by Mark A. Ollig
Is there a way to preserve Earth’s data, so it survives the inescapable end of our solar system?
Some very clever scientists and physicists are saying a “communication-theoretic paradigm” model could preserve information on a cosmic scale.
They suggest storing data using general relativity over a channel analogous to space-time, using quantum information, and the quantum state of matter.
Their answer to “how much information could be stored?” is a disappointing and succinct:,“not much.”
In case you have forgotten, our sun is heating up, and is expected to burn the last of its hydrogen reserves in 5 billion years.
This event will regrettably put Earth and all the other planets in this solar system, not only in the dark; but permanently out of luck.
Assuming our planet will last another 5 billion years (it probably won’t); we should begin work on saving Earth’s information for any future decedents living outside of our solar system.
I know many of you are smiling and shaking your heads, but 5 billion years will be here sooner than you think.
And when that time arrives, all data stored about our lives here on Earth, and the data located anywhere else in this solar system, will be wiped clean.
Anybody have any ideas?
What about saving Earth’s data using those CD/DVD-like M-Discs made by Millenniata that I wrote about Aug. 22, 2011?
While M-Discs are truly remarkable, they’re only guaranteed to safely store the data recorded on them for 1,000 years.
We need a longer-lasting storage medium.
What about storing the data using glass?
Many of my faithful readers will recall the Oct. 1, 2012 column about the glass-storage technology developed by electronics titan, Hitachi.
They were able to use a laser beam to generate coded digital data onto a thin piece of quartz glass.
Hitachi said 40 megabytes of data could be stored on one square inch of quartz glass for “100 million years.”
“Just imagine . . . yours truly could store all of his treasured Bits & Bytes columns inside a small square of quartz glass – where they could still be readable in 100 million years,” I excitedly wrote.
While 100 million years is better than 1,000, we are still faced with the impending doom of our precious data in just another 4.9 billion years.
I ask this question: “How can we save, from an impending interplanetary galactic disaster, the information accumulated by all of humanity, and of course, from our artificially intelligent, autonomous robotic population?”
Maybe I am thinking too far ahead.
Let’s approach this subject from a slightly different tack.
Actually, an attempt at preserving information about Earth, and the lives of the people living here, has already been undertaken.
This attempt was made in 1977, when NASA launched two Voyager space probes.
Today, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft are still operational; and continue traveling further away from Earth.
Each Voyager spacecraft is 66 feet long, 12 feet wide, 7.5 feet tall, and weigh 1,700 pounds.
Voyagers 1 and 2 have the best chance of escaping our eventual celestial cataclysm; taking with them information about Earth, its culture, and its people.
A “golden record” is attached to each Voyager.
Each golden record includes recorded sights and sounds, engraved diagrams, and text from this planet.
They also contain our planet’s location, a variety of Earth’s sceneries and unique sounds, human greetings spoken in various languages, music, and images of how people lived on Earth.
This information is etched onto a 12-inch phonographic, gold-plated copper disk (golden record).
A drawing instructs whatever intelligence that finds it how to retrieve the information from the golden record.
A stylus, cartridge, and instructions needed to play the golden record, are fastened to the spacecraft.
According to NASA, Voyager 1 is furthest from Earth, and has left our solar system.
It is now traveling through interstellar space at a speed of 38,100 miles per hour, and is currently 12.2 billion miles from Earth. To put this into perspective, Earth’s average distance from the sun is approximately 93 million miles.
In 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will be within 1.6 light years (9.3 trillion miles) of a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis.
It was believed in 1977, that this star might have planets in close proximity possessing an intelligent civilization.
NASA is still receiving Voyager 1 and 2’s telemetry data, and is able to send commands to both, via the Deep Space Network.
A golden record, containing information about our existence and our world, continues its journey through interstellar space.
It is hoped, a logical, reasoning intellect will someday discover one of the Voyagers, learn of our existence, and understand that, “We were here.”
NASA’s Voyager Mission Operations Status Report on both spacecraft can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/VoyagerWR.
“Voyager the Interstellar Mission” web page is http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.