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Essays

Time In The 10,000-Year Clock

Published on Thursday, February 9, 02012  •  2 years, 7 months ago
Written by Danny Hillis for American Astronomical Society

TIME IN THE 10,000-YEAR CLOCK by Danny Hillis, Rob Seaman, Steve Allen, and Jon Giorgini

Abstract:

The Long Now Foundation is building a mechanical clock that is designed to keep time for the next 10,000 years. The clock maintains its long-term accuracy by synchronizing to the Sun. The 10,000-Year Clock keeps track of five different types of time: Pendulum Time, Uncorrected Solar Time, Corrected Solar Time, Displayed Solar Time and Orrery Time. Pendulum Time is generated from the mechanical pendulum and adjusted according to the equation of time to produce Uncorrected Solar Time, which is in turn mechanically corrected by the Sun to create Corrected Solar Time. Displayed Solar Time advances each time the clock is wound, at which point it catches up with Corrected Solar Time. The clock uses Displayed Solar Time to compute various time indicators to be displayed, including the positions of the Sun, and Gregorian calendar date. Orrery Time is a better approximation of Dynamical Time, used to compute positions of the Moon, planets and stars and the phase of the Moon. This paper describes how the clock reckons time over the 10,000-year design lifetime, in particular how it reconciles the approximate Dynamical Time generated by its mechanical pendulum with the unpredictable rotation of the Earth.

Originally published for the American Astronomical Society

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