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How to store humanity data for millions of years?

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jnikola Nov 18, 2021
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Let's say we want to save data and do not believe solid-state drives can serve us long enough. We could try to design long-lasting hard drives, cloud storage, or fluorescent molecules that can store data. Some time ago, there was also a cool idea on storing the data inside the DNA of microbes that served as an inspiration for this session. But all of these are short-lasting solutions. What if we want to save data for millions, or even billions of years?

Future threats
To find the right long-term data storage, we first need to check all the possible scenarios of our universe. Some of the scenarios are:
  • climate change
  • geomagnetical change
  • the hit of an asteroid or a comet
  • the near-Earth supernova
  • solar evolution
Future consequences to Earth
  • mass extinctions
  • temperature drop or rise
  • increased UV radiation due to damaged ozone layer
  • glaciation
  • solidification
  • complete disappearance of Earth
I'll regularly update the lists considering the contributions and comments.

The solution for data storage should be resistant to some or even all the above-mentioned threats. It should also come with a "toolkit" for future life to be able to decode the data.
How would you tell the story of the humanity to some future-life? What data storage could work even after some/all of the possible scenarios happen? How would you make sure the future life can read the data?
Creative contributions

Save data on satellites revolving around the Sun

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Nov 19, 2021
Firstly, this is something to think about Juran. We may need an answer in the near future.
What I think is, there needs to be a power source to store and maintain data of any kind, be it cloud storage, hard drives, or biomolecules. Currently, the ultimate power source is the Sun. Solar energy does not depend upon humans and neither on the disturbances happening on Earth. Also, the Sun is currently the longest-lasting source of energy. Therefore, whatever solution we come up with, it should be dependent on solar energy. Since the Sun is more permanent than anything, it could be used as a basis for the physical storage equipment as well. Nothing can be stored directly on or near the Sun. Therefore, using Sun's gravity is the next best thing. With the current technology, we could build satellites that use solar energy and revolve around the Sun. A safer trajectory could be identified for its revolution and it could be launched along with all the necessary information we currently have. Communication might be an issue at times when the satellite is far away from the Earth but since the satellite is self-sustaining, it would go on its trajectory and come near to the Earth once every few years.
The trajectory and speed of the satellite could be adjusted so that the Sun, Earth, and satellite lie on a single line at every time point in its revolution. This ensures that it will be closer to Earth at all times but not dependent on it.
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jnikola3 years ago
Cool idea! I love the independence of that "hard drive" and the ability to upload once every few years. That would stop many unnecessary data or actions on the "drive".
I agree that the Sun will last the longest, so solar energy seems to be an option that will last the longest.
To enhance the storage efficiency and reduce the error rates, I would probably like to implement a more rigid, straightforward way of storing binary data. Perhaps it could be a material whose state can only be changed once. That way, data storage would require energy only when the data is being written. Maintenance would not be necessary, which would save a lot of power.
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Satellites with smart glass materials that store data by modulating the sunlight

jnikola Nov 07, 2022
Series of solar-power simple satellites equipped with smart glass materials and mirrors that store data in the shape of fixed DLS shutter positions that modulate the sunlight in a specific way. The modulated sunlight, therefore, carries the information which is read by Earth-based systems. Passive, long-distance, sun-powered and sun-mediated data storage system.
  • long term data storage should be sun-based due to the Sun's long-lasting future
  • current data storage requires a lot of energy - the proposed system is almost zero energy since it relies on the Sun energy for data transmission and positioning
  • these systems could be used from any point in space where the Sun reaches - data accessibility from literally anywhere
How would it work?
  • Build. A series of simple solar-powered satellites with DLS-based smart glass technologies built
  • Store the information. The shutters of smart glasses fixed in a position to modulate the light and store certain information. Sunlight that passes throughthe glass is processed and "read" by calibrated Earth-based systems.
  • Send these storage satellites into space. Send these satellites into space and position them for easy information access.
  • Long distance information storage. Build and send several "assistant" satellites that are simply mirrors or beam focusing devices that raise the quality and reflect the sunlight carrying information.
  • Update data. From time to time, the existing satellites could be updated by new technologies and findings using long distance communication technologies.
Inspired and instructed by Shubhankar Kulkarni's contribution, I searched for cool passive or solar-powered ways of storing and transfer of data using light.
What I found was interesting new research from a team of scientists on KAUST . They used sunlight to transmit data as an alternative to wireless communication. They designed a dual-cell liquid crystal shutter (DLS) made of two liquid crystal cells that operate in opposite manners. They connected many of these into an array that was used to modulate light. The light that passed through a smart DLS array was modulated in terms of polarization.
Figure 1. Overview of the system
They imagined the system to work as a "greener" wireless data transmission alternative to the existing wireless communication systems (Figure 2). It required minimum energy (up to 1 W) and could transmit data at a rate of 16 Kilobits per second.
Figure 2. Illustration of sunlight communication system in a room setup.


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