same structural design.

These are challenging requirements. Nevertheless, the Long Now Foundation has succeeded in building such a clock. The scaled-down prototype depicted above was started at the turn of the millenium. It mechanically synchronizes itself every day according to the position of the sun and is currently at the Science Museum in London. The final clock will be built at a much larger scale on top of an isolated mountain in the Nevada desert.

Links Related to the topic

■ Long Now Foundation
■ Future Blog

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