Solar Synchronizer


Long Now recently completed this prototype of the Solar Synchronizer for the 10,000 Year Clock, and it is now on display at our San Francisco Museum & Store. This mechanism will help the Clock keep accurate time over the millennia. While the Clock’s day to day time-keeper is a slow pendulum, a mechanism like this one is needed to correct drift over the long haul. On any sunny day, when the sun lines up with this mechanism, light is focused onto a piece of nickel-titanium wire that reacts when heated by the sun. This motion is used to synchronize the Clock to solar noon. The synchronization is also modified slightly by the equation of time cam, which accounts for the +/- 15 minute difference of solar to absolute time. Due to meteor impacts and volcanic eruptions, the clock may not see the sun for several years, so it must be accurate enough to stay within the range of this correction during those times.

This mechanism was originally conceptualized by Danny Hillis, project management and additional design by Alexander Rose, lead engineers were Paolo Salvagione and Greg Staples, and lead machinist and fabricator was Christopher Rand. Shape memory alloy calculations and consulting by Pete Von Behrens of Alternative Motion Solutions.

All engineering for the Clock of the Long Now is done in Pro Engineer courtesy of PTC. All CAM processing is done in GibbsCAM courtesy of Gibbs & Associates. The Long Now Foundation thanks them for their support.

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The Long Now Foundation is a nonprofit established in 01996 to foster long-term thinking. Our work encourages imagination at the timescale of civilization — the next and last 10,000 years — a timespan we call the long now.

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