Saturday, June 25, 2011

How to Make a Clock Run for 10,000 Years

Making a clock that will run for 10 millennia is no small undertaking. In Texas, the builders have started drilling a horizontal access tunnel into the base of a ridge where the clock will live. They’ll drill a pilot hole, 500 feet straight down from the top of the ridge, until it meets the access tunnel. Then they’ll bring a 12-foot-7-inch bit into the bottom and drill it back up, carving out a tall vertical shaft as it goes.
Afterwards, they’ll install a movable platform holding a 2.5-ton robot arm with a stonecutting saw mounted on the end. It will start carving a spiral staircase into the vertical shaft, from the top down, one step at a time.
The clock, with massive metal gears, a huge stone weight, and a precise, titanium escapement inside a protective quartz box, will go deep into the shaft. A few years from now, the makers will set it in motion.
Some day, thousands of years in the future, when Bezos and Amazon and even the United States are nothing more than memories, or less even than that, people may discover this clock, still ticking, and scratch their heads.
Bezos says, “In the year 4000, you’ll go see this clock and you’ll wonder, ‘Why on Earth did they build this?’”
West Texas Clock Site
The team this year began excavation on a site in West Texas overlooking the Blue Origin spaceport. A spiral staircase will lead down to the 10,000-year clock kept underground.
700-pound, 8-foot-diameter stainless steel gear wheel
This stainless steel Geneva wheel is one of 20 similar wheels which together make up the clock's chime computer, generating a different tune almost every day for the next 10,000 years.

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