Not bad, but didn't Simon Sharwood talk about that in this ElReg-ism?
Boffins have devised a storage medium that could hold data for up to one billion years and claim recent accelerated ageing tests have shown "million-year" survivability. The study's authors are Jeroen de Vries of the University of Twente MESA and Institute for Nanotechnology, and colleagues Dimitri Schellenberg, Leon Abelmann1 …
Monday 6th January 2014 08:41 GMT jake
Monday 6th January 2014 10:24 GMT rh587
Re: I think that ...
@jake "Humans (and our technology) will not last forever, but geology will last for the duration of the planet."
No it won't. Subduction and recycling of geology means we actually have no "original" rocks from the point where the Earth cooled from a blob of molten rock and started to form a crusty surface.
The oldest samples we have are dated at around 4-4.4Ga. Odds are all (or all bar a vanishingly small handful) of the rocks on Earth today will not exist in their current form when the sun goes red giant (estd. 5Bn years), on average they'll have been subducted and recycled by the time we're all swallowed up by the sun.
Monday 6th January 2014 13:39 GMT Nigel 11
Re: I think that ...
The Earth will become uninhabitable a lot sooner than 5 Gigayears hence. We're actually rather close to the inwards edge of the habitable zone around the Sun, and the Sun is getting hotter as it ages. Unless "we" initiate major planetary protection operations within the next Gigayear (orbital sunshades, or orbit expansion), life will be over by then. Some estimate as soon as 300My, before Earth suffers thermal runaway the same as Venus. (OMG multicellular life is having its midlife crisis! )
If we want to leave a *really* long-term record, Earth isn't really the right place. Too much corrosive oxygen and water and those awkward plate tectonics, and a boiling sulphuric acid nightmare after the end of life on Earth.The Moon is better (dig in deep to protect against all but huge meteor strikes, and position-mark with long-life radioactives near the surface). An outer moon of Saturn would be better still, might even survive Sol going red giant and nova. (Ring any bells? ....)
Monday 6th January 2014 08:59 GMT Paul Leigh
Since when does digital data need a permanent medium in the ranges of millions of years? Just copy the stuff to the new media of the day. For it to ever be viable, the controller, computer and software would also have to last millions of years too.
Salesman: We got this multi-million year archiving solution.
Buyer: Cool, what does it cost?
Buyer: Hmm... We got budget for a 10 year storage solution. Next!
Monday 6th January 2014 09:35 GMT Crisp
Monday 6th January 2014 09:46 GMT Ragarath
Re: Since when does digital data need a permanent medium in the ranges of millions of years?
Or when we annihilate ourselves and the alien Time Team come a looking on planet Wastikia 12c (Known as Earth to us) and make the exciting find, right at the end of the program. A disc of data able to store data for several million years, Tune in next week after we have decoded it.
Regrettably an addition to the next program stated that the media was 1 year out of date and no identifiable information could be retrieved. There used to be a civilisation on this planet but we don't know who or what they were, oh well. Next week we investigate Wastikia 12d where more alien life may have lived as it is in the fretimba zone (Goldilocks Zone to us).
Monday 6th January 2014 11:02 GMT Primus Secundus Tertius
Monday 6th January 2014 09:02 GMT Pen-y-gors
Monday 6th January 2014 09:05 GMT Anonymous Coward
Monday 6th January 2014 09:18 GMT Jamie Jones
"Microsoft Office 1002014 cannot read this file"
I'm sorry, but that document seems to have been produced in an earlier version of Office.
Please ask the originator to upgrade to the latest version of Office, and resend.
Microsoft Office 1002014 offers all the must have features critical for productive work in todays environment. Anything else is sooooooo 1002013.
Monday 6th January 2014 10:06 GMT Moonshine
Re: "Microsoft Office 1002014 cannot read this file"
Then why oh why don't future civilisations use LibraOffice 9538485.3 on Ubuntu 58486324.1 instead, thereby "sticking it to the M$ man"? It's free, stable and and they've finally got the Desktop UI and printer drivers nailed, (remaining printer, UI and network issues TBA in release 58486324.2 and later).
Monday 6th January 2014 10:06 GMT Rich 2
Bearing in mind what a complete fuck-up we humans are making of the planet, of being demonstrably unable to live with each other (never mind with any other species) in peace and harmony, and our general lack of responsibility for ...well ...anything, I can't help thinking that the best legacy we could leave any following civilisations would be to disappear quietly and take our rather unhealthy culture with us.
Monday 6th January 2014 10:55 GMT willi0000000
what to write
so, suggestions for what to write on these million year disks?
what would someone/something reading these disks want to know about us?
more importantly, what don't we want them to know about us?
"Hi. If you are reading this we must be gone. We were a warlike race, totally disinterested in preserving a viable environment or settling our differences peacefully. Try to do better."
[i look forward to the war that starts over the content of the "forever library" when somebody's religion or political party is "obviously" mistreated by the committee]
Monday 6th January 2014 12:07 GMT YetAnotherLocksmith
Re: what to write
Might I suggest "Ozymandias"?
First, the sonnet by Shelley.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
And on the 'B' side? The companion work.
IN Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
Monday 6th January 2014 12:27 GMT Mage
Monday 6th January 2014 13:38 GMT VinceH
Wednesday 8th January 2014 14:05 GMT Vic
Monday 6th January 2014 11:49 GMT Baron Ebaneezer Wanktrollop III
So we put all the technology gleaned from thousands of years on the planet and leave it to the next race, who will probably need the same amount of time to gain the technology to be able to decipher it.
It's like writing down the instructions for making a key and putting it in a locked box.
Monday 6th January 2014 12:17 GMT Dave 126
>who will probably need the same amount of time to gain the technology to be able to decipher it.
The article discusses markings that are visible to the naked eye, and to microscopes - on the same material as stores data magnetically. You could leave lots (thousands) of sapphire lenses lying around the vicinity of the data store - not only would they facilitate the building of a microscope, but they would be found and traded as gems are today. Later, curiosity and greed would make sure that future beings would explore the area more carefully, leading them to discover the data store.
However, it is desirable to require a certain level of technology to read the data- we want future archaeologists to decipher these disks. We don't want them being used as fetish objects or clubs by the cave-dwelling man apes that will wander the post-apocalyptic wastelands.
Arthur C Clarke's solution to separate the apes from the men was to place the data store on the moon.
Tuesday 7th January 2014 11:09 GMT DropBear
"Arthur C Clarke's solution to separate the apes from the men was to place the data store on the moon." - that won't work too well if they finally manage to get there only to look around, say "achievement unlocked" then leave never to return, as a certain other sentient species seem to be doing. Unless that is specifically part of the definition of apes vs. men, of course.
Tuesday 7th January 2014 12:37 GMT Nigel 11
We don't want them being used as fetish objects or clubs by the cave-dwelling man apes that will wander the post-apocalyptic wastelands.
Or maybe we do, provided they're suitably resilient. Something that's periodically rediscovered and regarded as treasure from the great ones of yesteryear may stand a better chance of finally being decoded, than something lost in a hole in the ground getting buried deeper and deeper with every passing milennium. Tableware made of a high-tech ceramic much tougher than mere porcelain might be a good choice. If some barbarian manages to smash it and dumps it in a midden, the information loss probably isn't very great.
Anyway you'd run both strategies in parallel, with very many identical plates for redundancy.
Monday 6th January 2014 12:45 GMT Ben Bonsall
Make big visible diagrams showing how to build a microscope
Markings visible with the microscope show how to build tech to read next level
Assumes a certain level of technology with each layer of course...
Obviously, if the data requires more than one disc, there is a problem... eventually the future people receive an error message saying 'This is disc 3 of 10. Please insert disc 1 to read file list' or probably 'Thix si drrc # fi !). Plix inrest drrc ! 2 rrrd dictionary'
Monday 6th January 2014 12:37 GMT Wize
The disk may survive, but can anyone read it?
Remember the Original Domesday book. From 1086 and still readable
The update to it was created in 1986 and there is limited hardware that can read the disks any more.
The data may survive on the drive, but will future civilisations have the equipment to interface to an old SATA drive?
Monday 6th January 2014 13:04 GMT localgeek
Monday 6th January 2014 16:17 GMT Charles 9
Re: Cave Drawings?
True, but their storage capacity is limited. Not to mention we're not certain we're reading these stone media correctly; language gets very inconsistent when it's measured in geologic time. Meanwhile, the sum total of human knowledge appears to be beyond that capacity, so we need a cleverer way. This seems to be an attempt at this: using varying levels of "density" to allow for both compact and human-readable levels of data preservation.
Tuesday 7th January 2014 12:45 GMT Nigel 11
Re: Cave Drawings?
A lot of thought would need to go into providing a dictionary. Carefully chosen well-labelled pictures ought to allow a long-lost language to be reborn. If only (say) the Minoans or Etruscans had produced children's picture books on stone tablets.
In an SF story I once read, the (accidental) Rosetta stone was an annotated periodic table, although obviously only a fairly advanced civilisation could decode that one.
Monday 6th January 2014 13:38 GMT cray74
Additional test results
Interesting to see silicon nitride described as having "high fracture resistance." I suppose if you're comparing it to other ceramics and glasses, it is fairly tough, but silicon nitride is a brittle material compared to most metallic alloys.
I'd like to see accelerated corrosion test results for this material (humid atmosphere, not salt fog). Tungsten isn't in the same category as platinum or most stainless steels for corrosion resistance. Silicon nitride is fairly inert but when you're aiming for a billion years in an oxidizing environment, nitrides will yield to oxygen. You might be better off starting with an oxide matrix (though they're admittedly more brittle than even silicon nitride.)
Monday 6th January 2014 16:22 GMT Charles 9
Monday 6th January 2014 19:57 GMT cray74
Re: Additional test results
Sure, but transparency is a relatively easy quality to provide once you get beyond problems of corrosion (which tends to impair transparency) and long-term data stability. There are plenty of transparent oxides. Like, window glass, and many other glasses. Fused quartz. Sapphire. SiAlON. Most oxide minerals have transparent forms when they're pure and single crystal.
I guess diamond is a pretty stable transparent, durable material, too, though you'll want to avoid excessive heat or fire. The oxide forms of carbon are rather less useful than diamond for long term data storage. ;)
Wednesday 8th January 2014 13:35 GMT Charles 9
Re: Additional test results
How stable are oxide crystals? Might they also have properties that would make them unsuitable for a protective layer (for example, you wouldn't want to use quartz since it's piezoelectric--a chance current or lightning bolt could make it crush anything it contained)? Plus, what about their hardness? At 8.5 on the Mohs scale, Silicon Nitride is no slouch (To compare, Quartz is a 7).
Monday 6th January 2014 13:59 GMT Nigel 11
Perhaps this method is right, for billion-year timescales.
If we're aiming only at the next civilisation after this one fails, or perhaps the next intelligent species after this one goes extinct, then a Babylonian solution beckons. Fired clay tablets (with a modern twist). Perhaps a somewhat more advanced ceramic, such as the all but indestructible "Corelle" that Dow Corning once made plates from. (Same problem as un-ladderable stockings. The plates last forever. No repeat sales. No profits. Discontinued. Sigh. )
You could put some low-tech diagrammatic writing on the plates, in an attempt to draw attention to the high-definition data embossed in the ceramic, or ink-jet printed at ~100dpi. Make them both beautiful and startingly hard to break, and stone-age or barbarian peoples might preserve them rather than destroy them. Anyway, it's really hard work to destroy the information on a ceramic surface and a subsequent civilisation will reassemble the fragments from your rubbish tip. Make lots and lots of them, distribute them as superior mass-market tableware, and survival of some of them is virtually guaranteed. All we need is a billionaire with a long-term view of things to underwrite the project. (Thinks ... an Indian one ... must be good for a lot of positive Karma. The largest Hindu unit of time is a large multiple of My, and they believe in re-incarnation and in cycles of creation and destruction. It all fits. )
(Apparently we know more about the everyday minutae of Babylonian life, than about any civilisation since! )
Monday 6th January 2014 16:37 GMT Vociferous
Archival paper is acid free, so in the right environment, meaning bone dry and cool + no insects, it should last indefinitely. I'm guessing the 500 years figure is empirical and should be prefaced with "at least": there are 500 year old books printed on paper still surviving, and the paper those books use is similar to present archival paper. The real problem is avoiding adverse conditions (fire, water, insects, idiots) for such a long time: only 31 of the Gutenberg bibles still survive.
Also, if all you want to do is leave a message for the far future, why not just etch it in quartz glass? That will last you the age of the universe, unless it encounters temperatures significantly in excess of 500 celsius.