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Billion Year Storage Media

samzenpus posted 1 year,9 days | from the built-to-last dept.

Data Storage 204

Thorfinn.au writes "Even though the data density of digital information storage has increased tremendously over the last few decades, the data longevity is limited to only a few decades. If we want to preserve anything about the human race which can outlast the human race itself, we require a data storage medium designed to last for 1 million to 1 billion years. In this paper a medium is investigated consisting of tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride which, according to elevated temperature tests, will last for well over the suggested time."

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Nice atomic structure (5, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120503)

But as we know, you can't trust atoms.
They make up everything.

Re:Nice atomic structure (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120633)

Yes, we do all know. We learned it in elementary school.

Re:Nice atomic structure (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120653)

Is there a name for a joke that's so bad, it's good?

Re: Nice atomic structure (1)

AvitarX (172628) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120749)

A pun

Re:Nice atomic structure (1)

JustOK (667959) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120755)

How many atoms in a quark?

Re:Nice atomic structure (4, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120941)

That's like asking how many insane asylums are in a crazy person...

Re:Nice atomic structure (1)

Trouvist (958280) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120995)

Not enough.

Re:Nice atomic structure (1, Interesting)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121145)

I knew a lady who had a therapist and a nurse in her list of personalities. She could lock herself up for treatment..

But I get your point...

Re:Nice atomic structure (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45122043)

For those who don't know, or aren't compelled to look it up -

Quarks are the pieces that make up protons and neutrons. There aren't any atoms in a quark, but there are many quarks in an atom. The number of quarks depends on the weight of the atom (protons + neutrons). But what about electrons? They're made of leptons and pixie vomit.

The authors don't trust their own invention (3, Funny)

Laxator2 (973549) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120837)

The authors describe a medium that will hold information for 1million to 1 billion years, yet they publish their results on PAPER!
Either they don't trust their own material will last as long as good old paper or they expect irrelevance to do its work faster than wear and tear.
Otherwise, they would publish a "tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride", not a "paper".

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (1)

Loughla (2531696) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121103)

Couldn't we just etch everything into stone, then encapsulate it in concrete or other similarly hard medium, and put it into orbit around the moon? Wouldn't that last a while?

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (2)

Bigbutt (65939) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121331)

Sure. We'll create a gigantic square block with a QR code on it so the aliens can scan it and immediately understand. :)

[John]

Re: The authors don't trust their own invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45122081)

i would go with a black monolith myself.

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121505)

It will last a while, provided that the rocket launching it doesn't crash on launch. Then it will last a very short time.
The lack of atmosphere means no moisture, corrosion, etc, but it also means micormeteoroid abrasion.
I think the lifetime would be a few hundred million years. :-(

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (2)

femtobyte (710429) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121691)

Have you seen the surface of the moon? You know, the one pockmarked by all sizes of craters and pulverized to a fine dust? Space is a terrible place for long-term (billion-year) longevity of unprotected objects; anything you put there will end up ground to bits by micrometeorites in the long term, even in a rather hefty concrete capsule. Having a planetary atmosphere to take care of all but the biggest chunks of space debris is extremely useful; far better protection than quite a few meters of concrete.

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121155)

Yea, but the "Paper" can be photo copied right?

Re:The authors don't trust their own invention (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121465)

The new material can be "tungstenized". Or something like that.

what about the data format? (4, Insightful)

gmack (197796) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120517)

That's nice and all but can we trust our data formats to stay static for that long? Having the data but being unable to open it seems rather useless to me.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120651)

I can still run my MSX games from ~30 years ago. All it takes is interest in maintaining the data. If it is important -- and some even if it isn't -- somebody will maintain it.

Re:what about the data format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120739)

"If we want to preserve anything about the human race which can outlast the human race itself". So we need to find aliens who are willing to maintain it?

Re:what about the data format? (1)

alexgieg (948359) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120875)

So we need to find aliens who are willing to maintain it?

Nope. We make the aliens to maintain it, either via genetic engineering or Artificial Intelligence.

Re:what about the data format? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121847)

Make it GPL, then the aliens will not only maintain it, but will have to contribute back.

Re:what about the data format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120781)

All it takes is interest in maintaining the data. If it is important -- and some even if it isn't -- somebody will maintain it.

There will be nobody to maintain it, if we're all dead.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121037)

can we trust our data formats to stay static for that long?

I can still run my MSX games from ~30 years ago

Yes, 30 years is a good counter point to asking if we'll be able to understand the data in a BILLION years. (rolls eyes)

Since you're obviously missing the point, go look up what the Rosetta Stone is, and why it's important, and think about how it's relevant to this discussion.

Re:what about the data format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121371)

Rosetta Stone is, and why it's important, and think about how it's relevant to this discussion.

So you're afraid that your language learning software might not work in a billion years? I can assure you, it won't..

Re:what about the data format? (2)

JustOK (667959) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121299)

I thought Bob was maintaining it, but he said it was Mary who was responsible for it. But Mary hasn't worked here for 5 years. Yah, she was let go in that big round of layoffs just before Christmas that year. Yah, right! And Charlie, remember Charlie? Well, he said something really funny. Remember? Yah, me neither, although I think I thought it was really funny at the time. So, anyways, someone said it was left to the maintenance staff to maintain it. And the maintenance staff, yah, they're just the janitors and stuff. So they outsourced it, but they don't have records of who to, because the maintenance staff contract changed hands.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121493)

You forgot Alice. But most importantly, you forgot the "interest in maintaining the data". When people have easy access to the data, it will be replicated. I don't think what happened to, for instance, the Dr. Who episodes that were lost, could happen again. At that time only a handful of people had access to the films... nowadays you can find practically anything on bittorrent / www.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

AlecC (512609) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121699)

What happened to the Dr Who episodes was mainly due to the cost of storage. The tapes on which they were stored were relatively expensive, and no-one saw any possibility of future sales because they didn't foresee the number of channels available now. So the bean-counters ordered the tapes re-used.

The cost of storage for those episodes is now trivial: they could probably all fit onto one memory stick, at a few tens of dollars. But this new tungsten storage is likely to be expensive, at least initially. Yes, you can get almost anything of that size onto dozens of disk drives all over the world, making them proof against any single cataclysm. But disk drives have a life of a few years - then what? Yes, they may roll forward onto new drives - or they may not. "Dormant" accounts may be deleted after a decade or so. So somebody has to want the data enough to pay for it to be transcribed to this new process.

Re:what about the data format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120709)

Storing the opening method should be top priority then!

Re: what about the data format? (3, Interesting)

AvitarX (172628) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120769)

Frequency analysis and non compressed formats

Re:what about the data format? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120849)

That's nice and all but can we trust our data formats to stay static for that long? Having the data but being unable to open it seems rather useless to me.

If we've been able to decipher obscure hieroglyphs and number systems from dozens of long-dead civilizations, I'm sure that 1 billion years from now scholars will be able to solve the arcane puzzle of ASCII and the VFAT file system. The much tougher problem would be: Once they have all the words extracted from the files, figuring out what they mean.

Re:what about the data format? (3, Informative)

Rob Riggs (6418) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121077)

There is one key reason why we were able to decipher hieroglyphics. We had a cheat sheet [wikipedia.org] containing a language we understood. Unless we can provide something like that, it will be very difficult. Perhaps we could include a primer with the text.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121177)

That's one writing system out of dozens.

Re:what about the data format? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121245)

Also the case for the decipherment of cuneiform:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behistun_Inscription

Re:what about the data format? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121279)

No. It's pretty much all of them. Those without, like the Cretan hieroglyphics and Linear A are still untranslated.

Can't always decipher them. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121215)

Linear Script A is still not decoded - though apparently related to Linear Script B (which has been decoded) it is still not translatable.

There are others - http://www.omniglot.com/writing/undeciphered.htm

The problem is not exactly solvable. All translated texts in existence have something related to base the translation on. The Egyptian Hieroglyphs were untranslatable, until the Rosetta stone provided a sequence of texts. Two were already known, which matched in their translations - thus implying that the unknown third was the same text in that language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Stone).

Analog vs. Digital? (5, Insightful)

ZahrGnosis (66741) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121289)

We've been historically terrible at deciphering ancient languages without something to help link it to a current language (such as the Rosetta Stone).

All this talk of data formats spanks of a very digital future, which I think we have a very hard time of predicting. The linked article is very binary... the grooves they explain can have "two or more" readable states, and their use of a QR code is interesting since it's an analog representation of an absurdly hard to decipher technology (without a key, as parent indicates should be the first thing). How would we encode data on these things? ASCII encoded English? Aliens would have to decode a language and then translate it. There's got to be something easier.

At least the QR code is ultimately a 2D picture, though. I'd imagine any thorough storage over that period of time will have to start with something extremely basic. Sculptures or 2D visual instructions that clearly lay things out. I think you could probably describe a mathematical encoding mechanism visually, but a language would take some work. The Arecibo message [wikipedia.org] is somewhat famous for being a digital message that is notoriously difficult to interpret, and that's by people who would actually recognize some of the glyphs. The picture attached to the 1970s Pioneer vessels is higher resolution and easier to identify, and the audio/visual nature of the Voyager Golden Record is also interesting. But still the idea that these will be intelligently deciphered by themselves is tiny.

It's impressive that they're building something to last... they're just going to have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to put on it. Should lead to some interesting conversations.

Re:what about the data format? (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121237)

While I am far from an expert in the field, there are ways of breaking down mathematics into extremely basic building blocks (visual) that could presumably be deciphered by any mathematically inclined sentient species and that once built up would provide the key\decoder for the rest of the data.

Re:what about the data format? (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121283)

That's nice and all but can we trust our data formats to stay static for that long?

Even if humanity survives a billion years from now, they would be so radically different from us that not only would they not speak the same language, they probably wouldn't even communicate in the same WAY (or maybe even EXIST in the same way). Anything preserved from our era would be an odd novelty to them at best.

And if humanity doesn't survive, then there's going to be no one left to care AT ALL. To think otherwise is hopelessly arrogant.

Re:what about the data format? (2)

Jeng (926980) | 1 year,9 days | (#45122115)

And if humanity doesn't survive, then there's going to be no one left to care AT ALL. To think otherwise is hopelessly arrogant.

Yes, but if we are talking billions of years then a whole new sentient species could evolve on earth who may be able to eventually read the data. One billion years though may be a bit short for that outcome.

Re:what about the data format? (2)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,9 days | (#45122093)

Just use an Office format, those will be around forever.

Needs more (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120525)

Giant stone tablets.

Becuse who doesn't like confusing ancient giant stone tablets with some tweets on them.

We already have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120543)

Its called fossils.

Re:We already have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121135)

Can we please leave John McCain out of this?

SCROLLS !! LOTS AND LOTS OF SCROLLS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120551)

And caves !! Lots and lots of caves !!

And the volume? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120559)

At what volumes do they expect this storage medium to store data?

Re:And the volume? (1)

Teancum (67324) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121181)

As in what quantities of data are they talking about? Historically, there is the Bible with related similar tomes like the Torah (essentially the Old Testament with some minor differences), and the Koran. Perhaps something more recent would be the long-term archiving of something like Wikipedia or some other similar comprehensive encyclopedia. In terms of data sizes, think somewhere on the range of about a GiB to TiB.

store it in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120573)

Use a very powerful laser and send the data off to empty space

Of course if you wanted to retrieve it on Earth then you can't use this method...

Re:store it in space (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120989)

Of course you can, it just requires inventing a warp drive or a hyperspace drive or whatever your FTL of choice is...

Re:store it in space (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121429)

Sure you can... It just takes a mirror in the right place...

Data (3, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120585)

Most of our data are totally uninteresting pieces of garbage. Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments. They will think that we died out because we were egocentric egoistic maniacs who do not care about their future and legacy. Furthermore, they will see it as direct evidence that we preserved nonsense about our pity lives in a super material, while other knowledge was not stored at all. But maybe, they just come up with the idea that the data must be somewhat scrambled, as it makes no sense at all.

Re:Data (1)

gunzy83 (2884769) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120761)

This is why aliens do not want to speak to us.

Re:Data (1)

disposable60 (735022) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120977)

It's be caues we're made out of meat.

/ Terry Bisson short story - 3 1/2 pages and just about perfect

Re:Data (3, Insightful)

SigmundFloyd (994648) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120777)

Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments. They will think that we died out because we were egocentric egoistic maniacs who do not care about their future and legacy.

And they will likely be right.

Re:Data (5, Interesting)

martyros (588782) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120801)

Most of our data are totally uninteresting pieces of garbage. Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments.

Said by someone who obviously has never done much looking at history. The fact that "uninteresting pieces of garbage", that either everyone knew and assumed or thought didn't need to be said, were *not* written down, makes it a lot harder to understand the context in which the things we *do* have were said. Having a handful of people's full FB / twitter records will be a treasure trove of information for 50th-century historians trying to figure out what life was actually like in the 20th century.

Re:Data (1)

Threni (635302) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121195)

> Having a handful of people's full FB / twitter records will be a treasure trove of
> information for 50th-century historians trying to figure out what life was actually like
> in the 20th century.

Good for them. But why should anyone today care about stuff that's not even relevant now? How much money is it worth? People used to wallow in the past, but now they're wallowing in the future? "I think my posts are worth preserving - you can't prove they're not worth keeping". No, I can't. But they're not.

Re:Data (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121259)

Considering that archaeologists spend most of their time literally digging through garbage dumps, it is a funny choice of words to even say that "uninteresting garbage" is something that people in the future won't care about.

Even if you take something like the Bible, which has been filtered through the hands of hundreds of generations of religious folks trying to make a philosophical point and to promote a certain viewpoint of history, there are still stories of incest, drug abuse, love poems, marital court rulings, genealogical records, dry legal codes, military order of battle charts, minutes of committee meetings, and of course battle reports and some epic tales thrown into the middle of all of that other stuff. I'm just suggesting that in the course of 10k-20k of written history those things which still survive tends to include a whole bunch of that "uninteresting garbage" even when it is heavily edited.

What you are saying here is so true.

Re:Data (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121503)

Doubt it. It would be akin (because of the vast separation in time) to our finding forty thousand versions of "Damn, Og just missed small deer. ... No, wait, he return. ... Damn, Og just missed small deer." Not a lot of info and of no real use (we have the deer remains at the site as well).

PS: For the great majority of ancient, we *do not* have the equivalent of FaceBook posts to augment the vast reams of inventory, royal notices and laws. The peasant's lives are reconstructed from evidence, not learned from text.

Re:Data (2)

martyros (588782) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121797)

It would be akin (because of the vast separation in time) to our finding forty thousand versions of "Damn, Og just missed small deer. ... No, wait, he return. ... Damn, Og just missed small deer."

Your example contains "damn", which could help you track exposure to religion, attitudes towards swearing, and so on. The existence of "small deer" could help you track the change of population and determine exactly when a species became extinct / sacred / in high demand. Even when not mentioned, a historian might be able to deduce that Og was using a ranged weapon here rather than a close-combat one, to help study ancient technology, correlating it with other evidence to track the rise and fall of different tribes or races. That all sounds like a potential treasure-trove of information to me.

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121625)

Having a handful of people's full FB / twitter records will be a treasure trove of information for 50th-century historians trying to figure out what life was actually like in the 20th century.

Oh that's going to be a *great* source of information. NOT! In case you haven't noticed, Facebook is a collection of liberal leftist propaganda for the most part, with some "Hey look at me!" pictures mixed in. Looking back at that data is going to be digging though a land fill trying to determine the mating practices of 30 somethings. The data might be mixed in there, but the shear volume of the noise is going to be a serious problem. How do you interpret a copy of Maxim mixed in with a pile of grass clippings and yard waste?

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121751)

Having a handful of people's full FB / twitter records will be a treasure trove of information for 50th-century historians trying to figure out what life was actually like in the 20th century.

Wait a minute. Did FB/twitter exist in the 20th century?

Re:Data (1)

Flavianoep (1404029) | 1 year,9 days | (#45122013)

This makes me remember Ovid's banishment. There is a lot of texts talking about the reason for that like it's well know matter, but nobody ever wrote that down, as much as what has been found.

Re:Data (1)

Chatterton (228704) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120829)

Why caring about facebook, we have some libraries, wikipedia, mediawiki and other interesting stuff to store. Now if we did have some kind of wikipedia where we can store how to build everything needed from using our 10 fingers to build all the tools and industrial processes to be able to build a computer, that could also be of value to save...

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120947)

Well I meant my comment to be a bit on the humorous side. However, if I look at the past, it would be more likely that we store digital garbage on such information "discs" then knowledge. I believe that this would bring the future historian a good insight into our present. Therefore, we really should store facebook and twitter. ;-)

Most likely, we will store nothing on such devices, because of the "not a concern now" problem. Maybe in the days when our society is vanishing, this might change. Until then we move all of our old data to a new storage device and lose in the process large amounts, because we do not care about them.

Stop projecting human values on Aliens (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120855)

Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments. They will think that we died out because we were egocentric egoistic maniacs who do not care about their future and legacy.

We don't know the thought patterns of the Aliens.

Who knows ? Maybe they might even treat silly/mudane/inane tweets as "nuggets of enlightening wisdom"

Re:Data (1)

jonbryce (703250) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120957)

I don't agree. The inane tweets about everyday life are exactly the sort of thing future historians will want to read. It will give them a much greater insight into what life was like than the stuff we find more interesting at the moment.

Re:Data (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121451)

I don't agree. The inane tweets about everyday life are exactly the sort of thing future historians will want to read.

Which makes it just like garbage. One of the most useful finds for an archeologist is an ancient garbage dump. Looking at what people toss out can reveal far more about how they actually lived than their writings or art.

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121731)

They are NOT interesting now, how on earth would they be interesting in the future? What's a trillion tweets about Miley twerking going to mean to anybody a thousand years from now? Concentration on the micro is going to be pretty much noise as the decades pass. What's more it's going to offer worthless information that really means nothing and presents the danger of misinterpretation of what was really going on and what the important issues really where. I don't think Twitter or Facebook (and such) will be very useful.

Re:Data (2)

Warbothong (905464) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121163)

The usual SciFi trope is that 'Maths is the Universal language', and data is just Maths. There are people investigating how to use incredibly simple encodings to build up meaningful messages which may be understood by advanced extraterrestrials. For example, CosmicOS is a 4-symbol lambda calculus which aims to do just this http://people.csail.mit.edu/paulfitz/cosmicos.shtml [mit.edu]

There are even simpler encodings, like Binary Lambda Calculus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_lambda_calculus [wikipedia.org] and the more-verbose but conceptually-simpler Binary Combinatory Logic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_combinatory_logic [wikipedia.org]

much ancient writing business records (1)

peter303 (12292) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121795)

Accounts of trade exchanges, wrehouse contents etc. Generally boring unless you are writing an economics paper.

Re:Data (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121977)

Most of our data are totally uninteresting pieces of garbage. Think of it, a future species recovers an archive of present tweets and facebook comments.

Who cares, this H. Sapiens is quite tasty and there have been many rich bids on their planet covered with liquid water and silicates.

Nice atomic structure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120643)

But as we know, you can't trust atoms.
They make up everything.

Wow! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120733)

Wow, a slashdot article with a straight-up link to the paper. No multi page article with embedded flash ads, no 'science journalism' minced down through a chain of successively dumber news outlets, no PR bullshit. Just the paper.

Submitter, I'm impressed.

Porn at the museum of homo sapiens (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120743)

Homo futuriens will be intrigued at the museum watching ancien homo sapiens porn preserved in full 1080p.

easy with lasers (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120773)

Point a laser against empty space, fire away binary data encoded as 1 = light on, 0 = light off..
The data will outlast human kind on earth.. since we not going to retrieve it ourself (all humans dead),
it doesn't matter much that the data is far far away from earth.

No we won't (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120869)

The human race isn't going to last a million years!

Re:No we won't (1)

bobbied (2522392) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121771)

The human race isn't going to last a million years!

Optimist!

"1 million to 1 billion years"! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45120879)

You're being rather optimistic. Hitler's germany and the Roman empire both aimed for 1000 years and both failed. That might be a closer figure for the truth for the humankind as well.

Re:"1 million to 1 billion years"! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121233)

I thought we'd all be dead from nuclear war by now, so we must be doing something right at least. We're the only animals in history that knowingly practice birth control so there's hope for us yet I think.

But .... (0)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120927)

I thought Jesus was coming back before then

Re:But .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45122065)

He IS coming back. Remember though, anybody who tells you *when* is blowing smoke, looking for power, selling something, trying to get your money (or all of the above).

Will he wait another million years? Lord, I hope not. Things got already pretty messed up in the last 2000 years, I'd hate to see what another million would do. Personally, I'm not sure we have even a decade before mankind goes into full self destruct mode again and makes WWII look like good times, but you KNOW it's coming. Man has cycled though prosperity, Social Decline, depression, war, death destruction, peace and back to the start throughout history with each war cycle using advancements in technology to reap destruction with more and more efficiency over larger areas.

It used to be that these cycles where geographically separated. Regional conflict in Asia, Africa and Europe didn't interact that much. But in the last 200 years, it's become a global cycle and we've had WW-I and WW-II which where shaped by advancements in weapons technology. There may be regional disputes, but eventually they will drive global conflict, only with today's technology it's going to be a mess to behold...

Come quickly!

Wouldn't it be ironic... (3, Interesting)

mlosh (18885) | 1 year,9 days | (#45120981)

... if much of the world's tungsten ore was laced with silicon nitride "contaminants". Alexandria all over again.

Re:Wouldn't it be ironic... (2)

mhajicek (1582795) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121125)

Hmm... Data mining.

This medium will last only until... (3)

FridayBob (619244) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121027)

... a high-speed object collides with it. Because on a billion-year timescale the universe is a shooting gallery and everything is a target.

assuming ... (1)

znrt (2424692) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121061)

... there is something of value to preserve. i know, all the knowledge and that. but, honestly, looking at past and present, if i'd want to build a civilization in some billion years, i'd rather start from scratch. don't spoil them. humanity, what a troll!

Go back! We fucked up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121089)

I think the inscription to future species, races and civilizations should be "Go back! We fucked up!"

Silicon Nitride is brittle (2)

sir-gold (949031) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121179)

Maybe its different when bonded to tungsten, but silicon nitride by itself is extremely brittle, almost as brittle as glass.

Modern natural gas furnaces use silicone nitride hot surface igniters (glows red hot and ignites the gas). These igniters will shatter when dropped as little as 1 foot onto concrete.

Devices to read it (1)

pcjunky (517872) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121229)

All fine to have a storage medium that lasts a million years. How about the drive to read it?

My wife did her thesis on the subject of long term data preservation.

http://explorer.cyberstreet.com/CET4970H-Peterson-Thesis.pdf [cyberstreet.com]

Well thought out dissertation! (3, Informative)

Cliff Stoll (242915) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121789)

Excellent thesis and a most delightful dedication!

    A few salient points from this thesis, for the Slashdot crowd:
    - Accumulation: knowing what to keep and what to toss
    - Distribution: where/how to keep copies
    - Digital stewardship: maintaining objects isn't enough ... you must properly catalog things
    - Long term access means more than just saving bits ... they must be properly rendered

Convolved on this are problems with copyright, fair use, payment for archives, orphaned collections...

Then there's the cost of creating and maintaining a long term digital repository.
Librarians have done a terrific job with our printed archives. Who will become our digital librarians?

Whole idea is humorous (3, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121243)

The entire concept of storing data for a billion years is nothing but ego. It would be akin to our finding a cave with forty-five thousand little paintings of dots, squares and circles - all perfectly preserved. What the hell does it mean? Curious and interesting to speculate on perhaps, but data? Not so much.

The Long Now Foundation is a bunch of whimps (1)

Teancum (67324) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121337)

... at least what the article sort of suggests. I have never seen that group being called a bunch of short-term thinkers before.

That and the concept of DNA storage of massive volumes of information sounds particularly epic. It would be incredible to think you could do something like store the contents of Wikipedia inside of the DNA of a redwood tree. The very thought that an organism could be used in such a way to preserve information is by itself something very interesting to consider... and something that is currently at the threshold of being done.

I'm really quite impressed with the level of thinking that this author has gone in terms of really getting into the grips of what it means for long term data storage systems. I'm sure other ideas will surface too, but this really is a pretty serious issue that has some tragic consequences in the past that need to be remembered too. The Aztecs and Mayans had huge libraries of writings in gold codices that the Spanish thought nothing more than to melt down into bullion bars... where even a fairly large percentage of those bars never even made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean (instead are on the bottom of that ocean) to get deposited into the royal treasury. Similar experiences happened with some things in Egyptian pyramids too. Making something durable yet making the information more valuable than the medium that is holding the data is a rather significant challenge.

Waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121433)

If you believed in God and knew a bit of scripture, you would see that this fear and effort is in vain:

2Pet 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Where would you store it? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121565)

If you were to preserve this for the next species that evolves here to find, where should you store it?

If you make it easy to find and retrieve, then you run the risk of a primitive culture destroying it as heretical once it's decoded. That risk still exists today.

If you hide it, it may never be found.

Monoliths on the moon are the only thing I can think of at the moment.

Billions of years later... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#45121603)

Somewhere in the twilight zone, I'm not feeling the caring. Create a media that survives the gravitational collapse of the multiverse. I guess you would call it god, since no other medium would persist.

One Billion BCE (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121607)

Sometimes I wonder if we will ever stumble across a one billion year old time capsule from a sentient species that previously lived on this planet. It's safe to say that sufficient time would erase any trace of even an advanced civilization with the exception of anything that was purposely preserved. Yes, that would be cool.

Re:One Billion BCE (1)

Bengie (1121981) | 1 year,9 days | (#45122035)

I wonder what the continents will look like in 1bil years. Entire mountain ranges will probably be eroded or subducted back into the mantle.

Government as the answer (1)

Tokolosh (1256448) | 1 year,9 days | (#45121709)

"Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."
  - Ronald Reagan

What would we write? (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,9 days | (#45122071)

And who would understand it? I have trouble with Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. Do you think the descendants of humans or some alien race will understand a Slashdot archive of "In Soviet Russia" quips?

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