Modern memory is built entirely around the now, and that’s not just a reflection on ADD-afflicted kids. The IT infrastructure of an entire planet is being built around the internet, the principle of instant and easy access – with the price that most modern memories degrade rather rapidly. Now some scientists are working on a system that can be read by computers but remain viable for billions of years.
The volatility of modern media leads many to make ridiculous false comparisons, pointing out how ancient records on vellum outlast modern disk drives. The fact that that was the only vellum to survive the destruction of an entire culture, or the way it was shielded by numbers, or how it was known to be important and protected from the start, seems to elude them. A more useful approach is to come up with a solution, and a team comprised of University of California, Berkeley and Penn State researchers have done just that.
Their gigayear storage solution is an iron nanoparticle sealed into a carbon nanotube. The particle can be shuttled back and forth along the tube by an electrical write signal, at its simplest providing a single bit but actually providing hundreds of possible storage positions. Even better, the value can be read by a blind resistance measurement – no fields, no interfering processes, no winding miles of incredibly vulnerable tape through winding motors (how did we ever do that?)
Lab testing suggests the system will retain its data for over a billion years. If that’s even remotely true we’ll have to restrict access to them as temporal weapons of mass destruction. Never mind human rebels or mechanical evil: any future race will be driven to inventing time travel and trying to wipe us out once they start digging up time capsules full of LOLCATS.
Gigayear storage http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090525105418.htm