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How Best to Warn the Future of Our Mistakes?

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posted on May, 19 2006 @ 01:25 AM
This is a really, really interesting subject: how to effectively mark radioactive waste dumps, to prevent future archeologists from unearthing them and opening up Pandora's box?

Sandia National Laboratories charged a panel of outside experts with the task to design a 10,000-year marking system for the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) site, and estimate the efficacy of the system against various types of intrusion. The goal of the marking system is to deter inadvertent human interference with the site. The panel of experts was divided into two teams. This is the report of the A Team; a multidisciplinary group with an anthropologist (who is at home with different, but contemporary, cultures), an astronomer (who searches for extra-terrestrial intelligence), an archaeologist (who is at home with cultures that differ in both time and space from our own), an environmental designer (who studies how people perceive and react to a landscape and the buildings within them), a linguist (who studies how languages change with time), and a materials scientist (who knows the options available to us for implementing our marking system concepts). The report is a team effort. There is much consensus on the design criteria and necessary components of the marking system. Understandably, there is some divesity of opinion on some matters, and this is evident in the text.

What a task...

I think this is a wonderfully forward-thinking idea, but I cringe when I think of the difficulty.

The more elaborate they make the defenses, the more people will want whatever's inside. Communicating with the landscape is a great idea, they should do as much as possible to insure that people who see the site in the future think it's the very entrance to Hell itself.

I also had to chuckle, imagining some futuristic Indiana Jones, finally cracking the last seal, bathing in the faint green glow, 100% sure that he's unearthed the greatest treasure known to man. Wrong! It's just a big pile of poisonous garbage you future-dolt!

Any thoughts on this? Ways to communicate this very necessary message?

posted on May, 19 2006 @ 04:43 PM
A sign MADE OUT OF the waste
wont biodegrade for long.......

posted on May, 19 2006 @ 04:58 PM
First response: I don't care. I'll be long dead, and if somebody is stupid enough to dig it up, that's just tough for them.

Second response: Hopefully, people 10,000 years from now will be able to detect it on their own, possibly even neutralize it in some way.

Third response: Post a guard.

Fourth response: I'm back to not caring.

[edit on 19-5-2006 by Enkidu]

posted on May, 19 2006 @ 05:03 PM
Here's a thought...if some semblance of civilization is able to persist for the next 10,000 years, they would have been consistently avoiding our nasty messes anyway. The only way, in our information-centric age that I imagine that we could forget where we buried our piles of nasty is if those who wrote down the location, as well as the paper/silicon they wrote it on were lost forever. In such an instance, it is conceiveable that humanity would not have the strength to rise again to be able to even accidentally locate the mess anyway. If they did, they wouldn't live long and problem solved anyway.

posted on May, 19 2006 @ 06:48 PM

Originally posted by Enkidu
...I don't care. I'll be long dead, and if somebody is stupid enough to dig it up, that's just tough for them...

I guess that's how the 20/21st century will be viewed by archaeologists in aeons time...that we had such a self-centred poisonous way of viewing this rare jewel we call Earth. We do not own the planet, we are just custodians for future generations.

I wish you peace and a one-way ticket to enlightenment


posted on May, 19 2006 @ 11:17 PM
A little orange flag, and the creation of a family tradition to put it back up when it gets knocked down. Any volunteers?

I'm thinking the only thing that could really be done for a buried waste hold is giant metal slabs forming the appropriate symbol, one more universal than our current radiation symbol. Multiple sets of slabs if necessary, buried deep enough to not be affected by weathering. And they would be etched with easily understood hieroglyphics describing the danger.

I can't see a waste site becoming some future archeologists wet dream as New York or Rome would be. The only threat of breach I see is mining. Assuming the technological reset button had been pushed once or twice, large metal slabs should prove sufficient markers for any level of tech. Less evolved methods would just run into the slabs and bring in some "experts" to try and figure out what they are. A more advanced people would see them from the surface via radar/sonar.

It may even be a good idea for some sites to have spikes extend up from the slabs to breach the current surface. But they would have to be designed in such a way as to not encourage further curiosity. More glyphs on these as well. These would likely be uncovered well before the slabs below were, so the message would have to be short and sweet. "Spikes = Bad. Dig = Die."

posted on May, 19 2006 @ 11:37 PM
Well think about it this often do we misconstrue ancient texts and langauges. 10K years is a LONG LONG LONG TIME. Think about that for a moment....10,000 years ago some of the pyramids werent even around yet. 10k years from now society will either have SKY-rocketed(no pun intended) or we will have knocked ourselves back to the stone age atleast once or twice. That being said think about how inquisitive we as a species are. No matter what hyoglics we use they are almost insured to not be understood by future generations. Think about egyptian long did it take us to crack those....I do feel bad about the gifts we are imparting on to our future generations. However, I am not sure how, short of time travel, we could ever trully be safegaurding future humans from stubling onto a Huge smouldering pile of radioactive dust. On a side note...if no one finds it for 10k years well atleast it will have Significantly weakened by that time....but say a 1k years from now...well....not to mention what about global techtonic instability...would these structures survive a Blast from Yosemite...or a continental dividing earthquake or even a metor strike...I know these are not probable risks...but they are risks that if we trully want to come up with a plan we need to take into account.

Great find

and way interesting idea i know ill be up pondering this one for a while.

posted on May, 20 2006 @ 06:14 AM
I do think that saying "I dont care ... I will be dead anyway" is a particularly irresponsible view to take.

Also some ideas such as a metal slab with spikes sticking up throught the ground I dont think would work. If you are assuming that there is some informational dark age between now and then in a similar way to between ancient egypt and now, then people will discover it and want to know whats in it! Humans are naturally inquisitive, look how we reacted when we found the Valley of the Kings etc. these were covered with hieroglyphics and filled with dead ends etc to disuade people from going in but we just walked right in.

Imagine a society 10,000 years from now who dont fully understand our society of how we worked, or dont even know we exist! Are you saying that they are going to dig up a metal slab covered in hieroglyphics and then just leave it alone! Not want to know what it contains or what the symbols mean!

posted on May, 20 2006 @ 06:43 AM
that would make a sweet movie or game. Think about it, its 30,000 years in the future, mankind has been extinct or close to foward 2000 years.... man unearths a stange burial site with hyrogliphics that have yet to be translated. Anyone
who comes in contact with this strange site is killed or transformed into a muntant.
Sweet!!!! Im going to write a story on that....would rock! and the flip is you could play it as man kind today, but in the end reveal that its man kind in the future !!!

posted on May, 20 2006 @ 06:21 PM
What is different from the example of Egyptian Hieroglyphs in this case, is that we are planning ahead. The ancients were always living in the present (Do not enter King Tuts Tomb, or You will be cursed), and their warnings were to protect treasures from greed. What we need to do here is warn our children's children (ad infinitum) from folly. Also, the Egyptian Hieroglyphs were focused inward, to other Egyptians. The message we need to create must be universal, blatent, and apparent. The only way I can think of this is creating a video display system, built into the vault door or placed in an obvious position, perhaps in a time-capsuleish sealed, sterile, container.
Here's my idea:

Open with a Leonardo-esque human depiction, bring that into a female and male looking at the camera. They have a family, and they live in a neighborhood (zooming out) and that is in a suburb, inside a city, show multiple cities.

So now they're sitting around a fireplace, and that morphs into a room lit by candles, and then lit by oil lanterns. Finally, they're in a room lit by lightbulbs, and they turn them on once or twice. Zoom in on the 'bulb, which morphs into a cartoon depiction of the bulb. Draw in a basic circuit, with a blank spot at the power source. Show a thunderstorm striking lightning into that circuit, with each strike that courses through lighting up the bulb. Introduce a chunk of uraniam into the picture, and it absorbs the storm cloud, and begins to glow and pulse with that honest-to-goodness, radioactive feeling. When the uraniam cube/ball is connected to the circut, the electricity flows perfectly, evenly, and the bulb is shining brighter than ever.

After a few minutes, the glow subsides untill there is only a slight, but brightly red pulse exiting the cube. Bring it back to live action. Do one of those time-lapse things, where the family is sitting with the cube pulsing red. Time passes, and they show the symptoms of radiation poisoning, in all it's goriness. Lesions form, skin dries, hair falls out, lips, eyes, nose bleed, skin dies and falls off. They are horribly scarred, sallow, and sunken. They die. Cue music.

In walk a group of men with radiation-resistant suits. They inspect the people, and the cube. the red pulses bounce off their suits. All of them pick up the uraniam and walk out. They are now walking through the landscape surrounding the vault, and approach the very door the neo-archaeologists are excavating. They open the door, without showing the mechanism, and place the cube in the center, leaving. The radioactive waves bounce off the walls and are contained. Over time, the cubes stack up, there are hundreds aof thousands of them at the end. Immense. The camera backs off, through the door, which shuts behind it. The men in radioactive suits set down this monitor, seal it off, and take off their helmets, looking at their camera. a few more people come into the shot, and then hundreds. They are looking, smiling, and silently fade away.

Now, GOVERNMENT, where is MY research grant!?

(Geesh, Fallout-ish much? You know what I'm saying)

posted on May, 20 2006 @ 11:58 PM
It would be foolish to assume that people would still be civilized in ten thousand years, or that their civilization would be as technologically advanced as ours. It would be equally foolish to assume that they would not be civilized and would not have technology. It is probably unwise even to assume that they would still be human in the sense we know and understand.

All these possibilities have to be factored into whatever warning is devised.

I would suggest something wordless, an audio-visual or symbolic presentation of some kind, impressive to the point of being spectacular. This presentation, when viewed by someone from a primitive or mediaeval-level civilization, would appear as a fearsome supernatural omen, powerful enough to discourage messing with it.

However, someone possessing the level of technological understanding of a European of the Enlightenment (roughly the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) or greater should be able to recognize it as a warning of danger resulting from the work of a human agency, and perhaps be able to learn the real reasons why it should be avoided.

There should also be other, similar warnings, broadcast on other spectra and containing information that an advanced being of any kind -- human, AI, alien -- might be able to interpret in order to identify what the danger actually is. These, too, should be independent of language and rely on "universal symbols" of some kind.

The warning device should have its own unfaltering power supply (probably nuclear and itself dangerous, but what to do?)

I suggest the scientists consult Dreamworks on this one.

[edit on 21-5-2006 by Astyanax]


posted on May, 21 2006 @ 12:12 AM

It is probably unwise even to assume that they would still be human in the sense we know and understand.

Are you saying that we will have evolved beyond our current form, or that we will have modified ourselves to something unfamiliar? I highly doubt the former. In this sense, language would be the only real difference. The latter is of course possibile, but more likely that any modifications will be seamless and not externally apparent.

I think introducing any form of power source into the system is a bad idea. Too complex. The greater the complexity, the greater the risk of failure. The warning needs to be as simple as possibile.

posted on May, 21 2006 @ 01:00 AM
The best way to do this would be to scatter around a certain number of identical timecapsules within a dump, say 1 per 100 sq meters, each containing a users manual written with mostly pictograms, and instructions in five different languages, each one will use a different 5 languages to increase the chance that they can decode the message as quickly as possible. It can be printed on plastic contained within a low vacuum or inert gas to prevent decay, with several radiocarbon isotopes embedded within certain portions to make dating more accurate, should they have the technology.

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