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Best of 2013: Million-Year Data Storage Disk Unveiled

In October, nanotechnologists designed and built a disk that can store data for a million years or more.

Back in 1956, IBM introduced the world’s first commercial computer capable of storing data on a magnetic disk drive. The IBM 305 RAMAC used fifty 24-inch discs to store up to 5 MB, an impressive feat in those days. Today, however, it’s not difficult to find hard drives that can store 1 TB of data on a single 3.5-inch disk.

But despite this huge increase in storage density and a similarly impressive improvement in power efficiency, one thing hasn’t changed. The lifetime over which data can be stored on magnetic discs is still about a decade.

That raises an interesting problem. How are we to preserve information about our civilisation on a timescale that outlasts it? In other words, what technology can reliably store information for 1 million years or more?

Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Jeroen de Vries at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and a few pals. These guys have designed and built a disk capable of storing data over this timescale. And they’ve performed accelerated ageing tests which show it should be able to store data for 1 million years and possibly longer.

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Deep Dive

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Five poems about the mind

DREAM VENDING MACHINE I feed it coins and watch the spring coil back,the clunk of a vacuum-packed, foil-wrappeddream dropping into the tray. It dispenses all kinds of dreams—bad dreams, good dreams,short nightmares to stave off worse ones, recurring dreams with a teacake marshmallow center.Hardboiled caramel dreams to tuck in your cheek,a bag of orange dreams…

Work reinvented: Tech will drive the office evolution

As organizations navigate a new world of hybrid work, tech innovation will be crucial for employee connection and collaboration.

lucid dreaming concept
lucid dreaming concept

I taught myself to lucid dream. You can too.

We still don’t know much about the experience of being aware that you’re dreaming—but a few researchers think it could help us find out more about how the brain works.

panpsychism concept
panpsychism concept

Is everything in the world a little bit conscious?

The idea that consciousness is widespread is attractive to many for intellectual and, perhaps, also emotional
reasons. But can it be tested? Surprisingly, perhaps it can.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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