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Preserving information/an object for a couple of billion years

  1. Nov 20, 2015 #1
    Hello guys,

    I have a small problem and I hope someone can help me.

    I have a bit of information I want to "engrave" into this planet till our sun melts it down in 4,5b years. It's not important if someone finds it, wouldn't be possible anyway, but I want it to be 'somewhere' on or in this planet for an eternity. Well, it's about someone who died recently, just as an explaination why I am weird like that :)

    But how to do such a thing. What material, and if the object is still there would the engraved part be there as well? A plate of titanium steel with a couple of engraved words... when will time destroy such an object? Would something else be better? What options would I have? Where to put it. I thought on the bottom of an ocean, where no human will ever pick it up and deliberatly destroy it, so that it can become part of the planet. But can I expect it to be crushed or end up in some magma sea and molten down? Shooting it into space would be perfect maybe (although it would not be part of earth then), but to my knowledge you cannot do that yet as a private person (waiting 20 years could be a problem for me, so I have to exclude that).

    I admit, I have no clue about those things. How to preserve information for 4.5 billion years? Or at least as long as possible, even if it's just a couple of million years. What is our best shot right now.

    Idea's would be appreciated. I would spend a couple of thousands for it, if necessary.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2015 #2


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  4. Nov 20, 2015 #3
    First of all, thanks for the answers. I read the other thread and it was interesting, but doesn't help a lot. I drew from it to use a sphere instead of a plate, though ;)

    The thing is, this is not about being found. It can be hidden very deep in our planet. It just needs to be there. And somehow the information needs to remain there. Is that complete nonsense? Even if I use a small sphere from whatevermaterial, wouldn't the engraved information be gone at some point? Or would the engravement mean that the sphere is not a perfect sphere anymore and therefor last less long?

    I read that if the perfection of a sphere is broken, it would collapse within a couple of million years anyway. Is this true?
  5. Nov 20, 2015 #4


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    My first thought about it was granite. But I can't imagine any object, sphere or not, that could resist heat and pressure of even the earth's mantle.
  6. Nov 20, 2015 #5
    Yes, I sadly begin to accept that billions is not possible. But then maybe the longest possible time. 50 Million is better than 5 million.

    Question also remains where to put it afterwards.
  7. Nov 21, 2015 #6
    This might sound "woodoo-ish", but does it have to remain in the physical form? what about leaving just the information, that would remain "somewhere" in the system, not necessarily in one place?
    I am thinking about inserting the information symbolically in some form that makes sense to you (some form of art?) and then let it go into the earth's system of changes and transformations. You may dig it into the ground, send it to the sea, burn it, whatever feels right to you. It will change form, but it will not disappear completely. Your intent will always be there. Maybe atoms of your original project will eventually end up in millions of other objects/creatures. Does it make sense to you?
    Accepting this would be easier and cheaper than using durable materials.
    I am suggesting this because you said it was not important if someone is able to find it later.
    If, on the other hand you WANT someone to find it and understand, than I would recommend using some universally understandable symbols. No one will probably speak English by that time. Even the symbols are very difficult to find. That is a huge challenge for nuclear waste deposits. They want to use symbols for "dangerous" that could be understood in the distant future but as far as I know, they did not invent anything yet.
    You see, everything eventually changes. that is the Law of Nature. Nothing you create will remain in the same form forever.
  8. Nov 21, 2015 #7
    I know what you mean. But I fail to see how the information would be preserved. The atoms of everything end up everywhere. But the information is gone, isn't it? I feel spiritual right now, but I am not esoteric :)

    Good thought.

    It's a philosophical question. First: Noone ever does need to find it. But it's a nice thought that someone COULD. Does it need to be understood by the person this is about, by me, by others that might find it. I thought about this problem when it was about her lifedates. In a million years "2015" is not important anymore. But maybe the age of the planet or whatever. Then I had the problem which symbols I'd use.

    Right now the information would be her name, her lifedates (maybe just the years, maybe just the age we are in right now), maybe that she was a mother and a wife, certainly one word: Loved. That alone is a great question. How much information is needed and how much would be too much.

    I have no reason to believe that we as a species live by that time anyway. Maybe, maybe not, I cannot know that, but I have reason to believe that this is unlikely. So I can preserve this information in the way I am used to and everything else would be futile anyway.
  9. Nov 21, 2015 #8
    I see. Those are very difficult questions.
    I think that the most important thing is that YOU understand it.
    I was thinking about the possibility that some future "archeologists" find it. maybe you could help them understand what age are you living in. Perhaps draw the Earth with the current position of the continents and a rocket flying to the Moon? Showing the exact distance of Earth from the Sun and distance of the Moon from the Earth. (not sure if they would understand, but better than nothing :)
    It is easy to depict a woman with a child, that could be understood by intelligent species of another kind if they develop abstract thinking.
    The same goes about the family. People holding hands...

    Anyway. The most important aspect is that it helps you. If you feel you need to use the most durable materials and write in English, definitely go for it.
  10. Nov 21, 2015 #9
    I'm thinking about two messages. In her language (german, by the way) and in symbols. I like your idea of the current position of the continents. The rocket? Could make someone think she was an astronaut, but yes... could narrow down the years. The woman with child .. I had the same idea. Maybe she in front, a small man and a big man behind her less visible. The continents and a single dot where she lived... I really like that. Symbol for love... well, holding hands or hugging is nice. The heart is certainly the wrong symbol.

    Still... I need a material and a place. I was thinking Bottom of the ocean, saharian deserts or Antarctica. And what about the engraving. A very deep one, filled with an alloy? It should still be a perfect sphere, if possible, right?
  11. Nov 21, 2015 #10
    Move it to the moon or better yet an asteroid. Information has been preserved there for billions of years.

    Don't pick a metallic asteroid though, it is likely to be mined by someone or something.
  12. Nov 21, 2015 #11
    I think that the bottom of the ocean or Antarctica would be good. But have you thought about practical issues? How would you get it there? Maybe contact geological scientists who study earth crust and deposits there? And ask them to place it under the ground when they finish research.
    As far as materials and shape are concerned, I am not able to give you any advice, because I'm not a scientist :/
  13. Nov 21, 2015 #12
    I thought about the practical side and yes, Antarctica wouldn't be a problem, because I know there are only scientists and engineers, not rarely Nerds. I assume I would find someone who drops that somewhere. I mean it's not really trouble, you just grab into your pocket, get the thing out and throw it into the landscape. Hopefully I would find a scientific station or something like that in the saharian desert and the ocean... well, ocean is everywhere. I could do a vacation soon myself.

    I don't believe you need to bury it underground. In the ocean there will be enough stuff above it in mere days or less, antarctica in mere seconds or minutes, depending on the weather and the same in the saharian desert. At least I hope. Everything else is cooincidence anyway. But I was thinking about sending radio waves or whatever, so the information is preserved for the remaining time of the universe. So many things come into my mind. Time capsules as well... but they won't hold for millions of years.

    The moon, yes, very nice one. Wish I could do that ;)

    I guess I need a geology forum...
  14. Nov 21, 2015 #13
    I see you've got plenty of ideas! Let us know when you decide what to do :)
  15. Nov 21, 2015 #14


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    Graved in granite sunk in the middle of the pacific fire ring should do.
  16. Nov 21, 2015 #15

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    You want something that lasts for billions of years and are balking at the cost of an airplane trip? You fly over Antarctica or wherever and toss it out.

    By the way, Antarctica has only been covered by ice for about 16 million years. Although snowfall is rare, it doesn't melt, so in a short time your object will be covered in ice. That may or may not be a problem for you. In a few tens of millions of years, Antarctica may be warm again. Perhaps of more concern is that in about 35 years it will again be legal to exploit Antarctica's mineral wealth, so it may not be as deserted as it is today.
  17. Nov 22, 2015 #16
    Why not put it on the Moon? The Moon is geologically dead, has no weather, has no animals or plants that could grow on/try to eat your monument, and the atmosphere is an almost completely inert vacuum.

    Is that actually something that's going to happen or just speculation? Is there some international agreement that expires then?
  18. Nov 22, 2015 #17

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  19. Nov 23, 2015 #18
    Four ideas:
    1. Encode it in a pebble and toss it in the ocean. Think beyond scratching the surface. Perhaps https://images.google.com/search?q=3d+laser+engraved+crystal [Broken] or something like it. Or chemical dopants or maybe all three.
    2. Make a nice engraved plaque and put it in a time-capsule. If you're lucky, it'll be found in a few hundred to a thousand years and be considered a museum piece. Then other people with time and money will spend both to preserve your plaque for you.
    3. Encode it in DNA and stuff that DNA in something like crabgrass. Or cockroaches. Or plankton. Or canine transmissible venereal tumor.
    4. Whatever you do, document it here also. Physics Forums won't be around forever, but it is regularly crawled by Internet Archive, Google and others.
    I am sorry to hear about your loss and hope these ideas help you.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  20. Nov 26, 2015 #19
    Encode it in something really durable like a diamond, better still, several of them.
    Then launch them into near Earth space so they become independant objects orbiting the Sun.
  21. Nov 30, 2015 #20


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    Don't engrave on the surface. Do something like this (use lasers) http://www.crystalawards.biz/crystal_spheres_balls/ (not with glass, though, since it flows)

    Engrave inside multiple diamond spheres and bury in a desert in the middle of a continental shelf is about the best you will do on earth. I think redundancy is important.
    No idea where to get the materials for that, though.

    Next best might be engraving inside high quality quartz crystal spheres. https://www.amazon.com/Clear-Quartz...d=1448936113&sr=8-2&keywords=crystals+spheres for example. This would be cheap enough to do a bunch of them and gift to friends to place in special places.

    You could always encode information into a picture and spread it across the internet. Assume all will be backed up and archived forever by the NSA.
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