When we hear about things being built to last, we usually think in terms of years or decades … or maybe, centuries. But millennia? Well yes, if you’re talking about the 10,000 Year Clock. As its name implies, the 200 foot (61 meter)-tall timepiece is intended to run for 10,000 years, in a remote cave in West Texas. The clock’s “century hand” will advance one space every 100 years, although individuals who make the trek to the cave will be able to hear it chime once a day. The whole project is designed to get people thinking in the long term.
Inventor Danny Hillis first came up with the idea for the “Clock of the Long Now” in 1989, and has been working on it ever since. Since that time, construction on a series of tunnels and chambers has been under way in the Sierra Diablo mountain range, in a location that is several hours from the closest airport, and that requires visitors to traverse a rugged trail that rises 2,000 feet (609 meters) above the valley floor.
The final design and engineering of the clock itself is reportedly near completion, with fabrication of the actual full-scale clock parts now in progress. Most of the parts will be made from stainless steel, although all of the bearings will be ceramic. It will be powered by a thermoelectric generator, which will create electricity from the difference in temperature between the sunny outdoors, and the cool interior of the cave. A “solar synchronizer” will allow it to self-adjust, so it keeps accurate time.