For those concerned about how they might preserve family photos, videos, a music collection, and anything else of importance well beyond the destruction of Earth in 5 billion years, a solution has arrived.
Scientists from the University of Southampton in the U.K. have created a new storage format that can not only hold an unprecedented 360 terabytes of data, but also can survive temperatures in excess of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and last a mind-boggling 13.8 billion years.
So what's the secret in this eternal sauce? Unlike standard optical media (like a compact disc), these small quartz glass discs record information at the nanoscale and in five dimensions. Called 5-D optical discs, the technology could effectively transform the way institutions archive massive amounts of data. Want to take it one step further? Instead of golden records, NASA could place these on future probes for alien civilizations to peruse.
"Each file is comprised of three layers of nanoscale dots," explains Engadget. "The dots' side and orientations, as well as their position within the three standard dimensions, constitute its five dimensions. These dots change the polarization of light traveling through the disc which is read using a microscope and polarizer."
So when will you be able to get your hands on one of these little glass wonders? Unfortunately, the technology used to embed the quartz with data is still quite expensive, but in an age where all of our lives are increasingly recorded not on paper, but using 1s and 0s, it wouldn't be surprising if it quickly trickles down to more affordable levels.
"The concept and the development of it is ready to go," Aabid Patel, a postgraduate student involved in the research, told The Verge. "It’s a matter of developing the technology so we can then make it readily available for commercial purposes."