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Video: Making a 10,000-Year Clock
11/8/2012

The power design for the clock.
The power design for the clock.

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naperlou
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Long is interesting, but...
naperlou   11/8/2012 12:02:57 PM
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Rob, while long term thinking is interesting, it is not really important to many engineering tasks.  One of the issues is that basic technology and needs change over time.  Sometimes over a short period of time.  What the Long Now Foundation reminds me of is Japanese companies.  When I was at a large company they sent us through a marketing management course of study.  I was a product strategist at the time.  The instructors were professors from business schools in Europe.  Many of them also consulted on the side.  They were always talking about the hundred year strategies of the Japanese companies they worked with.  Where are those companies now?  Most of them are floundering becuase of a number of external factors. 

Another example of where creating a device or system for the long term that will not work is in computer controlled systems.  I did the long term transition plan for a large military project.  They had it right.  They recognized that the technology was going to change and we worked to try to project it and then to come up with strategies to ensure that the system evolved over time and that the new could work with the old while taking advantage of advances in technology.

Some projects and technologies just don't need to last a long time, and it might be better if they don't.  Take the Space Shuttle.  The computers are very old and not very powerful by today's standards.  You might recall that the crew started using regular laptops on flights becuase they had much more power.  The problem with a lot of NASA projects is that they are not used to long term use that can be modified.  The expense in the acceptance testing.  The Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) are examples of projects that differ from previous projects. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: 10,000 years
Rob Spiegel   11/8/2012 11:37:37 AM
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10,000 years is a long time, TJ. I'm not sure this clock can really last that long, especially since it might still need winding. Yet the idea of trying is quite interesting.

bob from maine
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Re: 10,000 years
bob from maine   11/8/2012 11:24:27 AM
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I own 2 grandfather clocks, one with a completely wooden movement and the other with a hard-brass movement. The wood movement clock has been in continuous operation except for moving and cleaning since the early 1800's and analysis suggests this should be able to run indefinitely with proper maintenance. Unfortunately I can't say the same for the modern brass movement, though getting parts is obviously much easier. I don't think the longevity of a device is necessarily a reflection of the quality of the components as much as it is a reflection of the mindset of the designer and builder.

TJ McDermott
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10,000 years
TJ McDermott   11/8/2012 10:15:37 AM
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10,000 years is also the time span for which the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository was supposed to maintain disposal standards.

Yucca Mountain didn't really have any moving parts that had to last 10,000; it simply had to not decay and release radiation.  10,000 years for a moving mechanism is much, much more difficult.

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