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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.'"
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A Million-Year Hard Disk

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  • easy answer. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the biologist (1659443) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:30PM (#40633585)
    What language? All of them.
    • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:57PM (#40633861)

      What language? All of them.

      They should write it in C -- it'll never go away since it'll always be needed for embedded systems.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Ah if we're going to hell, let's just write it in Java and Pascal while we're at it.

        • 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 philip.paradis (2580427) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:27PM (#40634525)

            I think that means civilization will collapse immediate after it's written.

            • by Tuidjy (321055) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:27AM (#40635973)

              Pictures.

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

              One picture in case civilization has not collapsed. An orbital model of the atom, with little balls streaming away.

              What if the archeologist is not humanoid and is used to a completely different models for atoms/particles? Then let the fucker burn, what do we care about octopi from Alpha Centauri?

              And anyway, we still understand Hebrew, Greek and Latin after 2000 years. I would be amazed if civilization endures in 10000 years AND English has been lost.

              • 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:4, Interesting)

                  by Tuidjy (321055) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:44AM (#40636057)

                  Oh, come on. The very idea to use a CD is kinda dim, and plain pictures on a titanium plate is a much better way to go about it, but if you have to use digital media, there are formats that any civilized person will decipher rather quickly.

                  Assuming sequential binary, here is a simple video format that is extremely inefficient, but I think everyone will understand.

                  Simple bitmap, and begin by repeating an empty frame a few times. A empty 8x8 frame would look like this: 1111111110000001100000011000000110000001100000011000000111111111

                  Repeat it enough times for the reader to get that there is a pattern, then start flipping the zeros to ones to produce your images.

                  I think that most people would get it.

              • Some cultures have not taken skulls to be a symbol of death though. In ten thousand years, maybe the primative tribes that survive consider skulls to be a symbol of the cycle of life and renewal or whatever superstious rubbish they have invented by then. They'll run into the storage facility thinking it'll make them young again.
                • by yndrd1984 (730475) on Friday July 13, 2012 @02:08AM (#40636177)

                  Some cultures have not taken skulls to be a symbol of death though. In ten thousand years, maybe the primative tribes that survive consider skulls to be a symbol of the cycle of life and renewal or whatever superstious rubbish they have invented by then. They'll run into the storage facility thinking it'll make them young again.

                  Then they will have a learning experience.

                  Either way, we've helped future generations. :)

              • 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.

                • Re:easy answer. (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Friday July 13, 2012 @07:34AM (#40637331)

                  Also I'd rather not care about them, and instead focus on making civilization not collapse.

                  I mean, a few accidental deaths from overzealous exploration is nothing compared to the billions of deaths said civilizational collapse will have required come beforehand to get to that point.

                  It's very much why I think no one is having a sensible discussion about nuclear power when timespans like 10,000 years come up. Those people 10,000 years away do not matter to the discussion if the scenario is contrived "well all records have been destroyed and they only have bronze age technology". Well gee, maybe that happened because the planet got completely ruined by runaway climate change and desertification which could've been avoided if they'd switched to nuclear power?

          • Re:easy answer. (Score:4, Informative)

            by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday July 13, 2012 @09:39AM (#40638219) Homepage Journal

            Holy crap, mods! Am I the only one who RTFA? It's not a CD or computer memory, it's a double layer sapphire disk with silver printing sandwitched in between and needs nothing more complex too read than a simple microscope and knowledge of whatever human language it's written in. The comments about computer languages are JOKES, son (as Mr. Leghorn might say).

            It's something to keep future generations whose civilizations have collapsed safe from the poisons we've buried.

      • by ganjadude (952775) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:49PM (#40634695) Homepage
        011100110110001101 110010011001010 1110111001000000100 0011001000000111000001110 101011101000010000001101 00101110100001000000 110000101101100011011000010000001 10100101101110001000000110 00100110100101101110011000010111001001111001
    • Yep! Nothing like good old redundancy to make information accessible.

      Also, we're getting pretty good at crypto these days. Why not apply the reverse? If you had to figure out a language from scratch, what markers would be the best? What about recursiveness? Stick a dictionary on the thing, once they manage to bootstrap the rest becomes much easier.

    • 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 dgatwood (11270)

        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).

        No need. You're dealing with nuclear waste. Just draw a picture and provide it as a key. Show an image of a uranium atom with different colors or patterns for protons versus neutrons, then show the count of each in unary. Then give the name of the element in English or your choice of other languages. Use that name everywhere

        • Re:easy answer. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by andymadigan (792996) <amadigan AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:38AM (#40636033)
          Those valuable metals will be quickly stripped away like the stones of old roman buildings.
        • by qbast (1265706)

          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).

          No need. You're dealing with nuclear waste. Just draw a picture and provide it as a key. Show an image of a uranium atom with different colors or patterns for protons versus neutrons, then show the count of each in unary. Then give the name of the element in English or your choice of other languages.

          Future archeologist: Hmm, and what is this? Of course, this must be some kind of religious idol. Probably holy symbol of sun worshippers.

      • Given the advances in AI, encryption, pattern recognition and so on, the language it will be written in is completely secondary. Write it in the language which can render the best what you have to say. The Rosetta stone wouldn't be needed today to decrypt hieroglyphs and much harder puzzles were deciphered since then. As long as you have sufficient data or text written in that language.
        • by gl4ss (559668)

          Given the advances in AI, encryption, pattern recognition and so on, the language it will be written in is completely secondary. Write it in the language which can render the best what you have to say. The Rosetta stone wouldn't be needed today to decrypt hieroglyphs and much harder puzzles were deciphered since then. As long as you have sufficient data or text written in that language.

          the guys worried about forgetting the nuke sites obviously are worried about civilization breaking down and possibly forgetting such things.

          the rosetta stone would still be a fairly good validator to have today, too.

      • The work has already been done, see the Rosetta Stone project of the Long Now foundation:
        http://rosettaproject.org/ [rosettaproject.org].
    • by Xyrus (755017)

      They should write it in brainfuck. It accurately reflects the society which created it in the first place. :P

  • Cuneiform (Score:5, Funny)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:31PM (#40633597) Homepage Journal

    It's awl-write.

    I'll get me coat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:31PM (#40633611)

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

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:47PM (#40633757) Journal

      I head they are cheap, easy to come by, and some of them last a long time.

      FTFY.

    • 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 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 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.
        • 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!

          • by subreality (157447) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:48PM (#40634691)

            Sometimes I do make flippant remark or make an attempt a humor that (rightfully) gets modded down

            My pet peeve: sometimes I make some vaguely amusing remark in the middle of an otherwise well thought out post. Someone moderates it "Funny", but it really wasn't, nor was it meant to be. Then future mods look at it as a trainwrecked attempt at humor rather than being mis-moderated, and it gets pounded to the ground with "overrated". It's really frustrating to have that happen when I put a lot of effort into a long, well-researched comment.

            I'm not sure what could be done about it, though. Perhaps hide the "Funny" flag from moderators to prevent the bias?

            • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:43PM (#40635445)

              I think modding needs 1-5 rankings in multiple categories:

              Relevant: not at all to spot-on
              Funny: no to puked on my keyboard (where no doesn't mean failed humor, just not funny, which most posts would probably be)
              Incendiary: irrational flame bait to cold logic
              Popularity: The author is evil to the author is my god

              My thinking is that if popularity were explicitly differentiated from relevance, people might not be so eager to mark down things which they disagree with.

      • by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:38PM (#40634621)
        I can encode a "don't open" image on one table, the periodic table on another, several number systems (for translation) on a third, and a schematic of the objects buried on a 4th indicating the radioactive elements inside other materials. So yes, 4 tablets that don't require technology to decode. Or one could do a large tablet including all of the above. The first image is all you need. The other 3 are for civilizations that understand atoms to understand what the hazard is.
      • 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.
    • by Trogre (513942) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @10:06PM (#40634815) Homepage

      And still they are often ignored. See Japanese tsunami warning stones.

    • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:16PM (#40635257)

      Tablets! Good grief, you apple fanboiz never give up.

    • If LIFE has taught us anything, it's "Store your information in DNA."

      For one thing, you simply cannot beat the ability to make backups. You could make an artificial yeast chromesome or chromesomes, grow up several gallons of the stuff, freeze it down and store it in multiple locations. Future generations will probably be able to sequence them instantly with tricorders or the iPad 900.

      ... of course, you couldn't keep it close to the nuclear waste in question.
  • by Bookwyrm (3535) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:33PM (#40633631)

    These waste management folks might want to look at the Rosetta Disk project:
        http://rosettaproject.org/disk/concept/ [rosettaproject.org]

    It's, you know, a disk meant to store information for a very long time.

  • Do not use french!
  • Duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:35PM (#40633647)
    Those control crystals from SG1.
  • by meglon (1001833) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:35PM (#40633651)
    For 24,999 they can use my idea.... mosquito legs lined up in binary with tree sap poured over it. It'll last millions of years, with the small glitch of not hardening for some odd millions of those years. Maybe by then they can extract the DNA of the mosquito's and clone some truly exotic animals.... like Pee Wee Herman.
  • by djnanite (1979686) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:36PM (#40633667) Homepage
    "Into Eternity" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/nov/11/into-eternity-film-review [guardian.co.uk]), which documents the staggering engineering requirements of creating a nuclear bunker designed to last a million times longer than any man made object ever created.

    The scale of the work involved is almost beyond comprehension. And a hard disk is just a fraction of that work.

    It will blow your mind.
  • Esperanto! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fish waffle (179067) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:36PM (#40633671)
    The lingua-franca of tomorrow.
  • by demonbug (309515) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:37PM (#40633679) Journal

    Platinum etchings sandwiched between two layers of sapphire. Like microfilm, but with etchings. So now we can write all sorts of shit down, but where do we put it so we know whoever is digging will stop and figure out what it says?

    Personally I think the need for millions of years of survivability are stupid. We've been using atomic energy for what, 60 years? I think we might find a way to put the "waste" to use long before we have to worry about such long-term data storage. That, and we'll either be advanced enough to repair radiation-induced damage in the next couple of hundred years, or civilization will have fallen and our life spans will be so short that a little radiological damage won't really matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jgotts (2785)

      Platinum etchings sandwiched between two layers of sapphire. Like microfilm, but with etchings. So now we can write all sorts of shit down, but where do we put it so we know whoever is digging will stop and figure out what it says?

      Personally I think the need for millions of years of survivability are stupid. We've been using atomic energy for what, 60 years? I think we might find a way to put the "waste" to use long before we have to worry about such long-term data storage. That, and we'll either be advanced enough to repair radiation-induced damage in the next couple of hundred years, or civilization will have fallen and our life spans will be so short that a little radiological damage won't really matter.

      My thought is that within the next few hundred years we'll be recovering resources from landfills and all sorts of spaces too toxic to deal with now.

      Already we're dealing with polluted industrial sites. We'll become more and more efficient with that. We'll start to become very efficient at remining rare earths out of landfills and it will cascade from there.

  • Porn. Of course at €25000, that's very expensive porn.
  • They (Score:5, Funny)

    by Konster (252488) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:42PM (#40633731)

    They really need to fuck with the future archaeologists by writing everything in Klingon.

  • by eggstasy (458692) <jorge.manuel @ g m a i l . c om> 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 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 mysidia (191772)

        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.

        Oh... great... so if that happens then... question: How the heck are we going to read the data off the million year hard drive?

        A million year hard drive is kind of pointless without a million year reading device attached to it

        A more reliable way to mark the locations of hazardous waste disposal, would be to

        • It's not a hard drive, it's the equivalent of a microfiche, which can be read with a big enough magnifying glass.
        • Now I'm imagining a bunch of future explorers / treasure hunters / archeologists shrugging off the curse of the ancient ruins as pure superstition. Coincidentally all to die several years later from a horrible sickness along with anyone the artifacts came into contact with.
      • by Waccoon (1186667)

        I find it hard to believe that absolutely everything in our garbage dumps or oceans could be collected and destroyed with such precision and effectiveness. These days, reading and writing isn't a skill belonging only to the elite, so it would be fairly easy for ordinary people to keep a large cache of information preserved against the will of the rulers for quite a few generations. If there's a cataclysmic event that kills most of humanity, the "cleanup" will be next to impossible given the tons of stuff

    • 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 Kjella (173770)

      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.

      Well, we might have something like that. That hard drive in your machine, how long is it going to last? If you power it down, how long is it actually usable? Those spares, how good is the shelf live? HDDs fail, CDs and DVDs fade away and USB pen drives will lose their charge if put in storage and almost nobody has a tape drive. The whole "copy to new media" assume we will have a continuous, uninterrupted flow of cheap storage, stable power and people with nothing better to do. Just imagine we had WWII all o

    • 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.

      Funny, last time I looked, an awful lot of archeology was being done about places and times where people wrote a lot of things down. Like, for example, recent Roman discoveries.

      The reason for archeology is that A) a lot of what's written is lies, hearsay, propaganda, misconceptions, exageration for entertainment purposes, etc. Or perhaps, you'd forgotten Atlantis?

      And B) even the best records are perishable. Periodically we lose large quantities of vital statistics when a town hall or hospital burns down or

    • by gr8_phk (621180)
      One good EMP and all your information is lost. You read slashdot, didn't you see the article the other day about an upper atmospheric test that zapped stuff 900 miles away? And that was relatively small compared to what's possible. Just a few of those and all electronics information not specially protected will be erased. Oh, or a giant solar flare can do the same - should you think people can actually behave themselves for 100,000 years. OTOH if we nuke ourselves, what's the difference if we leave some ext
    • by ameoba (173803)

      Consider the time scale we're working with here. Ancient Rome only stood for about a thousand years. The subsequent dark ages lasted about 700. Humans have only really been building "civilizations" for about 15,000 years. We're talking about recording information for stuff that might be dangerous for twice that long. We need to communicate with people that are further away from us than the people who discovered ceramics.

      That's a lot of time for things to horribly wrong. While €25,000 seems like a

    • 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.

      The broad outlines may be written down, but a remarkable amount can be lost in a short time. Here [archaeology.org] is an example of an 18th-c. cemetery in NYC that nobody knew was there. Here [archaeology.org] is an article discussing 19th-c. finds in San Francisco. The Steamboat Arabia [wikipedia.org] in the Kansas City area wasn't forgotten, but it was lost for well over a century; when it was finally excavated the artifacts within gave a great deal of previously unkown information about pioneer life. This isn't exactly ancient Rome we're talking ab

  • In a few years, we'll be drilling for nuclear waste to power our flying cars! Just like how the cave men buried dinosaur waste, which we now pump out as petroleum to power our driving cars.

    Future folks will be overjoyed to find an old nuclear waste dump buried on their property, because they will get rich by fracking it! Sapphire disks will be like old, dusty grizzled-prospectors' maps, and be highly valued.

    • 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 guttentag (313541) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @08:46PM (#40634257) Journal

      In a few years, we'll be drilling for nuclear waste to power our flying cars! Just like how the cave men buried dinosaur waste, which we now pump out as petroleum to power our driving cars.

      Thag: "What we write so no one dig here?"
      Ugg: "Thag crap here. No one go near it."
      Thag: "You funny."
      Ugg: "What? Like it matter in 1825 sunrises!"
      Thag: "OK, How you spell crap?"
      Ugg: "Don't know. Just put small 9 after your name."
      Thag: (Draws in the dirt with a stick, then notices his friend's feet) "Hey, where you get boots?"
      Ugg: "Made them from fake dead animal."

  • 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 R3d M3rcury (871886) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:49PM (#40633779) Journal

    If my TeeVee has taught me anything, it's that no matter how far into the future or past we go--even if we travel to other worlds--everybody speaks 20th Century English.

  • Are we assuming that diggers in the future won't have a Gieger counter?

    And if we're assuming that they won't then we can't make any assumptions about communicating with them in any way.

    Just put a skull and crossbones on it and call it a day. If the digging civilization doesn't have skulls or bones, then that's their own problem.

  • FTA: "Most countries with nuclear power stations agree that the solution for dealing with long-lived nuclear waste is to store it deep inside the earth, about 500 meters below the surface." Nothing new but I still find it disturbing that we do this.
  • by bpkiwi (1190575) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:50PM (#40633799)
    Pictures are very universal. Cave drawings of people hunting animals were immediately understood by people who discovered them. Put in blueprints of the site layout, use atomic model images to denote where material was stored, in what, etc.

    Math is also very easy to convey graphically, especially binary. You just have to include a big 'key' at the start to define your symbols. Start with "0 1 10 11" (0,1,2,3) followed by "01 + 01 = 10" (1+1=2) to give the symbols for addition and equality, then multiplication ("10 x 10 = 100"), etc. Once you have the basics it will be easy to convey everything from atomic numbers to dates.
  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:51PM (#40633811)

    A million years? You just the first phrase will be: "I, for one, welcome our future overlords..."

    Amusingly that'll also be the first +5 post when Slashdot covers the unearthing of this drive.

  • 1) Write multiple warnings and translate them all into every language you can manage. This has the side-effect of being a Rosetta Stone.
    2) Draw pictures of humans and other living things suffering the effects of radiation poisoning (and other death images, for good measure).
    3) Draw the atomic structure of uranium, plutonium, etc. You could also try drawing fusion/fission/etc. Go crazy.
    4) Make it really, really, really hard to get in.
    5) Anyone who still gets in is either advanced enough that they'll be safe

    • You mean like the "mummy's curse" or a million other death threats that ancient cultures showed for their tombs filled with riches? If you dig up a structure that is:

      A) Ancient

      B) Hard to get into

      C) Filled with all sorts of warning messages

      Would you think that it was:

      A) A dangerous death trap

      Or

      B) A place where the ancients held their treasure.

      I guess that most people would choose B.

      In all honesty though, I think that this is a moot point, if civilization collapses, basic pri
  • And they'd argue about whether we were aliens, and if we knew magic. Pretty cool.

    Also, as long as the information was written in a sufficient number of languages, with diagrams, our descendants should be able to figure it out. We probably would, if there were a million-year-old written record.

  • 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!"

  • The product (Score:5, Funny)

    by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @09:56PM (#40634751)
    Here's an image [icrontic.com] of their current prototype sapphire disk.
  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @11:15PM (#40635247)

    Sapphire is Al2O3, aluminum oxide (aka alumina). Alumina dissolves in alkaline pH conditions see, for example, http://www.seachem.com/support/AluminumSolubilityToxicity.pdf [seachem.com]). It seems likely that over hundreds of milennia, these discs would be exposed to alkaline conditions as a result of varying geochemistry/hydrology.

    Furthermore, sapphire is brittle. Very hard, but brittle. One could break a sapphire disc by dropping it a few feet onto concrete. Over hundreds of milennia, stuff falls, squashes, cracks, etc.

  • by matunos (1587263) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:25AM (#40635963)

    Just make the Millenarians take care of them.

  • un-mine it! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LSDelirious (1569065) on Friday July 13, 2012 @02:47AM (#40636299)
    uranium comes from ore dug out of the ground, at something like 0.1%-1.0% uranium oxide concentrations, so why not just take the radioactive waste and mix it with filler to dilute it down to ore concentrations (suspended in concrete, glass, whatever, something cheap and relatively durable) and drill some really deep holes, deep enough it won't affect any ground water tables, and away from oil fields - ideally near a subduction zone trench where over time the waste would get carried down further into the crust as the waste impregnated plate dives downward. Far out of reach from civilization and in concentrations no more dangerous than already exist in nature. Surely that has to be more cost effective in the long run than maintaining highly guarded secret storage bunkers indefinitely....

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