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10,000 year clock gets lowered into Texan mountain (theengineer.co.uk)
304 points by fanf2 on Feb 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments



This is great news! Thank you for posting this, Tony!

The Long Now site says, "Located under a remote limestone mountain near Van Horn, Texas, it will require a day’s hike to reach its interior gears. Just reaching the entrance tunnel situated 1500 feet above the high scrub desert will leave some visitors out of breath, nicked by thorns, and wondering what they got themselves into." Presumably that means Jeff wants to make it a little bit challenging for people to find the Clock, at least for a few years.

http://longnow.org/clock/

The Clock is designed to require the Hero's Journey to reach, because it's primarily designed to inspire, to bring people to spiritual experiences, not to tell time.

Also, keep in mind that the greatest risk to the Clock is human vandalism and looting — the one thing you can't protect against by design, although they've certainly tried. If the Clock survives a century without anyone visiting it, it will have made it 1% of the way to its design lifespan.

They've published enough photos and videos that it should be possible to find, though.


I wouldn't really say it requires a "hero's journey" to reach when the road they have bulldozed to the top of the mountain is apparently passable by 5-ton sized flatbed cargo trucks.

It appears to be on privately owned land that is part of a huge ranch in the area. So maybe the hero's journey is avoiding angry texans with shotguns if you either (a) cut the padlock off the gate that blocks vehicle access to the road up the mountain, or (b) park your vehicle near the gate and ride a mountain bike up the road.


Yeah, it would be counterproductive to require all the construction workers to undertake a quasi-religious pilgrimage every day in order to reach the worksite. I'm talking about the plan for visitors, which doesn't require any actual heroism; it's based on Joseph Campbell's synthesis of world mythology described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey or http://www.tlu.ee/~rajaleid/montaazh/Hero%27s%20Journey%20Ar.... The best textual source I've found online explaining the specific plan for the obstacles to reaching the Clock is at https://www.edge.org/conversation/the-mountain-and-the-clock, although that was talking about the Nevada site, which hasn't been finished yet, because Jeff has a lot more money than the Foundation does. Stewart Brand gave a TED talk on the subject in 2004; the Monomyth bit starts about 5'30": https://www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_on_the_long_now

Cookiemon's comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16451497 links to Danny Hillis's lecture at https://soundcloud.com/longnow/progress-on-the-10000-year-cl... which also talks about the Monomyth and theme park design.


i'd say... for now


If 4chan can find a flag on a webcam, people can find this clock.


The clock is fully intended to accept visitors, if you check out the site longnow.org/clock/ you'll see there are certain "features" for people visiting the clock.

The 4chan CTF was truly epic and hilarious though.


> The 4chan CTF was truly epic and hilarious though.

I looked up the story expecting "epic and hilarious", and got "/pol/ Neo-Nazis harass a bunch of people for not liking Trump and steal an anti-Trump flag. But look how clever they were about stealing it!"

Is there some other, similar story that I'm missing?


A bunch of people saw an A-list celebrity do a publicity stunt and wanted to have fun with it.

As far as the "Nazis!" claim goes you need to be able to read between the lines if you want to read an imageboard as trollish as 4chan. And if you want to see who really is behind the posts you can look up the first "He will not divide us" event at a New York museum. Spoiler alert: It's not nazis. ;)


A bunch of people decided to do the equivalent of scrawling graffiti over an A-list celebrity art piece. These are people whose, to quote 'pg, only way of making a mark on the world is by literally writing their name. It just seemed childish and immature to me.


> have fun with it.

"The trolls started targeting people who went to the protest and, when figuring out their identity, fucking with them for days." https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d7eddj/4chan-does-first-g...

'"I've never had so many people tell me that they wanted to see me die and to kill myself." Then 8chan users got hold of Paper's address. He said they've been harassing his family. "I just got off the phone with my mom and people are basically like calling my house and leaving voicemails, racist voicemails," he said.' https://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/what-happens-when-alt...


4chan doesn’t have natural defenses against “normie” invaders that other sites have (moderation, identity), so it developed a potent meta-defense. Anyone who takes the site literally will find themselves extremely confused and upset like your parent post. In the old days it used to be gore posting to make newbies flee. It’s defenses are constantly evolving as paid online agitators try to control the message there (as they have successfully done on other more straightforward platforms that limit free speech yet supposedly have far more resources to prevent shilling). Turns out free speech is very powerful indeed.


That's a romantic way to look at it I suppose. As somebody on 4chan for a little more than a decade now I'd say that it slowly moved from an anarcho-libertarian community who loved gratuitous provocation to an alt-right echo chamber, at least as far as the big boards are concerned.

"Hitler did nothing wrong" went from a provocative joke to a political stamement. 4chan is the embodiment of "any community that gets its laughs by pretending to be idiots will eventually be flooded by actual idiots who mistakenly believe that they're in good company".

That puts modern 4chan in the somewhat ironic position of being actually on the side of the American government for the most part something I couldn't really imagine 2007 ever endorsing, regardless of the who's in charge.


> "Hitler did nothing wrong" went from a provocative joke to a political statement.

I'm sort of fascinated by the phenomenon, which I think of as "LOLgical argument". You start off with a joke where the humor is based in an extreme and socially transgressive statement. It could be "Hitler did nothing wrong," or "The Earth is flat," or any number of similarly absurd ideas. The original users are trolls who privately do not actually believe what they are saying, but enjoy "rustling jimmies" and the increased status their daring obtains.

But as more members of the community join in, the original statement loses its edge, and even more transgressive poses are needed to continue the joke. Often this means doubling-down, and telling others that you do indeed believe the thing that they had, at some level, still been treating as a punchline.

This meta-joke involves finding "proof" that the shocking thing you said before was actually true, and demonstrating your commitment, by creating memes and other "evidence"-based arguments for it. In doing so, you begin to create a community that becomes indistinguishable from a community that actually believes the original statement.

As these arguments pile up, even trolls who started off disbelieving their original statement find themselves surrounded by "evidence" they were right all along. There is a swell of camaraderie as those who were bold enough to question the official version of reality begin to support each other. The community pressure, the ego boost of having discovered some secret suppressed knowledge, and the psychological difficulty of abandoning their previous position all contribute to the complete conversion of a troll into an earnest believer.

I find this fascinating because it works in such opposition to the ways we normally talk about convincing people of new ideas. It's not the logic of the argument here that leads people to a new conclusion but rather the logic of the joke, the idea that the funniest punchline to an absurd joke is to actually believe it. When enough individuals in a community feel that way, they can actually end up convincing each other.

So it's not so much that the community becomes "flooded by actual idiots" as it is the original trolls who become believers themselves.

Vonnegut once wrote, "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." He was probably more right here than he knew.


I think your analysis is accurate. These past years reddit's "The Donald" community is a prime example of that, except it went through all phases in about a year, maybe even less.

But I also think you need to take into account that many of the original users who genuinely did not seriously believe the "Hitler did nothing wrong"/"Hearth is flat"/"Donald Trump would make a great president"/... meta-joke end up leaving when things get serious. It's actually a feature for the extremists who push these ideas, if you're not with them you're against them, it's all about creating an echo chamber at this point. Reddit is terrible for that because of the moderation and voting system but even on 4chan good luck trying to argue against the hivemind, you'll just get insulted over and over until the thread 404's. Eventually you give up and stop bothering.


4chan has always been flooded by idiots. Society around it has changed and 4chan’s beliefs on how to maintain its first amendment rights against a state apparatus that increasingly threatens its existence has gotten a bit sharper in tone, but “Hitler did nothing wrong” is still the joke it always was. There are a few actual nazis on the board, but that has always been the case because nowhere else are they tolerated; perhaps you have the rose-colored glasses? Polite society has also defined classical liberals and anarcho libertarians both as “alt right”, the label is increasingly watered down to mean anything not progressive enough.

Besides, 4chan is still the fedora-tipping site that mocks religious fundamentalists, it’s just progressives have become just as uptight and strict about their sacred beliefs (if not more so), so 4chan mocks them too. Because it’s funny.


Finally, someone with a clue.

4chan behavior is canary in coal mine.


Yeah, the problem with pretending to be stupid on the internet is that actual stupid people rally around you and take heart. When you're pretending to be a Neo-Nazi by harassing people just like an actual Neo-Nazi, there's not really a material difference in the lives of the people you're harassing.

Remember that white supremacist march last year where one of the marchers suddenly tore off his white shirt and started crying that he wasn't really a Nazi, he was just doing it for the lulz and everything got out of hand?


So the people who tracked down random anti-Trump protesters and their families and bombarded them with thousands of death threats were only pretending to be Neo-Nazis?

That makes it all okay, then.


It was a video stream with only the flag and the sky visible. You have to admit, the actual achievement is quite impressive.

Despite their ... Dubious intent.


Sure, but "reprehensible though technically impressive" is a far cry from "epic and hilarious."


Yeah, I didn't mean to elevate the action in that way - I struggled in finding the words to convey the amount of work put into the task but at the same time explaining the stupidity surrounding it. Looking back I think technically impressive while highly antisocial and pathological would have made better descriptions.


I don't think it's all that amazing they just used some pretty standard tools/techniqies and available info..some learned about parallax in high school. I ask: how many of them id'd the Tsarnaev brothers??


Edit: *someone. either way- to those downvoting me: Please tell me how it's even remotely novel what they did?


Here's what they did:

1. watched live streams of the flag

2. studyied the flight patterns and contrails of the airplanes passing overhead

3. mapped out what they saw and took their findings to flight radars to try and pinpoint a general area.

4. Using the knowledge gleaned from the flight patterns they found that the location was near Greeneville, Tennessee

5. users studied the star patterns and their movements and with that, plus a tweet that Labeouf sent out in a Tennessee diner, the trolls were able to narrow the area even further—to a small patch of land between a house and a river.

6. Drove around and honked their car horn until picked up by the live stream

This is not hard to do and hardly novel. Also done using all public information and the target used poor opsec.


Personally, I think it's pretty cool, for pretty much all of the reasons you list. Clearly it's not to you, and that's okay. I suspect you were down voted perhaps because your comment comes off the same way as when someone comes up with a new app or service and someone else says "oh, I could whip that up in a weekend", particularly as you didn't provide any support for it initially. The fact that someone put all of these things together to solve the problem in and of itself makes it interesting to me. A pretty successful hack, in my opinion.


Fair enough. The lengths they went to in order to accomplish the task despite its mundanity is, admittedly, cool. Maybe I should've said their methods weren't interesting or novel. Thanks for clarifying.


Well documented by the Internet Historian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_p4h3jwJob0&list=PLHTeAiqTTl...


If you you've forgotten the details of that episode, here's a link: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d7eddj/4chan-does-first-g...


I've never heard this story, but _that is fascinating_


See my comment below. I think that must be it.


Danny Hillis discusses the thinking behind locating it in a remote mountain here https://soundcloud.com/longnow/progress-on-the-10000-year-cl...

But the entire talk is worth listening to.

It's not intended to be a secret - it's there to be visited (I hope one day to visit it myself), the mountain is part of a pilgrimage to better frame the experience.


Haven't they advertised visits and tours for members of the foundation? Could have sworn I saw that early on in the project.

I never got the impression it was supposed to be hidden--just physically difficult to reach.

Can't wait for the first ADA lawsuit, though...


Given the vandalism risk as you say, combined with it being buried in a mountain and being fully mechanical, it's probably one of the few machines whose life would be improved by nuclear war or an asteroid extinction event.


The article is very short, and specifically says bezos has encouraged people to visit it.


Most Americans won't be able to visit because overweight/obesity issues.


Wtf man, what's your problem?


I would visit so it's not my problem. Unhealthy people typically don't enjoy outdoor activities or find them too challenging.


Do you think it's insensitive to point out one of the most glaring problems with a nation that claims to be superior at everything?


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States

I'm not sure if obesity will prevent them from visiting though.


Or does it?

> "Penn Jillette suggested that the real way to do this is make a video documentary of the making of the clock and then hiding it, but not actually doing it," Rose says. "(The clock) never gets found, but people would become intrigued. The mystery of the clock becomes the real thing." [1]

[1] https://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/THE-MARCH-OF-TI...


Write a book that allegedly contains hidden messages that reveal the location of the clock. The book itself is teaching valuable lessons for the humanity. Only those who follow the teachings with pure heart will find the clock.


The final message is that the 10'000 year clock was always in your heart.

Neal Stephenson wrote that book, it's called Anathem.


The foundation claims that Anathem was inspired by this project:

http://blog.longnow.org/02008/07/21/anathem-and-long-now/


"""

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

"""


> The biggest problem for the beating Clock will be the effects of its human visitors. Over the span of centuries, valuable stuff of any type tends to be stolen, kids climb everywhere, and hackers naturally try to see how things work or break. But it is humans that keep the Clock’s bells wound up, and humans who ask it the time. The Clock needs us. It will be an out of the way, long journey to get inside the Clock ringing inside a mountain. But as long as the Clock ticks, it keeps asking us, in whispers of buried bells, “Are we being good ancestors?”

http://longnow.org/clock/


"Ozymandias" (1818) by Percy Bysshe Shelley


What a fitting poem.


I've known about this project for a long time, but I was just reminded of the song "Particle Man":

   He's got a watch with a minute hand
   Millennium hand and an eon hand
   And when they meet it's a happy land


What happened to their Nevada site up in the White Pine Mountains? What made them choose the Van Horn area instead?

Long Now, by the way, has a great center and bar at Fort Mason in San Francisco. It's my favorite place to get a drink in the city--great bartenders, very low-key, and lots of interesting stuff to look at.


One of the web sites claims that the Texas site is just a prototype (!) and that they're still planning to build the real clock in Nevada. But it also seems conceivable that there might be different factions or funders favoring different sites and that that sort of thing might lead to a bifurcation in the plans and timelines.


Jeff Bezos donated umptymillion dollars and said "build it on my ranch". When he donates enough to build two clocks on the condition you build him one, it seems fair enough.

It also turns out that Texas is very similar to Nevada in terms of geological stability, so it makes a similar amount of sense.


Perhaps similar to The Foundation and the Second Foundation---one to be public, the other, private.


What would you be inclined to do if you were making something truly unique, something that required amazing attention to detail and custom effort?

Make two.


Now if they could get to repairing the solar system model at The Interval ;)

I've been stopping by at midnight for the past year or two in hopes that I'll be able to see the system in action, but alas it appears the system is so complex that repairs are costly. For those of you intrigued with The Long Now and are based in SF - definitely visit The Interval, it's one of the more interesting "themed" bars out there with books and a collection of mini exhibits dedicated to science, art, and music.


In case you want to visit, both the Amtrak Texas Eagle (LA to Chicago) and the Amtrak Sunset Limited (LA to New Orleans) pass right through Van Horn.

The Amtrak Station is technically in Sierra Blanca, TX FYI.

https://m.amtrak.com/h5/r/www.amtrak.com/routes/texas-eagle-...


Have you ever been to Texas? Why would you take a train for a dozen hours when you could fly and rent a car for far less money?

When you finally get to Sierra Blanca, then what? There aren’t any car rental places there and certainly not any taxis.. and I am sure you aren’t going to just walk everywhere — look at the distances. The West Texas Light Rail Project hasn’t quite made it as far as Sierra Blanca or Van Horn.

Your advice to take Amtrak is just ridiculous and could get some idealistic, yet ignorant hipster eaten by vultures or, at the very least, severely sunburned and dehydrated.


Idealistic hipster here.

I've hitched a ride from Kent to Van Horn which is about as far in the opposite direction. West Texas is beautiful. Bring a bicycle, and don't go in the summer.


I’ve always lived in Texas. I’ve taken Amtrak from Austin to San Francisco, and also from Seattle to Chicago to Dallas.

There are lots of car rental places in those small towns. A good example is another Amtrak stop, Alpine, Texas. You can rent plenty of types of cars, lots with 4x drive, before venturing on to Big Bend National Park.


Great work Kevin, and everyone else involved in Long Now!

For those who aren't familiar, Long Now is a non-profit dedicated to long term thinking (on 10,000+ year timescales).


Fun related fact: Neal Stephenson's involvement in Long Now also led to ideas in Anathem. Excellent book, which has a fun long term clock idea in it.

http://longnow.org/events/02008/sep/09/anathem-book-launch/


In particular, a clock with a 10,000 year cycle.

It's one of my favourite books.


> inspiring a more long-term view of the world and our place in it

I fail to see how that is pertinent. We know the world will still exist in 10,000 years, but we have no idea what it will look like. The mere existence of a clock that could potentially still be running then doesn't change anything about that, does it?

If anything, celestial objects do exist and provide some kind of a natural long term clock. I really don't get what a mechanical one hidden in a mountain adds to it.


> but we have no idea what it will look like

That’s the point. The point of the clock is to put a frame on a span of nearly unimaginable time and live life now in a way that will be significant in 10,000 years - it is a challenge to do big, great, meaningful things with long term impact.

The clock itself as a mechanical object is an expensive monument and nothing more, it likely won’t last the full 10,000 years of course...


> live life now in a way that will be significant in 10,000 years

That does not make much sense to me. You can't both admit we have no idea what the world will be like in ten thousands years, and at the same time claim you can do something that will be significant in such time frame. You don't know what will be significant then.


The way I understand it, long term thinking is neither about the future nor about predicting it or planning something significant for it; it is rather a thought model which tries to extend beyond the timeframes humans might feel at home with cognitively. An off-the-cuff, superficial yet interesting example is the lack of a common word in English language to express units of time longer than 1000.

This style of thinking sometimes has its benefits, like gathering together a community to build a mechanical clock, create a manual for restarting a civilization[1], or write a non-fiction book about "earth without people"[2].

It's just an interesting intellectual, cultural endeavor.

[1]: http://blog.longnow.org/category/manual-for-civilization/

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Without_Us.


If you do nothing, than you would do nothing significant with 100% probability. If you do anything, than probability of doing nothing significant would be lower.

There are one more point. This clock is a signal to a future, and this clock will have some meaning for our ancestors. We do not know what meaning it will be exactly, but we can be sure, that there will be some.

It is like the Stonehange. We don't know why ancient people bothered to build Stonehange, but we inspired to think about it.


I’m happy to see progress on this. I hadn’t heard update for so long I had stopped checking their website. I don’t live terribly far from the location—maybe a five or six hour drive, so when it’s ready to be visited, I’ll definitely make the trek.


> I hadn’t heard update for so long I had stopped checking their website.

I hope I'm not the only one who appreciates the irony of this sentence.


Obviously the idea was that I checked periodically and found no updates for several years so my checking tapered off and stopped. However I do appreciate the irony of the website updates being a metaphor for the clock itself.


Poignantly appropriate, perhaps piquant - but not ironic (contrary or inappropriate in a poignant way.) "As you might logically expect" is not what we usually want to point to with the word "ironic" which derives from the taste of blood in the mouth (iron), I believe. Irony is always poignant, but what is poignant is not always ironic - it can be poignant and suitable(appropriate/consistent). Poignant and surprising and nonetheless consistent with what one might expect; not contrary to expectations.

Of course, 100 years from now I'll probably be wrong, the word irony is so thoroughly misused, that by then the dictionary will have dropped the word poignant entirely, substituted "irony" and we'll need a whole new phrase to say what one word, "irony", means now.


Expressing impatience regarding a project that is supposed to inspire long-term thinking is pretty much ironic in my book.


You think it would be unusual to find a ten-thousand year project a bit slow and even frustratingly so? No, you don't. Follow the logic.


There are a lot of comments here expressing concern for the longevity of the clock due to vandalism and human activity. The inspiring thing about this project to me is the optimism that something like this can be exposed to the public and that we will respect it for 10,000 years.


Sorry, but “yeah right” is what I thought when I read your optimism that people will respect something for 10,000 years.

Look at everything ISIS and the Taliban blew up. Look at all of the random vandalism everywhere. There was once a cool balanced rock near Fredericksburg, Texas — until in 1986 vandals blew it up with dynamite for no reason other than “fun.” I visited that place when I was a little kid and I was 9 when it was destroyed.

Be inspired — but be disappointed. Humanity is a dark and imperfect species. That’s why I treat utopians, Communists, and socialists with such contempt — because they base entire economic philosophies on a naïve hope of the perfection of man rather than acknowledging man’s inherent desire for his own self-interest.


So what? Just give up? What’s your point?

I don’t know what will happen to the clock. What I know is someone put in the time to make it and express their idea now. In this moment in time that inspires me.

What does a defeatist attitude of dwelling only on the negative do to improve the human condition?


The human condition is as good as it can be at this point in time - To try to change it, damages it. E.g. A child feels loved when they're accepted as they are, rather than pushing onto it things the parents wished they had done or ideals the parents wished they lived by.

Sometimes, to yield to the current gives strength.


I think this is a totally fair point of view. It is the flip side of optimism. Forgive me for bashing the obvious in the head here, but this point of view is entirely necessary and right within its purview. You can't have optimism without pessimism, no matter how hard you try.

These two points of view provide balance. You have to decide where you stand relative to this pendulum. Humanity will protect what it finds valuable. Valuable in what way will be the decision. We can make moral judgements now, based on where we stand in this moment, but the future will make its own decisions.


Creating things that last a long time is hard. If for no other reason than forecasting the future is hard.

I have this weird thought that this project could be undone by fracking within 100 years.

Current well map shows how much is in the area: http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/oil-gas/major-oil-and-gas-formati...

(FYI, the Texas Railroad Commission is the regulTor of oil & gas operations in the state. )


Now will they also build a math around it?


You can actually appreciate country music driving through West Texas. It works out there.


Out in the West Texas town of El Paso...


It should last. The oldest working clocks are big tower clocks over 600 years old. They've needed maintenance over the centuries, but they're iron and brass, not stainless steel and ceramics.


I am late to the party, but others may have similar interest:

Are there any physical 1000+ year clocks for sale?

Asking for a friend.


There are clock that run on small temperature variations, there seem to be commercial ones with a hefty price tag:

http://www.jaeger-lecoultre.com/us/en/watches/atmos/atmos-cl...

(previous discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16419434)

The problem is those don't have an automatic synchronization mechanism. That's the really tricky/cool part about the 10ky clock.

If you wanted to create, say, a time capsule that'll last for 1000 years with a working watch, I think your best bet would be some ultra-low power microcontroller and an LCD that you could turn on occasionally. Both power and syncronization could be done from temperature variations. Just leave it buried somewhere outdoors exposed to daily (night and day) and seasonal variations, it should be enough to keep time with +/- a few hours at decent probability.

Just make sure to avoid anything that exhibits remotely any degradation, like electrolytic capactitors, and account for erosion of the moving parts.

Some relevant discussion: https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/317684/could...


It’s sad that they couldn’t get Danny Hillis’s name spelled correctly in the article!


I seem to recall reading an article in Wired back in the 90s about Danny Hillis, The Clock and how he liked to give everyone piggy back rides. Actually, reading that article about Danny way back then definitely inspired me to realize that its OK to have big huge enormous ideas and do things that other people think might be a little weird or silly. Kind of like 10,000 year clocks and running up and down hallways with strangers on your back.



Or maybe save a lot more lives than 10,000 over time by doing things that keeps the species aspirational, helping avoid protracted regression and short-term thinking.

For another example, building out space infrastructure.

The notion that the other things we do, with creating and building, often don't pay off in a radically superior way than directly saving a life, is ridiculous.

How many lives could we have directly saved instead of doing the space race? How about: instead of a space race, the US and USSR focus more on regressive behavior, war, and nuke the shit out of eachother, killing hundreds of millions of people.

How many lives will the transistor have saved, improved, or made possible over a century: should that investment have gone into saving 10,000 or 100,000 lives back then instead?

Your setup is a false choice.


I do actually find the project fairly neat, and I'm not saying it shouldn't be done. Just wanted to start a discussion about a different aspect of this and see people's arguments because opportunity cost definitely exists, and the allocation of our limited resources is a difficult and interesting problem.

Also, I would contest that some of those charities are arguably long-term thinking as well.


How many lives could you personally have made better, by not reading Hacker News, and instead helping the homeless in your city?

> the allocation of our limited resources is a difficult and interesting problem

The one without sin cast the first stone. There is always a better, more impactful choice available today than spending time online or watching Netflix. Yet, it is unreasonable to expect others to live the life of Mother Teresa when oneself is writing it on such forums. Even the most good people alive today probably played a game, read a book or watched TV at times. People should not be judged on what they did in their off time, but what absolute good they have accomplished. Let Mother Teresa build all the silly clocks she wants.


This project has $42M pumped into it. Still having a hard time seeing the value add for this type of project with this level of investment (or spending).


But it makes sense to spend $100m on a painting?

Not all money is going to be spent productively, and not everything needs a clear purpose.


No, spending $100m does not make sense either.


10,000 years is a LONG time (for our modern civilization, that is).

To me the question is: how will we measure time once we become a multi-planet species?


>The clock will tick just once a year

It looks like it has a large pendulum, maybe 50m which would lead to it ticking every 7 seconds or so?


No, the article is wrong.

The large weight simply powers the clock by gravity. The blowtorch part of the video shows the triple-sided chain attached to the weight.

Visitors to the block will wind up the weight in order to hear the chimes. The clock chimes once per day, and a mechanical computer varies the chime such that it is different each day for the full 10,000 years. If it's not wound, the chimes are silent.

The time-keeping function of the clock is much smaller and can run for a long time without anyone winding the clock. The idea is that even if there is a serious calamity, the clock will continue to keep time until it's found again and wound by visitors.


I'm not sure that's a pendulum, there is a long shaft that lengthens and shortens based on temperature. It actually moves vertically and even then by getting longer and shorter. This winds the clock and may set the daily cadence.


So where is it? "near Van Horn Texas" is all I could find.


There's also this site[1] which seems to be more specifically about the clock in Texas, and has a mailing list sign up to be notified about visiting possibilities.

1: http://www.10000yearclock.net/learnmore.html


https://www.google.com/maps/@31.4485152,-104.902702,1698a,35...

Looks like some construction work on top of a mountain near Bezos' land north of Van Horn. If you zoom out, you can see it shows 'West Texas Suborbital Launch Site' a bit to the east.

Looks like it's in the Sierra Diablo range.

Bing's satellite map of the same place:

https://binged.it/2ou7xtf

Background image from the site you linked looks consistent with those sheer ridges in the Bing imagery: http://www.10000yearclock.net/img/bg.jpg


Nice find! These guys have a picture that looks like the tower:

http://www.swaggartbrothers.com/project/10000-year-clock/


Oh, yeah, you can see the strip mine type thing in this photo:

http://www.swaggartbrothers.com/swaggart/wp-content/uploads/...

That's visible in the bottom of this satellite image:

https://www.google.com/maps/@31.4370941,-104.8992241,5680a,3...


Looking at a USGS topographical map, the tower is located right on a peak.


That's possibly the yarder:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarder

For lowering equipment & materials (skyline hoisting.)


I think it's a headframe (it's installed directly over the shaft).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headframe


based on previous GIS and satellite imagery analysis work related to hilltop and mountaintop telecommunications sites... It is pretty hard to hide a road to the top of a mountain. The combination of free space radar generated elevation datasets (SRTM1/3, SRTM1, etc), free 3D terrain viewing tools (google earth pro) and free satellite imagery can be taught to almost anyone. Even if you bulldoze a small road only passable by a high clearance small 4x4 like a Toyota HiLux, it'll be easily evident from space.


From their website, it looks like they are trying to use the location as a carrot to encourage membership in their foundation (" Long Now Members will have priority to visit the Clock when it is completed").


This will be another place to visit, once this clock start.


The 10,000 year is very convenient for Discordians.


Really interesting, thanks for sharing!


Corrosion, dirt etc. How is that going to last 10,000 years?


They built it out of specifically engineered materials that are highly resistant to corrotion. It's in an underground hole carved into rock to be dry and fairly dirt free. This was planned for quite a long time, I assure you.


> I assure you.

Wonderful. I was simply asking how did they do that. Like in technical details.


I think their website [1] has more detail but this article mentions the ceramic bearings.

[1]: http://longnow.org/clock/


Just a hunch, but I'm pretty sure that in all the years they've been working on this and the millions of dollars they've sunk into it, they already thought of corrosion and dirt.


It will be interesting to see how this mechanism fares, for sure.

If they can master this, they're at least 10% of the way toward figuring out how to contain high-level radioactive waste! That brilliant (!) engineering marvel needs to be contained at least ten times longer than this clock is supposed to run.

Easy peasy!

"Clean! Safe! Too cheap to meter!"


Just a minor technical quibble (because that's what HN is for, after all)--"too cheap to meter" refers to the expected cost-effectiveness of fusion power, not fission, and "too cheap to meter" doesn't necessarily mean that power is free, just that the costs of power delivery are dominated by the delivery infrastructure rather than the generation of the power in the first place. In other words, you'd pay a flat rate per month for unlimited power to keep the power grid up and running.

Fusion power would also be cost-effective enough to literally turn CO2 and water back into hydrocarbons, desalinate ocean water for large-scale irrigation, sustainably produce nitrogen-based fertilizer from the air, and otherwise solve virtually every sustainability problem we face or will conceivably face for centuries. (The rest can be solved by harvesting mineral resources from asteroids instead of the Earth's surface, but that problem can be solved through better orbital infrastructure, which turns into an energy problem.)


The quote is from Lewis Strauss in 1954, but it's apparently unclear what energy source he was referring to. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Too_cheap_to_meter or https://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2016/06/03/too-cheap-to-...


Even in principle, this is similar to saying a bridge is "too cheap to meter". There's no fuel cost, but it can certainly take a long time to pay for pricey infrastructure via tolls.

I don't see why anyone would charge a flat rate for unlimited electricity when you can pay off the enormous debt faster by charging market rate.


This might be a case where public infrastructure makes more sense than private infrastructure; if a large industrial country like China standardizes on a design and builds dozens to hundreds of identical plants, they would enjoy vast economies of scale and probably regain their investment in GDP growth purely from the economic activities made possible through fusion.


I shudder to think about the vastly different usage patterns flat rate electricity will bring. Why bother insulating houses? Why not run the A/C at full power instead of turning down the heating?

Lots of operational expenses are dominated by energy usage. Cryptocurrency mining would only be the start of it...


If only there was a way to remove transactinides from waste to reduce volumes, and transmute the really nasty fission products. Oh wait, there is.


I'm in awe, but at the same time concerned of its longevity due to vandalism and human acts.

I assume this remote site will be unguarded? Expect rubbish, empty cans, used condoms etc there. That's assuming nobody does damage to the clock itself, either on purpose (stealing) or not ("what if I put a wood stick inside..."). Some people would start climbing it just because.. and some of them would get hurt or die. Police would come and seal the place.

"It's one day hiking!" -- yes for now. Human settlements expand, and within few years maybe the distance from nearest settlement would be half. Also if the place becomes famous, people would pave ways to it (you know, as tourist attraction).

I guess I'm an old fart.


It's 3 kilometers from the nearest public road, an unpaved access road for a wildlife management area. There is an access road they have used for the construction but that can be blocked a considerable further distance away.

And go look at how sparse that part of Texas is. It'll be just a little while before any development encroaches on the mountain. The access road above is 50 Km from a village with ~2,000 people.


Don’t underestimate what a tiny percentage of people with malice in their hearts can do with 10000 years of opportunity.


Right, a determined vandal could go damage it. My argument is that the level of determination required isn't going to change very quickly.


> Shining your light around the rest of the chamber you’ll see the pendulum and escapement encased in a shield of quartz glass – to keep out dust, air movements, and critters.

> The biggest problem for the beating Clock will be the effects of its human visitors. Over the span of centuries, valuable stuff of any type tends to be stolen, kids climb everywhere, and hackers naturally try to see how things work or break. But it is humans that keep the Clock’s bells wound up, and humans who ask it the time. The Clock needs us. It will be an out of the way, long journey to get inside the Clock ringing inside a mountain. But as long as the Clock ticks, it keeps asking us, in whispers of buried bells, “Are we being good ancestors?”




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