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A Home-Made Power Supply that Lasts 1000 Years? 71

x_man asks: "This may sound a little strange but I've accumulated a lot of cool stuff throughout my life. Add to that my parent's stuff, my wife's stuff, and all of the other cool stuff I plan to accumulate before I die, and you have a lot of stuff. The problem is what to do with all of this stuff when I die. My descendants will want a few bits, but I can't bear the thought of my 1000+ collection of sci-fi books being scattered to the Goodwill winds. Therefore, I've decided to entomb my stuff. It will all go into an airtight stainless steel shipping container and be buried on a family plot for a 1000 years or so. I will have the ultimate geek time capsule, but there is one problem. Let's say you want to broadcast some sort of locator beacon in a 1000 years. How do you construct a reliable power supply that will last at least 1000 years or more? There's also the question of how to signal future generations. I'm thinking some sort of VLF for ground penetration."
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A Home-Made Power Supply that Lasts 1000 Years?

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  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:14PM (#12113340)
    The first power supply is only required to run a clock for 1000 years. After that time, it will activate the "real" power supply which will broadcast the beacon.

    This way, you don't have to design a power supply which is capable of lasting 1000 years AND giving a reasonably big power output.

  • Two words (Score:5, Funny)

    by fiori ( 45848 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:14PM (#12113343) Homepage
  • by dario_moreno ( 263767 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:15PM (#12113347) Journal
    like in the space probes and spy satellites. Coupled to a thermoelectric couple, you can get 500 W of power on a quite long time with no moving parts. Voyager and Pioneer have been using this in deep space for more than 20 years, it should work if the half life of the material is well chosen (Pu, U-235 or C-60). Not easy to find however of you don't have Libyan terrorists among your friends like in Back to the Future...
    • Thing is .. (Score:2, Funny)

      by torpor ( 458 )
      .. how do you make one yourself?

      "MAKE Magazine: the Radio-Isotopic Generator Issue" .. yeah, wake me up for that one.
    • Even if you get a source that will produce enough power for 1000 years, you need equipment that will also survive 1000 years, and hold up under radiation for that time. Alpha and beta particles, let alone nuclei, will cause material to decay.
  • get a life, dude.

    Assuming this isn't April Fools, go on out and get a life, ANY LIFE, instead of planning for your death.

    Sure, having a will, living or otherwise, is fine, but this?

    Besides, no one's going to give two bits about all your stuff in one thousand years.

    And I gotta wonder just who the locator beacon is for. Aside from archaeologists, who would really want to locate all your crap?

    • I like this advice. You should get a life. When you die freeze yourself for 1000 years. Then you will wake up and you can open the capsule yourself. Make sure to deposit a penny in your bank account first though.
  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:16PM (#12113357)

    The kind the pink bunny uses that "keep going and going and going." ...

  • grow bacteria in a petri dish, something that grows at a slow rate. Set electrodes in a dish, and you've got the potato battery effect Mr Wizard want to confirm this?
    • Or maybe grow bacteria in a petri dish, and leave instructions for when it evolves limbs to push the button to start the signalling device. Sure, it might take more than 1000 years, but it's much less hassle for x_man to set it up.
  • by gus goose ( 306978 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:16PM (#12113363) Journal

    I did something like this once.... ;-)

    put it on a geared mechanism, and then hang it high in your container. get a bio-degradable material, or some other perishable material that takes about 1000 years to degrade.

    Use the degrade material to suspend the weight.

    After 1000 years the material fails, releasing the weight. The gearing mechanism is used, like the mechanism on a grandfather clock that powers the pendulum, to "tick" every 10 seconds. At each 10 second interval a large ball-bearing will be dropped on to the now-defunct cymbal from your 80's drum set.

    This audio signal will be far more likely discovered than a RF type signal.

    Your only limits are how heavy the weight can be, how many ball-bearings you can trap at the top of your container, and how deep you bury it.


  • i could imagine some sort of long pipe, with the acid on one end, some sort of 1,000-year 'dissolve time' substance in between, and a block of lead and places for the acid to go (and create a battery) at the very end, in the 'well'.

    so, the acid, over time, uses gravity/chemistry to burn through the wall, fall into the lead bits at the bottom, and boot up your crypt-o-gram.

    {which had better not announce itself with a Windows .. or Apple .. chime, or I'll be pissed..}
  • Freecycle (Score:2, Informative)

    by GRW ( 63655 )
    Instead of keeping all your stuff, you could just post it on you local Freecycle [freecycle.org] mailing list, and give it away to somebody who can use it.
  • Radiation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JVert ( 578547 ) <corganbilly@hotmail.TIGERcom minus cat> on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:19PM (#12113389) Journal
    Get one of those dirty bombs people have been talking about and set its timer for a good 300 years. Shouldn't be too hard to set a time up for that and it doesn't even have to be too accurate, just make sure it ignites when the power is lost. People will take notice of your radiation and be very interested to see what you have once it becomes safe to explore. Gotta be carefull and pick a place that people would actually notice, who knows what the population will be in 1000 years, maybe 1/100 of todays, figure a busy seaport, those should always have some traffic. That or what one of those 7 wonders, probably a non man made one in case someone gets political and tears a few down to make a point.
    • Yes. A radioactive dirty bomb being buried in a busy seaport. That's the way to go. You will be remembered for sure...in the Annals of Criminal Law.
  • http://guns.connect.fi/innoplaza/energy/story/John / [connect.fi]

    Course, you may not believe that stuff like that exists, but then again, you can always try.
    • One thing I never understood: assuming these free energy claims are true, and no respected magazine is willing to tap this issue (which is quite understandable, since it does attack the law of conservation of energy and the second law of thermodynamics), then why not release all their experiments to the public? It would be very simple. You know exactly how to get energy from space itself? You can reproduce it? You can even build batteries capable of this, like this Hutchinson guy did? Then RELASE SOME SCH
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:30PM (#12113526)
    Which, of course you are not, this being April 1st.

    I'd build a battery similar to the ones used to power the electronics of missiles. You have the electrolyte separated from the dry electrodes by a thin metal diaphram. Use a small explosive charge to rupture the diaphram and flow the electolyte onto the electrodes. A huge amount of immediate power and almost infinite shelf-life.
  • here is a start: (Score:3, Informative)

    by soybean ( 1120 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:34PM (#12113572)
  • I don't know about home-made, but the best long-term power supplies are made of a radioactive material and another material that converts the radiation into other kinds of power. Google for tritium keychain and you'll find the proof-of-concept. More tritium == more half-life.

  • Assuming of course we don't decide to block out the sun in a vain attempt to win a war with the machines.
  • Why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @03:53PM (#12113847) Journal
    What are you putting in the capsule that you think should really be interesting in 1000 years? PS2 games with a TV and such? Spare them, please.

    Think about the degradation of plastics, oxidation of the materials, and outside interference from shock, moisture on the container, and other items. Why try to make junk from today work forever?

    It may be more interesting to put something personalized and written from you describing your life, rather than trying to bottle it. Your apparatus of the container is a good judgement of the technology available at the time. Also, you get to solve the "how should i communicate and store it" question (been done on /. many times)

    Then, the geek portion of you can still solve the issues of
    - how to safely hold the contents
    - when to wake up (never?)
    - how to wake up
    - how to detect premature tampering
    - how to perform a self-diagnostic to let finders know if they're seeing your intended payload
    - how to signal once awake

    All these have great metaphors in CompSci/Networking references. I'd start there.

    The battery is a chemistry problem, driven by how much power you'll need. If you act like a RF beacon and signal 1kW once every 24 hours, you can decide how much power you'll need. A pulsed beacon will definitely singal longer than most. RF will be more detectable than other sources (especially if underground), and best if you sweep a wide freq. on each pulse.

    Also, work out the location: Are you buying land in a relatively quiet place on the earth? Not on a geologic fault, floodplain, mild temperature ranges, development area, etc. You could probably only extrapolate about 300years into the future with any chance of a lucky guess, IMHO.

    And really, you could just toss it into a FreshKills, NY (a trash dump). Your signal will lead our descendants to a treasure trove of items.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @04:00PM (#12113922)
    Therefore, I've decided to entomb my stuff.

    Please, let us know the date and place of your entombment. A group of us will show up the following day, dig up your stainless steel time capsule, cast your precious 'stuff' to the 4 winds and various charities (of our choosing), all the while merrily chanting "You thought you could take it with you! HA HA. April Fool!"

  • I'm not quite sure why you'd want to entomb all of your stuff with you. Do you really think you'll need all of that baggage in the afterlife, a la the Pharaohs of old? Or would you even care once you are in the ground for eternity? I think not. I imagine it boils down to the questin of whether you believe in an afterlife, and if so, would you be granted an existence in which you'd need all of your stuff? (The existence of an afterlife which necessitates a PSP seems rather dreary to me).

    I think it
  • Solved Problem (Score:2, Informative)

    by pete-classic ( 75983 )
    Who knows how to decode a 1000 year old radio signal?


  • Go to Egypt and get a ZPM! Don't you watch TV?

  • by stinkydog ( 191778 ) <sd AT strangedog DOT net> on Friday April 01, 2005 @04:33PM (#12114270) Homepage
    The radio issue is what will kill you. In a thousand years, our descendents will communicate with mind waves. Take two largish chunks of plutonium and separate them with a membrane that will last 1000 years. Once the membrane fails, the resulting explosion should be hard to miss.

  • I am astonished that no-one has provided a link to the original thousand year old beacon [turbosquid.com].

    I mean really, are we still living back in 2001 [kubrick2001.com] or something?
  • A family of gerbils and a little wheel?
  • Duluc Dry Pile (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otto ( 17870 ) on Friday April 01, 2005 @06:42PM (#12115904) Homepage Journal
    Google for "Duluc Dry Pile".

    Also google for "Oxford Electric Bell". This particular type of battery has been ringing a bell (albeit inaudibly) in the foyer of a lab in Oxford for over 160 years.

    The gist of it is that you get small circles of zinc foil, silver foil, and paper. Then you stack 'em up (silver, zinc, paper, repeat). Next you stick the whole thing in a glass tube and compress it. You want several thousand of them, basically. Once you're done, coat the whole thing in plastic to prevent oxidation from eating it away.

    What you end up with is a battery that will power something reasonably small for a long, long, long time. Certainly could power a simplistic clock for a thousand years. Once your clock goes off, you make some sort of signal. Audio perhaps, since that's probably more reliable than radio would be over that time period.
  • Timmy: [Reads] "I am _ _eek, and this is __ __me capsu__"...
    Mom: What do you have there, little Timmy?
    Timmy: I don't know, mommy. What does this mean?
    Mom: He was Eek, and this is Me Capsu. Oh my goodness, little Timmy...you've found the remains of an ancient king, Eek, and his wife, Me Capsu!
  • earthquake power (Score:3, Interesting)

    by r00t ( 33219 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:27AM (#12118603) Journal
    just like those watches that never need winding
  • instead of building an elaborate system to notify people a thousand year from now as to your time capsule location...just buy some type of material that is extremely rare today and bury it with the capsule. In a thousand years or so, they'll need that material for something important and make machines capable of finding it. Maybe gold, or platinum....ect ect.
  • It's not clear to me that your box will reliably last that long. I would like to suggest an abandoned mine. This will also give you more room. Your best bet would be hard rock, something like basalt or granite would do nicely. Water is a potential problem so you want to site your shaft in a desert or well above the snowline. Frozen water won't hurt your stuff. Antartica is also a possible candidate.
    • Actually a dry valley in Antarctica would be a pretty safe bet. You could even use the cold to your advantage. If you could drill a deep enough hole you could use the temp difference to power they system. The big question would be what will Antarctica be like in a thousand years. Still an interesting idea.
  • by binary blizzard ( 829016 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:20PM (#12120827) Journal
    Just put in a few things from each catagory (games,music,books...). Give the rest to some one/organization were they can by used right now. Also, why not set the signal to start after a shorter time (like 100 yrs) and leave a message asking the finder to replace/reset the beacon, and to add some important things from their time and "redeploy" the capsule.
  • Don't need power (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Forget the complexities of a long-life power supply or locator beacon. Keep it simple, like our ancient ancestors did. Just put up a tall rock monument marking the place. Even if there's significant change on the surface due to erosion, weather, construction, etc. the monument itself should still be easy to find to future archaelogists. Be sure to engrave it in several languages though.
    • Be sure to engrave it in several languages though.
      Or in binary

      Please don't forget to include the joke "there are ten types of people. Those who understand binary, and those who don't"

  • My descendants will want a few bits, but I can't bear the thought of my 1000+ collection of sci-fi books being scattered to the Goodwill winds. Therefore, I've decided to entomb my stuff. It will all go into an airtight stainless steel shipping container and be buried on a family plot for a 1000 years or so.

    In 100 years your collection of sci-fi books will be mostly acidic dust. Better set that beacon to go off in about 15 years - when there will still be something to salvage.

  • If it's a sci-fi library worth a flip, it has to contain Heinlein. Read Time Enough for Love. The solution is there.
  • 1) Ask your kids to dig it up. Or their kids.
    2) Earn some money, setup a trust fund for maintainance and buy some stock in every DowJones listed stock, donate land for a park in the downtown of a city and put it under a stone tower with a plaque explaining about the stock certificates which will be donated to the city at the 1k anniversary else if dug up earlier be donated to the United Nations (Heh. You're lieing about the stock of course)
    3) Plant a Sequoia and place the box at the base.
    Carve "cut me down

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly