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A Million-Year Hard Disk

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the sapphires-are-forever dept.

Data Storage 394

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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Time to switch. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633573)

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This Gamemakerlessness!

Gamemaker can do anything.
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Return, return, return, return, return.
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easy answer. (5, Insightful)

the biologist (1659443) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633585)

What language? All of them.

Re:easy answer. (5, Funny)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:easy answer. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634015)

C is the right answer because it's always the default $LANG.

Re:easy answer. (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634041)

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

Re:easy answer. (1)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633867)

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. (0)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634303)

I disagree. Just write LOLWUT? and leave it at that.

Cuneiform (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633597)

It's awl-write.

I'll get me coat.

If ancient people taught us anything... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633611)

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

Re:If ancient people taught us anything... (5, Funny)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633757)

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

FTFY.

Re:If ancient people taught us anything... (5, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633873)

The Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen .... *tablet shatters* .... Ten! Ten Commandments! For all to obey!

Re:If ancient people taught us anything... (4, Insightful)

isorox (205688) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633891)

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.

Re:If ancient people taught us anything... (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:If ancient people taught us anything... (5, Insightful)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:If ancient people taught us anything... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634243)

They should encode the information in spatial patterns of buried radioactive deposits... I hear those can last a really long time.

Maybe French, Maybe Not (1)

wallsg (58203) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633627)

After all, don't they keep it pure?

Or, if you believe Futurama, it'll be a dead language in a thousand years...

The Long Now has already looked at this... (5, Informative)

Bookwyrm (3535) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Language (2)

bjoast (1310293) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633635)

Do not use french!

Duh (4, Funny)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633647)

Those control crystals from SG1.

English (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633649)

'We have no idea what language to write it in.'

You have no idea that you should choose English? Fuckin' scientists makin' me pissed.

Cheaper way to do it (5, Funny)

meglon (1001833) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Also watch this film... (5, Informative)

djnanite (1979686) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633667)

"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.

Re:Also watch this film... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634049)

Odds are very good that both Voyager and both Pioneer spacecraft will outlast this particular idea. Interstellar space is a good preserver unless you hit something. And at a glance, the bunker's lifespan of 100,000 years is only about 20-25 times the lifespan of the Great Sphinx at Giza.

I found the quote about making the vault "independent of human nature" to be amusing. They're going to put nuclear fuel in there. That's going to be of considerable value to future humans (unless humans or whatever maintain no more than a preindustrial society for the next hundred thousand years) and hence, make the project somewhat futile for its intended purpose, but in a useful way.

That's easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633669)

They should just use C!

I mean, if they can't write C code, they probably won't do much with this info anyway.

Esperanto! (4, Funny)

fish waffle (179067) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633671)

The lingua-franca of tomorrow.

Re:Esperanto! (1)

rleibman (622895) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633717)

Kompreneble!

Re:Esperanto! (3, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633733)

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.

No, not Latin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633865)

Bzzt, you are incorrect. Greek has been the real language of trade and science for more than two thousand years.
Its popularity for use as a common language for science was during the relatively short and recent period of neoclassicism (1600s-1800s).

Re:Esperanto! (1)

JSG (82708) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633917)

Why do you describe Esperanto as the French language? (OK Frankish language)

Etchings? (2)

demonbug (309515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633679)

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:Etchings? (0)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633737)

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.

By and large we already have it. All the stuff that will require 10K years to "cool" is spent reactor fuel, which if the politicians would pull their heads out of their asses would stick in a breeder reactor and burn for more power, then take what comes out of there (weapons grade plutonium) and stick it in the center of a military base for the next century while they cut it up for probe RTGs that get launched into space.

I honestly can't think of what else they'd need to store for tens of thousands (or even millions) of years. Even Chernobyl will have cooled significantly in only a hundred years or so.

Re:Etchings? (4, Informative)

pwizard2 (920421) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634281)

I'm not a nuclear physicist, and I could be wrong, but isn't the rule of thumb something along the lines of the shorter a half-life an isotope has, the more dangerous it is? Something that decays to another element in a few seconds (or less) is emitting radiation like crazy whereas something that has a half-life of several million years seems practically stable by comparison.

Re:Etchings? (4, Informative)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634319)

Close. Most things that undergo radioactive decay become other radioactive elements and different particles of various energies. You have to look at the whole decay chain to find out where the bad ones are.

Re:Etchings? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633775)

Easy: just build a pyramid over top of the nuclear waste repository, put some hieroglyphs on it of people burning/becoming mutated and call it good.

No fancy discs needed and a lot more idiot-proof.

Re:Etchings? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633893)

Pfft the Curse of the Ancients is merely quaint superstition...

Re:Etchings? (3, Interesting)

jgotts (2785) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633935)

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.

Re:Etchings? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634005)

Sapphires are too expensive. You could just etch some Twinkies, or hotdogs.

Re:Etchings? (4, Funny)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634245)

They said readable in a million years, not edible in a million years. Do you really want some redneck to stumble upon the warning twinkie stash a few thousand years from now and swallow all the information? I thought not. ;-)

Re:Etchings? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634255)

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.

We already know how, we have much of the technology, and all of the theory. We're not doing it because it's more cost-effective for corporations to dig up more and sell it than to reprocess what's there, apparently, but that can be fixed.

Language (1)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633683)

I would suggest Lojban so nobody gets confused what we were trying to say

Two words: Grave Robbers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633685)

Nobody would think of hunting down a sapphire and platinum artefact just because it has intrinsic value, right?

Re:Two words: Grave Robbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633849)

There's also the fact that these stashes themselves are treasure troves for some people... someone might want to mine them in the future so X marking the dangerous spot might not be as smart as it sounds.

COBOL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633703)

Heck, it's been around for seemingly forever and doesn't seem to be going away. ;)

Re:COBOL? (1)

belthize (990217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633725)

I was going to say FORTRAN but COBOL should work.

The universal geek language: (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633705)

Porn. Of course at €25000, that's very expensive porn.

They (5, Funny)

Konster (252488) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633731)

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

Re:They (1)

Soporific (595477) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633819)

+1 - I would love to hear the conversation when they found it.

~S

Are these people insane? (3, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633747)

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.

Re:Are these people insane? (4, Insightful)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633801)

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.

Re:Are these people insane? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633881)

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 carve "universal" danger messages in durable substances such as rock, and bury them all over the waste sites

And build large structures out of rock near waste disposal areas, designed in a shape to convey a danger message, and durable enough to withstand earthquakes and thousands of years worth of wear and tear caused by the elements.

Re:Are these people insane? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634061)

Re:Are these people insane? (2)

oracleofbargth (16602) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634067)

It's not a hard drive, it's the equivalent of a microfiche, which can be read with a big enough magnifying glass.

Re:Are these people insane? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634099)

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

You can always attach something younger to it, say a two month old reading device. I bet it'd work a lot better too. The data needs to be in a format that lasts that long. Frankly, you don't even need a reading device to go with it. Let those future people make their own device.

Re:Are these people insane? (2)

Kielistic (1273232) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634115)

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.

They have to believe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633825)

If people hand down information and keep copying it to new media, their fancy drive will be worthless. If you spent years perfecting something ridiculously expensive, wouldn't you want to think it would have some sort of use and not just be some sort of toy?

Re:Are these people insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633913)

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.

So your argument is we shouldn't take the time to make a record of this because they'll always be a record of it?

Why would things ever stop being archived and kept track of? Seriously.

Apparently some people think there isn't a need to keep track of things. Maybe they assume someone else will? enough people with that attitude and no record will be made.

Re:Are these people insane? (4, Insightful)

isorox (205688) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633931)

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.

Nuclear waste will be the crude oil of the future! (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633749)

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.

Re:Nuclear waste will be the crude oil of the futu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634021)

yabba dabba do

Re:Nuclear waste will be the crude oil of the futu (3, Insightful)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#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]

Re:Nuclear waste will be the crude oil of the futu (4, Funny)

guttentag (313541) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634257)

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."

Something that everyone can understand? (2, Insightful)

Slugster (635830) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Something that everyone can understand? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633813)

Society collapses no longer understands our universal signs for radioactivity, redevelops 21st century drilling and mining techniques but don't know what a geiger counter is?

Re:Something that everyone can understand? (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633889)

That's the point OP is trying to make. Even if this did happen, after digging up the first nuclear waste site they'd realize that the sign of a human skull means "this is bad, stay away"

Re:Something that everyone can understand? (4, Funny)

jrumney (197329) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633941)

How about, Oh, I dunno. A pictorial map? With a human skull marking each site?

Pirate treasure! Let's dig it up!

Yeah, that'll work.

Tomb Raiders (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633769)

So when someone steals it to sell it for scrap for the sapphire and platinum, then what do the people 1000 years from now do?

20th Century English (3, Funny)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633779)

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.

Ten thousand years? I think not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633787)

When we get spaceship technology and sending big stuff into space cost next to nothing, we will just be able to send all that waste on another planet. Or in the sun. Which shouldn't take us more than 500 years to accomplish.

Doesn't it describe it's own contents? (1)

Zadaz (950521) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633791)

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.

Strange problems. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633793)

Let's see, they haven't even figured out how to do the fucking signs for the ashes deposits of their uninsured nuclear water-cookers, that have to be guarded for a couple of million years but they want to make us believe it's cheaper than wind generators?

Disturbing (2)

x181 (2677887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633797)

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.

Re:Disturbing (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634151)

What? Agree on things? I don't think that's a problem around here.

Pictures + Math (2)

bpkiwi (1190575) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

If Slashdotters had their way... (3, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Spanish (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633835)

Write it in Spanish, the way the Mexicans are reproducing, it will be the only language spoken soon!

A few simple steps to get started (2)

Cyphase (907627) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633839)

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 or dumb enough that they don't deserve to survive.

BONUS STEP: Keep maintaining it so the only way it'll ever become a problem is if humanity gets so close to extinction that by the time they would even get close to getting in, language will have changed so much that they might not understand the written warnings. Or the pictures.

Don't worry about the aliens. If they can get here, I think they'll probably be fine.

Re:A few simple steps to get started (2)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634221)

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 principles such as how to make a Geiger counter and radioactivity would most likely survive the collapse or at least be rediscovered before people would be drilling into nuclear waste storage sites.

We'd be like their Ancient Precursors (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633853)

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.

View (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633855)

Assuming a physical storage medium, it should be a stack of gold plate tableaus. One should not "presume" a hard drive principal at all.

Besides that, this whole discussion disregards the top line logic that if you lose continuity of civilization to understand whatever resource is in the storage site, they likely also would not understand what a storage site is, what's in it, that it is hazardous at all, etc. Better to make it hard to get to and say screw it. By putting it in Nevada nobody would bother going there unless the polls melt, the poles shift or some other Earth modification make the place a nice place to live. So put up dead animal skulls all over the place, just in case.

One the other hand if we kill some other post human culture or animals, why do we even care? Set a machine to open the doors to the nuke waste 1000 years after we ignore it (dead man's switch). Screw them.

Hmph! (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633907)

If they can't read English in 1,000,000 years then I say "Fuck'em!"

Wrong methods (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633919)

You wouldn't want a single medium that will both last a thousand years as well as not at all be read again for a thousand years.

What you want is a medium that will last a minimum of a couple years, then before a couple years pass copy that data to a new medium device, making updates and translations as needed.

If each generation updates the records more than once, keeping things updated with whatever language changes end up happening over time, then the Content will last thousands of years, yet the medium will not be required to survive longer than a few years.

Then we don't have to make assumptions about the language that will be required a thousand years from now. It will become that over time. The only language to start it with are languages of today.

Our current hard drive technology can do this already.
Store multiple copies on multiple drives. Make damn sure the data will get copied and updated before all of them fail. Always copy onto a new hard drive.
It is reasonable to expect future storage devices to only last longer than current ones, not less.
Keep copying over to the newest and best available at that moment. Never neglect it for too long.

umm, seems overly complicated (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633925)

we don't need to write down anything, nor store anything. this is yet another dumb problem with a very easy non-technological solution, that needn't any gadgetry.

we have plenty of information from tens of thousands of years ago. you'd think that archeologists would be familiar with them. They're called rocks.

Bury the nuclear wasted wherever you like, and put a big ugly rock on top of it. and not a round one. I promise, it'll stay there for as long as the waste does.

In a million years, assuming everyone forgot, someone will ask why these weird rocks are everywhere. and then they'll dig beneath one, and find out pretty damn fast.

it's a rock, not a hard place.

Leave a translation key... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40633927)

The language choice, you would think is simple enough...

Assume that there is intelligent life looking at the disk. If you can't make that assumption, it doesn't matter.

Start with a pictoral key like * = one, ** = two - in other words, basic concepts.
Take it onward to describe items, so a language basis can be made that they can translate to.
Figure out how to write something like 'binary storage medium, 8 bits per character'.
Save a dictionary to the first 100MB.
Place instructions on how to read the rest of the disk.
Store the data after that in whatever format you just described.

If they can't think through the puzzle, then they probably won't know what to do with the waste anyways.
Maybe I'm making too many assumptions here about life several thousand years down the road, but they should have some analysis skills to decode a puzzle if it is made to be simple.

Stone tablets (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633929)

I was once thinking, if you cut tiny dots of 0.1mm in size in stone tablets, then it might be just visible with primitive tools and preserve a long while.

A stone tablet of one square meter could store 100 megabit that way!

Useful?

"Wow, sapphire and plantinum!" (3, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40633993)

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

Re:"Wow, sapphire and plantinum!" (1)

clintp (5169) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634109)

Sapphire and platinum? Where do I dig?

It's stupid to use valuable (or even things that *look* valuable) as warning markers. Pharaohs were buried with jewels and gold, and look how many of their graves survived intact for just a couple of thousand years. As long as there's even a rumor of a payoff, people *will* dig them up even if the ground is cursed. Or radioactive.

manuscripts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634009)

Better to engrave the instructions on some metal that can't be easily melted down or chiseled. Make sure to have the words in Latin and Ancient Greek (along with whatever languages you want). Make a few copies of this and give it to a bunch of Catholic monasteries.

The last part is how a good portion of our previous knowledge got preserved (and a lot of the stuff the West got from the Arabs was actually first translated by the Eastern Churches based in Syria and Baghdad).

Not many other institutions have lasted as long. There are probably some Buddhist monasteries as well thinking about it—though the Buddhists aren't attached to this world as much, so may not care so much about knowledge about it and physical objects.

That's easy (1)

dlb (17444) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634011)

Durker durr!

This isn't hard (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634087)

We can assume anyone that reads it, even post-apocalypse, is at least roughly as intelligent as we are, even if their society is set back a bit. You need to include primers. The first engravings should be larger (no special / microscopic instruments required, low density), and go through a pictorial primer explaining the numbers, then basic math, then basic language. From there you can advance to "how to build crude instruments to read higher density disks", and then in the higher density disks you can write oodles of detailed information, starting with more advanced primers on our language and culture.

This is the same basic problem as communications with distant aliens. Except if you expect the reader to at least be our historical descendants, you could include an additional cheatsheet: a rosetta stone of some of the primer info in 10-15 different popular languages of today, in hopes that some vestige of one of the languages survives (or has managed to be preserved in historical studies, or perhaps bears enough resemblance to a modern descendant language that it's relatively easy for them to decode it).

Not French! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634105)

They saved US twice and now look where we are!!

m-disk by millenniata.com already does this (2)

ezakimak (160186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634125)

http://millenniata.com/ [millenniata.com]
Produces optical media with a rock-like substrate on optical media--you're literally etching in stone.
They claim it will last at least 10,000 years.

Will be salvaged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634145)

If it's made of valuable material, it will get stolen/recycled/whatever way before 1 million years. Look at the pharao graves, not one survived more then 4000 years. They also had warnings on them, like open this cave and you die. Did that stop anyone? You could write something down like: "Open this nuclear waste bunker, and all life on earth will perish" , and someone would still open it to find out whats in there. Never underestimate human curiosity.

Also each pound of higly radioactivy "waste" is easily worth tousands of dollars. One way or another it will be dug up and reused in a matter of a few centuries or so.

If you really want to get rid of the valuable nuclear waste, probably the best method is to pour it into the ocean. Seriously, if you manage to distribute it evenly over all oceans you get slightly elevated background radiation and there's no way to recover it. But try to convince the treehuggers of this solution :)

BINARY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634223)

Do it in binary...

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634237)

Is it just me, that thinks this isn't the usual "solution looking for a problem"?

This one goes a step further... it's looking for a solution that's looking for a problem...

"...perhaps even millions..." (1, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634279)

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.

Don't take risk write both. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634283)

Why take risk on something that should be readable in a million years? Write in both ASCII and EBCDIC. But always have the parity bit on.

Use Fortran (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40634285)

That'll last forever.

Use a picture (1)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40634325)

Use a picture of a person bending over puking. Then put the symbol of the uranium atom next to it. With 238 protons and neutrons. Then a map of the area where the junk is stored.
Complete it with a cartoon of a man, a woman, and a child. Then a symbol of uranium with 232 protons and neutrons. And a map of the area with a big X over where the radioactive stuff is.

In a 100000 years from now, somebody will figure it out.

Hell, a single Frenchman mastered ancient Egyptian from the Rosetta Stone 180 years ago. People are smart. They will continue to be smart 100,000 years from now. Hopefully smart enough to know not to make radioactive poisons that last a million years.

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