Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Data Storage Hardware Science

A Million-Year Hard Disk 394

Posted by samzenpus
from the sapphires-are-forever dept.
sciencehabit writes "Pity the builders of nuclear waste repositories. They have to preserve records of what they've buried and where, not for a few years but for tens of thousands of years, perhaps even millions. Trouble is, no current storage medium lasts that long. Today, Patrick Charton of the French nuclear waste management agency ANDRA presented one possible solution to the problem: a sapphire disk inside which information is engraved using platinum. The prototype shown costs €25,000 to make, but Charton says it will survive for a million years. The aim, Charton says, is to provide 'information for future archaeologists.' But, he concedes: 'We have no idea what language to write it in.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Million-Year Hard Disk

Comments Filter:
  • easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the biologist (1659443) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:30PM (#40633585)
    What language? All of them.
  • Re:Esperanto! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:43PM (#40633733) Homepage Journal

    Latin's done that job—and better—for more than two thousand years. If you're going to seriously use Esperanto for something so long-term, make sure it's mutually intelligible.

    Personally I'd vote for Munch's The Scream, like was proposed at one point. Maybe with some H. R. Giger to really spook them.

  • by eggstasy (458692) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:46PM (#40633747) Journal

    There will be no future archaeologists. How can they assume a huge cultural discontinuity that would require archaeology?
    The only reason we have any archaeology is because people didn't write anything down.

    I can find out precisely when a building was built, sold, and how many times it was repaired, just by visiting the online city hall archives.
    Not only that, I can get a map of my city for every century, and then some. Everything that ever happened here since God knows when. Like 1850 or so? I can get a list of all the people that lived in any given place since the 16th century, when the Church started keeping track of baptismal records. Online.

    Why would things ever stop being archived and kept track of? Seriously. Are we going to have a nuclear war or something?
    The whole archive would probably fit on a USB pen drive. Making 1000 copies every year would be a rounding error on the city's budget.

  • by Slugster (635830) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:47PM (#40633755)
    How about, Oh, I dunno. A pictorial map? With a human skull marking each site?

    They may dig up one, but after that they should be able to figure out what the other sites are.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:50PM (#40633801) Journal

    There will be no future archaeologists. How can they assume a huge cultural discontinuity that would require archaeology?

    By assuming the possibility of a catastrophic event, such as a nuclear war, a comet strike, a particularly nasty pandemic, or a dozen other things that can set civilization back significantly.

    The only reason we have any archaeology is because people didn't write anything down.

    Both Romans and Greeks wrote down a lot of things (which is why we know a great deal about them), but that did not preclude a large period of dark ages following their civilization, where a lot of what they wrote - and especially the day to day stuff like a "city hall archives" - was lost.

  • by isorox (205688) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:59PM (#40633891) Homepage Journal

    Consider stone tablets. I head they are cheap, easy to come by, and last a long time.

    Some do, most don't. If you wrote on 100,000 stone tablets today, you can guarantee some will be there in 10,000 years time, but you can also guarantee most won't.

  • by isorox (205688) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:04PM (#40633931) Homepage Journal

    There will be no future archaeologists. How can they assume a huge cultural discontinuity that would require archaeology?
    The only reason we have any archaeology is because people didn't write anything down.

    I can find out precisely when a building was built, sold, and how many times it was repaired, just by visiting the online city hall archives.

    Good for you, you live in a new country from the sounds of it.

    . Everything that ever happened here since God knows when. Like 1850 or so?

    I'd give you +1 Funny.

    1850 isn't that long ago. Hell the house I live in is nothing special and is from the 1700s. Haven't been able to find out precisely when it was built though.

    Information that's not used tends to decay. There's some data on the king of England in 1200 [but what's true and what's false?], but not much data on anyone else in the country back then, even your local lord, let alone Bob the village idiot.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:08PM (#40633963)

    Consider stone tablets. I head they are cheap, easy to come by, and last a long time.

    They are only cheap if you need a few of them. Each sapphire disk holds 40,000 pages, and the prototype with 2 disks costs "only" €25,000.

    Can you make and engrave a stone tablet for less than €0.30?

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:12PM (#40633993)

    "We'd better keep digging--there might be more valuable stuff down here!"

  • by tmosley (996283) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:26PM (#40634101)
    Actually, this is quite true. LFTRs as they were originally designed were in fact for nuclear powered aircraft. They were the only possible design that was safe enough for such an application.

    Anyone thinking of burying this "waste" is a bleeding buffoon. LFTR consumes nuclear waste to produce usable fuel that is useless for nuclear weapons. It burns nearly 100% of the fuel, and the only leftovers at the end are highly useful for medical applications.

    Watch this, then tell me that we need to engineer million year data storage, much less a million year bunker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK367T7h6ZY [youtube.com]
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:48PM (#40634279) Homepage

    They have to preserve records of what they've buried and where, not for a few years but for tens of thousands of years, perhaps even millions.

    Horseshit. The hazard is significant for a few hundred years at most. People are not going to dig the stuff up and eat it by the ton.

  • by similar_name (1164087) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:53PM (#40634309)
    At this moment your post is modded down '-1 overrated' to give your post a score of zero. IMO /. has had an increasing number of unjustified negative mods. Your post is on-topic and reasonable. You don't have a 6 digit ID (neither do I) but you're a million away from all of the 2.6 million ID trolls and shills and your comment history doesn't indicate you're a nuisance that needs to be modded down all of the time (the last zero score post I see by you is equally baffling). Hopefully someone will come along and at least mod you back to your natural score.

    Perhaps /. shouldn't give more mods to people who spend (or waste) all of their mod points whenever they get them and shouldn't keep giving mods to people who have a history of voting negatively.

    Sorry for the off-topic* post but it's really been bothering me lately and I needed to vent.

    *If someone is going to mod my post down please at least use the correct mod of off-topic.
  • Re:easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:59PM (#40634355)

    Yes. Write down the same text in, say, the top 10 major modern languages and writing systems (let's say, English, Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, French, Russian, Japanese etc).

    Maybe include a concise dictionary of each language as well.

    That way, even if the thing doesn't end up being useful for its designated purpose as a nuclear site marker, it may one day in the far future serve as a Rosetta Stone for the languages and writing systems of our era.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:04PM (#40634391)

    At this moment your post is modded down '-1 overrated' to give your post a score of zero. IMO /. has had an increasing number of unjustified negative mods. Your post is on-topic and reasonable. You don't have a 6 digit ID (neither do I) but you're a million away from all of the 2.6 million ID trolls and shills and your comment history doesn't indicate you're a nuisance that needs to be modded down all of the time (the last zero score post I see by you is equally baffling). Hopefully someone will come along and at least mod you back to your natural score.

    Perhaps /. shouldn't give more mods to people who spend (or waste) all of their mod points whenever they get them and shouldn't keep giving mods to people who have a history of voting negatively.

    Sorry for the off-topic* post but it's really been bothering me lately and I needed to vent.

    *If someone is going to mod my post down please at least use the correct mod of off-topic.

    Yeah, I've noticed the same thing. Sometimes I do make flippant remark or make an attempt a humor that (rightfully) gets modded down (but seems like just as often, an inane comment gets moderated up!), and sometimes I'll take an unpopular viewpoint (without making it into a personal attack), which also gets modded down -- moderators seem to have trouble separating dissenting opinions from trolling or offtopic posts. But sometimes I'll have a post like this one that's completely on-topic and relevant (and this time I even did the math right!) and it still gets modded down.

    I figure that I must have pissed someone(s) off in the past and they are retaliating, but I really don't know for sure. If that's what's going on, I assume meta-moderation will eventually catch up to them. But hey, I've still got my 2^6 Score:5 Comment achievement badge, and I wear it proudly!

  • Re:easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:18PM (#40634467)

    Write it in Lisp. If future generations are unable to read this then it will mean that civilization has collapsed.

  • by Leuf (918654) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @10:23PM (#40634939)
    The article talks about how the pyramids got looted within a generation. So by all means, make your don't dig here notice out of fucking platinum and sapphire. I'm sure no one will want to go looking for those things to steal them. A stone tablet sounds pretty much like the ideal medium, but even that will probably get looted because people are stupid.
  • Re:easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:35AM (#40636015) Homepage

    Excellent idea! We'll use pictures. And we'll use the IFF/LBM format. That'll make sure everybody understands in the future.
    Actually, I'd be more concerned about how to document the physical layout and filesystem of this disc.

  • Re:easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Friday July 13, 2012 @02:38AM (#40636265)

    One picture is case civilization has collapsed - skulls, and people on fire.

    If civilization has collapsed, I find it highly unlikely that anyone will be poking around in a vault located hundreds of meters beneath solid rock, with the ramp filled with crushed rocks and concrete.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

Working...