CoolTech News Article

This ‘Superman’ Memory Crystal Can Preserve Human Knowledge for Billions of Years

'Superman' Memory Crystal
Written by Izak Van Heerden

Let’s assume Armageddon comes. Humans disappear off the face of the earth.

If aliens land in say 10,000 years from now, a mere blink of the eye in cosmic terms, what would they find? What would be left to indicate an intelligent civilization once existed on this planet? According to this video, not much:

What will be left in 10,000 Years?

In just a millennium or two from now all concrete buildings are gone, steel structures are eaten away by rust, paper and wood decayed. Will anything remain? Some of the great structures might still be around – like the Hoover dam, the faces of Mount Rushmore, the Great Wall of China & the Pyramids.

And of course some of our non-biodegradable rubbish covered in layers of sediment for archaeologists to dig up.

   

Even our TV and radio signals that were broadcast into space would not have made it past 1 or 2 light years before they became noise, according to new research by SETI. Sorry Carl Sagan, it won’t be that easy to contact aliens light years away.

What About Our Data?

What can future archaeologists learn from us? If steel and concrete cannot even make it past a millennium, what about plastics? Will DVDs or a USB memory stick last for thousands of years? The poly carbonate plastics they are composed of won’t break down easily, but would they be able to extract data from that? No such luck. According to this Storagecraft article, data on a DVD or flash stick will be gone after a decade.

Below is a table of storage media and the time in years our data can expect to survive on it.

Type of MediaMax Lifespan
Tapes20 years
DVDs10 years
Flash Discs10 years
M-Discs1000 years

An M-Disc (a new type of DVD) is supposed to keep its data for a 1000 years, but a single millennium is also too short to make it to our alien archaeologists who will be visiting 9,000 years later. If we had to entrust all our human memories to this type of media, our legacy would be very short-lived.

So this leaves human civilization with no way to record information for longer than a handful of centuries. Until now that is. Scientists from Southampton University have found a way to record data on nano structured glass (Not the normal amorphous semi-solid glass that deforms with age) using lasers.

Data is recorded as layers of small dots written very close to one another. Scientists refer to it as 5D – five dimensional storage: not only is the three dimensional position of the nano structures important, but also the size and orientation.

They claim they can fit 360 Terabyte on a single glass disc, and that these discs can withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and will last up to 13.8 billion years if preserved at a steady room temperature.

Some major works from human history have already been recorded on these Superman ‘memory crystal’-like glass, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Magna Carta and King James Bible, for example.

This might finally be the answer to how humanity could make the knowledge it has acquired outlive itself.

Will future alien archaeologists landing a couple of millennia in the future know what to do with an innocent seeming piece of glass? We would have to construct time capsules with Rosetta Stone-like instructions included to instruct them how to use it. Only time will tell.

 

About the author

Izak Van Heerden

Izak has witnessed a couple of decades worth of changing tech. He hopes to make it a couple more until his conscience can be copied to a cyborg body.

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