A group of design engineers in Los Angeles are working on creating a 300-foot-tall clock built into the side of a mountain in West Texas. A giant, 9-foot-tall pendulum will swing back and forth with slow ticks and tocks, and at noon each day, the clock will chime, each time with a unique string of notes.
The 10,000-year clock is a project directed by the Long Now Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that is devoted to fostering long-term thinking. Plans include clocks and library projects. "This is a project designed to foster long-term thinking -- to make us look many years into the future," Jascha Little, mechanical engineer with the Long Now Foundation, said in an interview.
The power design for the clock.
Given the long-term view, a clock that needs to last 10,000 years is quite a bit different from most design engineering projects. "This is a big change in the engineering mindset," Luke Khanlian, a design engineer with the Long Now Foundation, told us. "I’m used to building things that work for weeks or months. This is supposed to work for a very long time."
A clock that will tick and tock consistently, across thousands of years, will need a very reliable power source. The clock will be powered in a couple ways. "The energy is stored in a mass that is lifted -- a large stone that is lifted by drives the gears. Someone has to wind it up," said Little. "One of the more ambitious tasks is to design it to harvest energy from the change in temperature from day to night. There is not a lot of energy in that, but clocks don’t need that much energy."
The initial dollars behind the project came from the Long Now Foundation. Over time, however, the group found funding directly for the clock project. "Initially, it was funded by contributions from the Long Now Foundation," said Khanlian. "Then Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) got interested. Now he’s funding the building of the early prototype."
The group sees the Texas clock as the first in a series of long-term clocks. "We’re not building just one clock. We hope there will be more clocks," said Khanlian. "The board at the Long Now Foundation would like to see more than one clock. There is also a site near Nevada."
The clock will have more duties than just showing the time of day. "There are a couple ways to read the clock," said Little. “There’s a calendar. You can take a rubbing off of it. It shows the orientation of the sun, the moon, and the planets. It also shows the phase of the moon."
In designing the clock, the team uses PTC Mathcad Prime and PTC Creo in their day-to-day work to create transparent engineering calculations and transparent design. For example, PTC Mathcad, PTC software for engineering calculations keeps track of units and enables the team to quickly test and update engineering calculations. PTC Creo (PTC CAD software), enables the team to quickly share progress and design updates with other team members. The team indicated that Mathcad to Creo makes it easy to pass data.
The engineering team expects to finish the construction of the clock in the next five years.