In Brief

New Scientist has published a thought-provoking article which explores the fragile nature of the materials and devices we entrust with storing our data.

New Scientist has published a thought-provoking article which explores the fragile nature of the materials and devices we entrust with storing our data these days.

They examine the pros and cons of common materials like paper (which can easily last 100 years and beyond), and more modern formats like the hard drive.

New Scientist explains:

Even in the absence of any catastrophe, the loss of knowledge is already a problem. We are generating more information than ever before, and storing it in ever more transient media. Much of what it is being lost is hardly essential – future generations will probably manage fine without all the family photos and videos you lost when your hard drive died – but some is. In 2008, for instance, it emerged that the US had “forgotten” how to make a secret ingredient of some nuclear warheads, dubbed Fogbank. Adequate records had not been kept and all the key personnel had retired or left the agency responsible. The fiasco ended up adding $69 million to the cost of a warhead refurbishment programme.

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