Author Topic: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?  (Read 1339 times)

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Offline VK3DRB

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Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« on: December 06, 2021, 01:13:24 am »
https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-12-06/climate-change-earth-black-box-recorder/100621778

Recording data onto digital media has a relatively very short life expectancy. The electronics will fail through wear-out within 50 years at best... no more recording. We cannot make the storage impenetrable (who is going to replace batteries?). There will need to be a door but we cannot let vandals break in and destroy the place either.

In my opinion, the best method of preserving climatic or other history is cave paintings or re-purposing the pyramids to store the information in the form of art. These are tried and proven methods. Fortunately, the Rosetta Stone was discovered and was instrumental in decrypting Egyptian hieroglyphics. Writing on special paper is a possibility using special inks and stored in hermetically sealed earthenware containers hidden in remote caves. All our modern buildings will be gone in 1,000 years. Australia has some very remote caves with paintings by Aborigines going back over 17,000 years... no batteries required!

Maybe better resources should be used to really think this out with a long term view, like 10,000 years. As it is, if we all disappeared off the face of the earth today, in 10,000 years there would be no record of our civilisation.
 

Online Ed.Kloonk

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2021, 01:20:28 am »
Quote
The black box will record backwards, as well as forwards in time

Re-write history and then commit it to permanent history. We can all see what they are up to.
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Online xrunner

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2021, 01:36:01 am »
It sez it records social media posts - like EEVBlog? If so, I'm all for having my important contributions to this forum stored for all-time.

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Online evb149

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2021, 02:22:44 am »
Maybe if we just create some really advanced AI and put it in charge of knowledge preservation and dispensation.  And make it in charge of
a factory which it can use to repair / replicate itself and also evolve its capabilities.  Then you don't have to worry about failure of the machines / data
storage because every few years it'd be refreshed / recreated.

Wait where have I heard that before.....

Although I think the nuclear powered holo-librarian from "The Time Machine" movie (who outlasted the most of the species & civilization which created it) was a pretty nice "legacy" of an otherwise dystopian future devolution of mankind...

Of course then there's Clarke's Foundation...

It is an interesting question how many (insert scale factor here) bytes is needed to preserve the "essential" knowledge of human civilization up to the point of NNN,NNN years of advancement past early hominid stage.  I suppose a few hundred megabytes of condensed knowledge could get one pretty far toward
the industrial revolution etc. In the past hundred years the amount of research data and knowledge has increased exponentially so we're way into the petabytes and beyond range now I suppose.  Which introduces the other factor -- information overload.  As Clarke said
"any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic".  So if your audience is at a Rosetta stone / pictogram / stone age level, having the
human genome print out and molecular model would at best be "art" or wildly misinterpreted...

 

Online BrianHG

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2021, 04:40:27 am »
Encode the data into DNA and enter it into as much biology as possible.  Incorporate it into viruses, bacteria, plants, algae to animals.  Make sure the record will be there hopefully as long as any earth life exists.  Do not rely on a static single structure which can so easily be destroyed.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2021, 04:42:06 am by BrianHG »
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Online evb149

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2021, 04:50:37 am »
And therein could be at once both the solution to preserving information across a civilization / species collapse, as well as the problem itself begging the question for such a solution.

Encode the data into DNA and enter it into as much biology as possible.  Incorporate it into viruses, bacteria, plants, algae to animals.  Make sure the record will be there hopefully as long as any earth life exists.  Do not rely on a static single structure which can so easily be destroyed.

 

Online evb149

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2021, 05:23:10 am »
Actually there are lots of fairly commonplace techniques usable these days to preserve information for a long time.

Some that come to mind from past publications are using things like high energy lasers to encode information into markings on/in // crystal defects in // holograms on/in // etc. various robust materials like quartz, diamond, metal, whatever.

If you think about "room temperature" or at least an extended domain of possible environmental temperatures then you can look at materials science / chemistry and ask "at such a temperature, for such a time, how long does material / composite material / structure X take to change by some physical / chemical process?" -- where the process can be things like oxidation, rusting, molecular bond breakages / mutations, erosion, sublimation, incineration / burning, erosion, spalling, crack formation & growth, crystallaization changes, etc.

As the OP pointed out wrt. examples like cuneiform tablets, pictographs, carvings, etc. most materials that are basically crystal / rock are possibly fairly stable for thousands of years, and even pictographs like paintings, dyeing, writing on fiber can also be so.  It depends on presence / absence of fire, water, erosive forces, freeze/heat cycles, organisms that may impact the surface (mold, lichen, coral, bacteria, plants, ...).

Even the library at Alexandria might've survived and preserved much of its information over thousands of years had man made causes of apathy, neglect, destruction, et. al. not caused it to fade into time.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Alexandria

IIRC some of the greatest ruin of archaeological sites like the great pyramids have occurred mostly in fairly modern times, certainly there are famous examples of WW-I and WWI-II caused damage to many sites.  IIRC many early civilization archaeological sites and artifacts were destroyed or taken just over the past few decades in conflict in / around Iraq et. al.

So on the one hand protecting against information loss due to material / information recording device failure is one thing.  Protecting it against the natural environment (temperature changes, freeze, fire, atmosphere changes, humidity, water, biological infiltration of plants/bacteria/fungi/... is another.  But protecting it against pillaging, thoughtless destruction, war, etc. from mankind may be the one of the hardest challenges.

"Foundation" again.  What do you do when your own civilization itself is part of the problem in preserving a library?

Humanity has already created artifacts that might outlast our civilization and possibly species to be discovered, perhaps, in future time :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_Golden_Record
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_plaque

Certainly it would be "easy" to leave a few exabytes or whatever scattered around various parts of Luna or Mars or Phobos et. al.  Also some "time capsules" on mountains, in deserts, and whatever other places are likely to (at least in part) survive short term plate tectonic subduction, vulcanism, the next glaciation, perhaps a significant asteroid/comet impact event, war, flooding, etc.

People are already burying nuclear waste and such in mines and geological formations that, it is claimed, are likely to be stable from geological activity and flooding for thousands of years. 
 

Online Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2021, 05:24:02 am »
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Online Zero999

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2021, 01:01:40 pm »
The problem is not just recording the information, but a future society, with a completely different culture and probably not such advanced technology, being able to read it. An ultra HD film with sound can be etched onto a crystal, but it's no good, without the ability to read it back and modern compression algorithms make it indistinguishable from white noise.

Languages come and go, so writing is of limited use, even if it's on materials such as stone and metals which don't easily corrode.
Pictures are much better, but they have to be on stable materials and preserved in benign environmental conditions.

Most of our history has been lost. Information normally disappears over time, but sometimes a lot goes due societal collapse, which can be caused by a major catastrophe, but often it's not recorded, so historians don't know exactly how it happened. Consider the Late Bronze age collapse, which involved the downfall of many civilizations in North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. No one to this day knows for sure why it happened: war, drought, volcanoes. It took a long time for society to recover and finally figure out how to read ancient scrips such as the hieroglyphs. If a similar thing were to happen today, it might take much longer to recover and nearly 100% of digital data will be lost to history.

[off topic]Interestingly the most technically advanced parts of the world, during the Late Bronze age: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria are now behind the rest of the world. Perhaps this should be a lesson to the most developed countries today: if the current global society collapses, the world will look even more different if/when it recovers. People worry about climate change, but war and political instability shouldn't be ruled out.[/off topic]

We need to record information in pictures, to stand any chance of keeping it. Sound could also be recorded on phonograph records, but it can't be relied upon.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2021, 05:57:08 pm »
Quote
The black box will record backwards, as well as forwards in time

Re-write history and then commit it to permanent history. We can all see what they are up to.

Record backwards. How does that work? :popcorn:
 
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Offline babysitter

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2021, 08:02:48 pm »
A lot of thought went into figuring out a way to clearly mark nuclear waste as dangerous to further generations, considering the knowlwdge of the "trifoil" symbol will go someday:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-time_nuclear_waste_warning_messages
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Online T3sl4co1l

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2021, 09:36:34 pm »
Encode the data into DNA and enter it into as much biology as possible.  Incorporate it into viruses, bacteria, plants, algae to animals.  Make sure the record will be there hopefully as long as any earth life exists.  Do not rely on a static single structure which can so easily be destroyed.

That's actually a really interesting question, because we can anticipate the types of mutations that occur: single base errors (mutations/insertions/deletions), displacement, mirror and dislocation (strings cut, reinserted, flipped, etc., within and between chromosomes), and also duplication and deletion of such.  This is somewhat different from the usual kinds of errors we have to protect against (e.g. random or burst noise, temporal smearing of signals), but may already exist in practice (does anyone do this for dealing with out-of-order e.g. TCP packets?), and if not, I'm willing to bet suitable codes have been at least studied.

Downside, they're rather opaque to the casual observer, it's not like you can genetically imprint a barcode on the phenotype's skin. Not yet at least. ;D


https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2021-12-06/climate-change-earth-black-box-recorder/100621778

Recording data onto digital media has a relatively very short life expectancy. The electronics will fail through wear-out within 50 years at best... no more recording. We cannot make the storage impenetrable (who is going to replace batteries?). There will need to be a door but we cannot let vandals break in and destroy the place either.

I don't know about active recording like they're on about in the article; and that's easily excused as a gimmick.  They talk big, but they really only have to last long enough to get the thing built and shipped, and then like so many art and humanitarian projects, it can be safely forgotten in the wilderness, until it ceases to function as no reliability engineering went into its design or siting, nor are any locals skilled in, nor tasked with, its maintenance.  (Take examples like water wells:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/katineblog/2009/mar/26/water-projects-wasted-money
some may be poorly constructed (as in the article), some may run dry from overuse (see also: "induced demand"), or bring up toxins (like arsenic), or even just the freaking pump breaks and no one has the tools, equipment or knowledge to fix it.)

But as for persistent digital storage, there are media known.  Some of my code is even on it: :-DD
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_World_Archive
They just use ordinary optical film, surprisingly enough.  The cool and stable environment will be a strong factor in that, I'm guessing.  And it could always be copied onto something more robust, like Idunno, etched nickel strip, or etched/engraved glass plate, etc.  There's something to be said for the classic Golden Record as well.

Noteworthy that there's a fundamental conflict between density and readability; you can have low density e.g. text that's readable by the unaided eye (if perhaps requiring a sharp pair), or by mild magnification (one lens), strong magnification (several lenses, a microscope), or technological means (scanning with lasers, EBM, holograms..).  And if this is something that might be exposed to people, it also needs to be unremarkable enough that they don't try and steal them, or break off a chunk as jewelry, or...  Which is particularly a downside of the iridescent pattern of diffraction-limited density (like CDs).

Still another factor for storage is erosion.  Burying a vault in continental shield rock, has a reasonable chance of success.  Very geologically quiet, it's mostly vulnerable to erosion.  And the rate of erosion is predictable over the last some millions of years at least.  I mean, basically the worst we can hope for is we've triggered a particularly nasty interglacial, raising temperatures, melting permafrost, increasing rains and erosion; and later, plunging into an even deeper glacial period.  Or something like that.  Both of which cause significant erosion, and so we would want to place it deep enough, and in a low-lying place to begin with, that it won't be exposed in at least a little while.  Say 100kya by the next interglacial or two.  (Also relevant to nuclear storage; which, especially if ground-visible landmarks should survive, a highly reliably deserted region would be preferred.  Wind erosion would have to be countered by very hard materials (not even granite, but perhaps massive carbide obelisks or something?) as well as windbreak structures, or siting in a natural canyon/cliff.  Minding that, a canyon or cliff only exists in the first place because of erosion, so it's not a great starting point.)

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Offline VK3DRB

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2021, 11:49:31 am »
Prof. Brian Cox had a great doco where anything man-made or is in nature decays from an ordered state into disorder. Recently, caves were found in in France and Australia that no-one in modern times had ever seen and the cave art was intact, so there is hope yet art will be protected in the reasonable future. In 50,000 years with climate change if anyone is still alive, the former wilderness areas of Australia might be teeming with human life, so what was not discovered for thousands of years might become discovered. Remember the Dead Sea Scrolls were left untouched for about 2,500 years.

Cave paintings could contain symbols that the human can understand, sort of what Voyager has, but more detailed and relevant for earthlings. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/.
 

Online SiliconWizard

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2021, 05:08:45 pm »
Thing is, we know by now that our new technologies are a lot less durable than many primitive ones. Yes we can find artifacts from tens, or even hundreds of thousands of years ago, some being almost intact. What are the odds of finding anything we produce today intact in even a couple centuries from now? Almost zero.

So sure we can build some very resistant stuff just meant for that purpose. But even if it passes the abuse of time, the very principle of dedicating artifacts to store our current knowledge/state of environment/whatever is ALWAYS going to provide biased content. That's a significant problem. We'll leave to future generations not what has happened, in a relatively objective way, even if randomly incomplete, but things we have decided were worth for them to know. This is bad.
 

Online T3sl4co1l

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2021, 05:48:32 pm »
No different from modern archaeology; it's well appreciated that the ancients only wrote down their victories, presumably primarily for purposes of contemporary propaganda (e.g. highly visible monuments).  Just means they have to find alternate sources for direct or inferred knowledge.  Ultimately it will be our proverbial bitbuckets that provide the most interesting, general and unfiltered, information of us.

Atari ET carts, anyone?

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Online BrianHG

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2021, 05:43:39 am »
Atari ET carts, anyone?

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« Last Edit: December 08, 2021, 05:45:53 am by BrianHG »
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Offline VK3DRB

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2021, 12:51:26 pm »
Thing is, we know by now that our new technologies are a lot less durable than many primitive ones. Yes we can find artifacts from tens, or even hundreds of thousands of years ago, some being almost intact. What are the odds of finding anything we produce today intact in even a couple centuries from now? Almost zero....

Most likely, especially with the massive growth in digital media and the massive reduction in print media. Technology is a bit like fast fashion in a way.
 

Online Zero999

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Re: Earth black box recorder - fantasy or good idea?
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2021, 01:23:49 pm »
A lot of thought went into figuring out a way to clearly mark nuclear waste as dangerous to further generations, considering the knowlwdge of the "trifoil" symbol will go someday:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-time_nuclear_waste_warning_messages

Why bother? Simply make it difficult enough for people to access, that those with the technology to do so, will be able to assess the risks. A stone age society will not have the ability to dig up some nuclear waste buried 5km underground.

No different from modern archaeology; it's well appreciated that the ancients only wrote down their victories, presumably primarily for purposes of contemporary propaganda (e.g. highly visible monuments).  Just means they have to find alternate sources for direct or inferred knowledge.  Ultimately it will be our proverbial bitbuckets that provide the most interesting, general and unfiltered, information of us.

Atari ET carts, anyone?

Tim
It's also been the more technically advanced peoples, who are generally more literate, who win. The losers often have lots of their history and culture destroyed: monuments and buildings ruined, documents deleted and languages replaced with the colonizers'.  Sometimes the colonial powers will record the culture they've invaded, but it will be from their perspective and they will describe it and the people as inferior, backward, savage, barbarians. Fining out the truth is often difficult because everyone has their own bias, so it's difficult to find out exactly what happened, especially in the case of illiterate societies.
 

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