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要如何造出能存在一万年的东西?

更新时间:2019/7/8 16:30:04 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How to build something that lasts 10,000 years
要如何造出能存在一万年的东西?

When I visited Japan recently, I witnessed the 66th cycle of a ritual that began more than 13 centuries ago. I watched as Crown Princess Masako led a procession of Shinto priests carrying treasures from the old temple to the new. In Ise, they have been rebuilding the grand Jingu shrine with wood and thatch every 20 years since at least the 7th Century. As part of Shinto ritual, this not only keeps the structures intact even when made out of relatively ephemeral materials, but it allows the master temple builder to train the next generation.

最近,我去了一次日本,有幸见证了一场仪式。这种仪式1300年前就在日本出现了,如今是第66次。庆典中,皇太子妃雅子带领着一队神道教的祭司,将旧神宫里的物件搬迁到新建好的神宫之中。公元7世纪以来,伊势神宫本殿(Ise Grand Shrine)每隔20年就会依原型重建。迁宫是神道教诸多仪式之一。建筑神宫的建材很容易损坏,重建神宫,既能够保存其特色建筑的完整性,又有利于让下一代工匠学习营造技术。

Japan is also home to most of the oldest companies in the world, and has a singular affection for maintenance that allows it to sustain structures and rituals for millennia. But many other cultures have created long lasting artefacts and buildings, and each one can teach us something.

日本有许多世界上最古老的公司。这个国家对于修缮有着独特的热爱,因此能将神宫修缮和祭祀仪式维持数千年之久。在这些国家,人们创造的许多文物和建筑,能够保存很久很久。每一件作品都能给我们带来一些启发。

Over the last two decades, I have been working at The Long Now Foundation to build a monument-scale “10,000 Year Clock” as an icon to long-term thinking, with computer scientist Danny Hillis and a team of engineers. The idea is to create a provocation large enough in both scale and time that, when confronted by it, we have to engage our long-term future. One could imagine that if given only five years to solve an issue like climate change, it is very difficult to even know where to begin because the time scale is unreasonable. But if you reset the scale to 500 years, even the impossible can start to seem tractable.

在过去的20年里,我和恒今基金会(Long Now Foundation)合作,同计算机科学家希利斯(Danny Hillis)以及一个工程师团队一起,要建造出一座具有纪念碑意义规模惊人的“万年钟”,以警示人们注重长远考虑。我们的理念是铸造一座规模巨大、时间跨度很长的钟,当面对它时,会激起人们为长远未来考虑的想法。我们可以想象,要是在5年之内解决气候变化这样的问题,是十分困难的,因为时间跨度太小。但如果把时间跨度调整到500年,那么即使是最不可能的事情,也开始变得容易处理。

Building a 10,000-year machine required diving into both history and the present to see how artefacts have lasted. While we can slow the workings of the clock itself down so that it only ticks as many times in 10,000 years as a watch does in a person’s lifetime, what about the materials and location? Over the last 20 years I have studied how other structures and systems have lasted over time, and visited as many of them as I can. Some sites have been conserved by simply being lost or buried, some have survived in plain sight by their sheer mass, others have had much more subtle strategies.

建造一座寿命能达一万年的机器,要参考过去和现在的经验,充分了解文物是怎么被保存下来的。虽然我们可以减慢时钟的工作速度,把一万年内指针滴答走过的格数控制到人类个体生命的长度。但是,万年钟要用什么材料打造,又该放到哪里呢?在过去的20年里,我一直在研究其他幸存建筑物的结构,探究它们耐久的秘诀。也尽我所能亲自去查看其中的一部分。一些遗址因被人遗忘或被掩埋等原因得到了保存;一些因纯粹的质量过硬,在人们的视野中得以保留下来;而另一些遗址则是应用了许多机巧的策略。

Few human-made objects or organisations last more than a handful of centuries, much less millennia. Stories, myths, religions, a handful of institutions, as well as some structures and artefacts have lasted this long. Most of these were not built with the intention of extreme longevity, but are accidents of history. More recent efforts such as nuclear waste sites, genealogic repositories and seed vaults, are being designed explicitly to last for thousands – or even hundreds of thousands – of years. There are a series of lessons we can learn from the past and present, ranging from material science and engineering, to the ideological. I will cover several of these as well as discuss how they have influenced our work on the 10,000 Year Clock.

很少有人造物品和组织能维系几个世纪的,更不要说数千年了。能保留这么长时间的,只有故事、神话、宗教,还有少数的组织。建筑物以及文物留存下来也并不是有意为之,而是历史的偶然。人们现在建立了核废料场、基因族谱和种子储存库等,有意将时间跨度设置成千年之久。从历史和当下的经验中,我们学到了很多。如材料科学、工程学,乃至是思想意识方面的东西。在说到这些东西给我们建造万年钟的启发时,我会提到其中的几点。

Lost & found

遗失与重现

Some of the most unique and meaningful objects from history have survived not by intention, but by being lost and then found at an opportune moment. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Rosetta Stone, and the Antikythera Device never would have made it to modern times without first being lost. The Antikythera Device has been of particular interest to me because it was also a planetary clock of sorts – centuries ahead of its time. It was discovered as chunks of oxidised gearing in a 2,000 year-old shipwreck near Antikythera, Greece.

历史上一些最独特、最有意义的文物,之所以能够保存下来,并不是人们刻意为之。相反地,人们曾经将其遗失了,在偶然的机缘之下又找了回来。比如:死海古卷(Dead Sea Scrolls)、罗塞塔石碑(Rosetta Stone)和安提基奇拉机械装置(Antikythera Device)等,如果没有开始的遗失,它是不可能保存到现在的。安提基奇拉机械装置对我有着特别的意义,因为它也是一个行星钟,而且它十分超前,领先那个时代几个世纪。人们在希腊的安提基奇拉附近发现了一艘2000年前的沉船,船上大量已经氧化的传动装置,就是后来的安提基齐拉器械装置。

No similar device has ever been found from that era. Its workmanship and understanding of gearing and celestial events are remarkable in that many of the ideas and mechanical principles would not be seen again until Europe emerged from the dark ages 1,300 years later. In addition, it would have taken many iterations to build such a device, so it is a further mystery that we don’t have any other examples of devices like this. Clearly the only reason this one survived was because it was lost. But even after being found, it languished for decades in storage before X-ray studies revealed its true complexity and purpose as a working astronomical model.

在当时那个时代还没有发现过类似的装置。安提基齐拉器械装置的工艺、以及齿轮的传动和对天体运动的理解,都是十分了不起的。因为许多观点和机械原理直到1300年后欧洲开始走出中世纪,才得以重见天日。此外,构建这样的设施,是需要多次更新迭代的。因此,人们没有找到其它类似的设备,这也是一个更深层的谜题。我们只能这样解释:现在能看到这个装置,正是因为当时丢失了。当人们用X光射线研究它时,才揭示出真实身份,一种有效的天文模型,在发现其复杂性和用有途之前,安提基齐拉器械装置在储藏中黯淡了数十年。

The other lesson learned for our 10,000 Year Clock project is that mechanical objects are much better at self-documentation for a future archaeologist than electronic ones. You could imagine if they had found a modern electronic device at the bottom of the Mediterranean after 2,000 years, it would be almost impossible to determine the intentions of its silicon circuits. This is one of the main reasons that we are building a large mechanical device. Even if only parts of it survive the entire 10,000 years, it is likely that people could determine its purpose and even repair it if needed.

此外,我们还有一个启发,那就是机械装置比电子设备更适合未来考古学家的自我记录。不难想象,2000年后若在地中海海底发现我们现在的电子设备,人们很难通过硅电路的意图推测出这个设备的用途。我们之所以要建造机械钟,很大程度上也是出于这个原因。假设整座钟只有若干配件能够存留一万年,后世也能通过其机械结构推测出这个设备的用途,如有需要,还能够将其修复。

Remote places

偏远地区优势

Cities are defined by churn. Cities themselves can often thrive for more than 1,000 years, but the contents within them turn over with each passing decade. For every urban artefact that has lasted over a millennium, there are countless more that were destroyed by war, civic changes, or accidents. Remote places generally have created much more opportunity for long-term survival. Spectacular sites like Petra and Machu Picchu were most certainly preserved due to their distance from modern cities.

城市是流动的。一座城市能够繁荣一千余年。然而,每过10年,城市的内涵就会改变。千年之前城市中铸造的文物,幸存的每一件,背后都有无数未能幸存的,因战争、变革、以及意外而毁掉的。相比之下,偏远地区更加利于这些制品的保存。像佩特拉和马丘比丘这些壮观的遗址,能够得以保存,就是因为它们远离了现代的都市。

Remoteness can also lend a more mythic presence to a site. Several winters ago I travelled to the Global Seed Vault located in Svalbard, the most northern permanently inhabited place on Earth at 78 degrees latitude. The vault was designed to last for over 1,000 years as a backup repository of the world’s crop seeds. However, in building it, the designers failed to realise how much it would capture the imagination of the world. It was not designed for visitation, and they found themselves telling dignitaries who travelled there from around the world that they could only see the outside of it. In the case of our trip we had timed it to one of only two times a year they open the vault to deposit seeds. As I signed the guest book I saw the names of previous delegations that included people like Jimmy Carter and Ban Ki-moon, I realised that the remoteness of the site made it only more interesting to the outside world.

偏远的另一个好处,是能够增加神秘感。几年前,我去了位于斯瓦尔巴特群岛(Svalbard)的全球种子库,它位于北纬78度,是有人类定居的最北端。这里有着世界农作物种子的后备存储,在设计时,人们希望种子库可以使用一千年。建造过程中,设计师并未意识到,种子库会引起世界人们的好奇心。全球种子库的设计并不是为了接待访问,政要们从各地飞来,却只能够参观其外部。而我把时间定在每年两次的种子存放时间,这时候,种子库的大门才会打开。登记访客记录上,我看到之前的访问团名单,其中包括美国前总统卡特(Jimmy Carter)、前任联合国秘书长潘基文等人的名字。地理位置偏远,让它成为令外界更加好奇的存在。

Remote sites also require intention and time to reach rather than being a “drive by” location. Travelling to a specific destination means that people who visit it get transition time as they voyage there, and most importantly on their way back. For the 10,000 Year Clock site we have selected a site in far West Texas that is many hours from airports and that will require a day of hiking to visit. Since the clock project is meant to change the way people think about time, the remote site gives both anticipation and time to process the visit, making the isolation as crucial to the mythic qualities as it is to preservation.

偏远地区并非自驾游景点。要前往这些地方,需要很强的目的性,也要花上很长时间。前往这些地方,无论来回,都需要一定的旅途时间。我们将万年钟的选址定在了西德克萨斯,离机场有数小时的车程,徒步则需要花上一天的时间。万年钟计划的目的,是要改变人们对时间的思考方式。偏远的选址既给了人们一个预期,也提供了一定的思考时间。如此距离上的隔离,让万年钟既能够保存良好,又能颇具神秘感。

Underground

地下

Many of the best preserved artefacts probably spent most of their time underground. The subterranean environment protects them from sunlight and generally keeps a very stable temperature. The rise and fall of temperature accelerates oxidation and aging. In fact, when manufacturers do rapid aging tests for materials, it is done largely through cycling temperatures up and down (and chemical effects, which we will get to next).

很多保存完好的文物,大多数时间都是在地下度过的。地下环境能保护文物免受阳光照射,并且通常有着很稳定的温度。温度忽高忽低会加速文物氧化和老化的过程。实际上,工匠们在进行快速老化测试时,主要就是靠反复升降温度来完成的(其中也涉及化学反应,下文中会做讨论)。

The ornate tombs of Luxor, Egypt, cave paintings such as Lascaux in the Les Eyzies valley of the Dordogne in southwestern France, and even delicate artefacts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls were all preserved underground for thousands of years. It is no wonder that modern efforts of preservation such as the Global Seed Vault, nuclear waste repositories and archives are all built beneath the surface.

埃及卢克索的华丽墓葬,法国西南部多尔多涅省莱塞济山谷的拉斯考克斯(Lascaux)洞穴壁画,以及死海古卷等精美艺术品,都曾在地下保存了数千年。难怪如今的全球种子库、核废料处置库以及各种档案馆等都建立在地表之下。

There is, however, one serious drawback to trying to preserve things underground – water. I have visited nuclear waste sites in the US and Europe, the Global Seed Vault, and the Mormon Genealogical Archive – and in every case they are fighting a losing battle to keep water out. Over centuries and millennia, water will always find a way in. The only successful mitigations of water I have seen are when it is redirected rather than blocked. The ancient rice paddies of Asia are a testament to the effectiveness of carefully directing water over thousands of years.

但是,要将保护工作搬到地下,存在一个很严重的问题——水。我曾参观过美国和欧洲的核废料处置库,也拜访过世界种子库、摩门教的家谱档案馆等,每个地方都饱受地下渗水的困扰。水是防不住的,千百年来一贯如此。如何成功调和与水的冲突?答案是:堵不如疏。几千年来,古老的亚洲稻农精心引水,稻田就是他们治水成功的有效证明。

Building the 10,000 Year Clock underground is important not only for preservation, but for timekeeping as well. Temperature change causes metals to expand and contract, requiring clever and imperfect schemes to keep devices like pendulums at the same length, and therefore keep regular time. The less temperature change a mechanical clock experiences, , the more accurate it will be. However, after witnessing the struggles with water at nearly every underground site I have visited, we had to think very carefully about how we tackle it. Our underground site is built at the top of a mountain in order to minimise the area of drainage that can collect water, but we still assume that water will get in. To address this eventuality, we angled every underground surface away from the clock and made sure that water would not be trapped anywhere and could escape at the bottom of the site.  If we can’t stop the water, we can choose where to direct it.

地下的万年钟不仅要保存到位,而且对计时也要求精准。金属会因温度变化膨胀收缩,因此我们需要一套巧妙的设计,让钟摆等配件的长度保持一致,以保证万年钟走时的精准。万年钟周围的温度变化越小,计时便会越精确。然而,在我参观过的几乎每个地下储存场所都存在防水的问题。因此,必需好好考虑如何解决这一问题。我们的地下基地建在山顶,是为了尽量避开地下排水区域,即使如此,我们认为水还是会渗进来。为了避免这种可能性,我们将以时钟为中心,让地表向四周倾斜,水可以从地基的底部流过,而不会堵在任何地方。我们无法阻止水流,但是我们能选择把它引向哪里。

Materials

材料的选择

One of the first material scientists I spoke to about making things that last for thousands of years offered a compelling insight: “Everything is burning, just at different rates.” What he means is that what we perceive as aging is actually oxidisation, like rusting. When we imagine materials that may last for thousands of years, most people think of stone or precious metals like gold – because they don't oxidise readily. But even bodies can be preserved for millennia if stored in the right chemical environment, as the mummies of Egypt demonstrate. Not long ago a perfectly preserved leather shoe was found in Armenia dating from over 5,500 years ago. The longevity of a material is often less about the object itself, but much more about the environment it is in. In the case of the leather shoe, it was buried in a cave and sealed in by sheep dung, thereby creating the perfect anaerobic, stable temperature environment.

我曾咨询过不少材料科学家,什么材质能打造维持数千年的物件。其中一位提出了一个令我十分信服的观点,他说:“万物都在以不同的速度燃烧。”我们眼中的老化,其实就是科学界所说的氧化。就像生锈一样。一提起某种材料能维持几千年,人们大多数想到的是石头和黄金等贵金属,这类东西不易氧化。但是,如果储存时的化学环境得当,即使是尸体也能保持上千年不腐。埃及的木乃伊就是一个例子。不久前,亚美尼亚发现了一双保存完好的皮鞋,距今已有5500多年。因此,一种材料的寿命往往不完全在于它本身,它所处的环境更加重要。就皮鞋而言,被发现时它埋在一个洞穴里,上面包裹着羊粪,这提供了一个完美的无氧环境,也保证了温度的稳定。

But to build objects and machines that people interact with over thousands of years, we have limited ability to control that environment. People breathe the same oxygen that degrades materials, and they bring in dust on their clothes, and oil on their skin. To build a working machine that people can visit for 10,000 years, the materials themselves must be long-lasting.

而我们要建造的万年钟,是要与人交互数千年的。如此一来,环境是不太好控制的。人类呼吸需要的氧气会降解材料,人们的衣物上必然携带尘土,皮肤上会覆盖油脂。因此,建造这座人人都可参观的万年钟,其材料本身必须足够耐久。

Probably the best example of this are the bearings that we are using for the clock. All the rotating parts in the clock require some sort of bearing surface in order to smoothly roll with minimal friction. However, there are several problems with traditional bearings, which are usually made of a row of hard steel balls between specially-ground tracks called races. Steel or even stainless steel bearings will simply weld together if left for long periods of time, and they also undergo another process called galvanic corrosion if they are separating two metals with different electrical potential. If you have ever seen the way a penny corrodes when left on another metal surface, this is galvanic corrosion. In addition to these issues, normal bearings require lubrication – but that means regular maintenance – and can attract dirt and grit.

钟表的轴承可能是最好的例子。时钟的所有旋转部件都需要某种轴承表面,以便以最小的摩擦平稳地滚动。但是,传统的轴承存在几个问题。传统轴承一般是由一排硬钢球和两根制成特殊形状的轨道(滚道)组成的。时间一长,钢甚至是不锈钢制的轴承会简单地粘接在一起。如果两轴承的电势不同,那么还会出现金属的电偶腐蚀。如果你曾见过硬币放在金属表面的腐蚀方式,这就是电偶腐蚀。除了这些问题,普通轴承还需要润滑,润滑就意味着要定期维护,并能让轴承沾染尘土和沙砾。

Over 20 years ago when I started this project in researching bearings, we found the perfect solution: an all ceramic bearing created for use in satellites and spacecraft. Made of near-diamond hard industrial ceramics, these bearings were designed to operate without lubrication in the vacuum of space indefinitely. There was only one problem: when I first heard of these bearings, they cost tens of thousands of dollars and were only used in aerospace. Over the course of our project, however, they have become more common and are now used in roller blades and fidget spinners and can cost as little as $10.

20多年前,项目成立,我也开始寻找合适的轴承。我们那时找到了完美的解决方案:用于卫星和航天器的全陶瓷轴承。这种轴承的材料是工业陶瓷,硬度接近钻石,可以在太空的真空环境中实现永久无润滑的工作。当时,这种轴承的问题只有一个:刚知道有这种东西时,他们的价格高达数万美元,而且只用于航空航天。然而,随着万年钟项目的推进,全陶瓷轴承也越来越普遍。现在也应用于旱冰鞋和指尖陀螺,每个成本仅为10美元。

Sacrifice

取舍

One of the more surprising strategies for longevity is actually to sacrifice some part of the object itself. We see this in nature where a lizard’s tail can break off when attacked, allowing the lizard to escape alive.

要延长使用寿命,还有一种策略,就是牺牲物体本身的某些属性。我们在大自然中也看过这样的例子:受到攻击的蜥蜴会断尾逃脱。

Some sites have this same quality, like the tombs in the Egyptian Valley of Kings, where the best preserved examples of carvings and colour look like they could have been finished just yesterday. When the grave robbers spent all their time stealing the gold objects out of the tombs, they thought they had extracted all the value, but they left the wall art untouched, which was rare when compared to other sites.

有的遗址也有类似的情况。比如埃及帝王谷(Egyptian Valley of Kings)的墓葬中,保存最为完好的雕刻和色彩画仿佛昨天才完成。盗墓者往往把时间花费在将金器运出墓葬上,并感觉已经将财物搜刮殆尽,把有价值的都挖出来了。然而,墓穴里的墙面艺术仍然完好无损。这与其它遗址相比是罕见的。

The jewel-encrusted walls of the Taj Mahal may also have helped preserve the structure by assuming all the value had been taken out with the gems. This poses an interesting question for the site we are creating for the clock. Should we have a relatively easy-to-plunder valuable layer that will not harm the clock if it were to be stolen?

泰姬陵的墙壁上镶嵌了许多宝石,这也保护了建筑本身。抢劫者取出宝石后,会认为已经将这里的财富窃取完。这给万年钟的选址带来了一个有趣的问题。我们是否也应该弄一个相对容易拿走的“价值层”,万一被盗,也可以保护万年钟不受破坏?

Value and ideology

价值观念与意识形态

The final and greatest danger to building anything that lasts is human beings themselves. In recent years we have witnessed some of the world’s oldest sites destroyed because their values or ideology were seen as in conflict. One of the more heart-breaking of these was the Taliban’s destruction of the massive Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It is hard to imagine a more innocuous religious symbol than a Buddha, but it was threatening enough to the Taliban to spend weeks blasting these amazing artefacts out of the cliffs.

建造万古长存的东西,最大的威胁是人类自己。近年来,仅是因为价值观或意识形态的冲突,就有人摧毁了世界上最古老的遗迹。其中最让人心碎的是塔利班摧毁阿富汗的巴米扬大佛(Buddhas of Bamiyan)。再也没有比佛像更加无害的宗教象征了,但它却成了塔利班的威胁,让他们不惜花费数周将悬崖边令人惊叹的文物炸毁。

How do we make something of value and cultural significance that will not at some point be stolen or destroyed? This is the true question when we ask how to build something like the 10,000 Year Clock. It is not the engineering of the materials and its workings, but the civilisation around it, which we hope to shape as one that cares for both the present and the future. We hope that by building such things, they challenge us not just technically, but ethically as well. We hope that they challenge us to become better ancestors.

那么,如何保护这些价值连城、颇具文化意义的东西,使之不被人所盗、不为人所毁呢?万年钟一类事物的建造,最为核心的问题其实正是这个。材料、运作之类的工程问题并不难解决,人类文明才是真正的难题。我们希望的文明,是能够着眼现在、关心未来的文明。我们希望万年钟的建造能打破技术上的壁垒,也能够提升人们的道德观。愿它能让我们挑战自己,成为子孙后代更为优秀的祖先。

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