Current IT field related information

31 May 09 A Billion-Year-Old Piece of Information

If you are given a task to save some valuable information for one billion years from now, what will you do? Where will you store it? Will you put the information in bits and store it on some memory card, optical drive, hard drive, flash card, or will you rely on atoms and write it down on reams and reams of paper? Let me guess, your instinctive response will be to save the valuable information in bits, as you believe the information stored in digital format lasts forever, right? Wrong! This time again the conventional wisdom has let you down. Then how will we save it? In written words? The answer again is no.

The two ways that we have now are not good enough to store information for one billion years. Let me give you some reality check: information stored on today’s memory cards is only good enough for 10-30 years. The information on such devices will not see the light of the first day of thirty-first year, but if the information is stored in atoms, in written words on papers then it lasts for around 1000 years. The proof of it is the book written 900 years ago by William the Conqueror of England, so, for 1000 years atoms will do but what about one billion years? And what about information stored in bits? Why they are so fugacious?

The life expectancy of information stored in bits is inversely proportional to the density of information stored. The denser the information is packed the sooner it will fade away. The information industry is aware of this, but strangely enough, every year the new gadgets and devices are coming up that require denser and denser storage of information to function. Hence, the newer your device is, the quicker you will lose the information from it.

Do not get dishearten, not everything is that bleak. Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory and the University of California in Berkeley have devised a way to keep the information stored for at least one billion years, and they use iron-based nanoparticle enclosed in a carbon nanotube to achieve this remarkable feat. This nanoparticle, which is of the size of the one-fifty-thousandth of a human hair, will store information at high density: one terabyte per square inch. For now, we have found a way to store information for a billion year, who knows what comes next!

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