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'Five-Dimensional' Glass Discs Can Store Data for Up to 13.8 Billion Years

"We have the ability to store the culture, language and essence of the human race in a simple piece of glass. For future civilizations -- or whatever else is out there."

University of Southampton

Photographs fade, books rot, and even hard drives eventually fester. When you take the long view, preserving humanity’s collective culture isn’t a marathon, it’s a relay — with successive generations passing on information from one slowly failing storage medium to the next. However, this could change. Scientists from the University of Southampton in the U.K. have created a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures in glass. A standard-sized disc can store around 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years, even at temperatures of 190°C. That’s as old as the universe, and more than three times the age of the Earth.

The method is called five-dimensional data storage, and was first demonstrated in a paper in 2013. Since then, the scientists behind it say they’ve more or less perfected their technique and are now looking to move the technology forward and perhaps even commercialize it.

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