Software Catastrophes, Cosmic Rays, Nanotech & Your Fleeting Memories
The ISO warning sign for ionizing radiation
is probably scarier than the radiation itself
…like neutrinos, nanoparticles, and your failing memory. No, I’m not referring to the fact that because of your ongoing stimulation overload that you’ll immediately forget most of what you’ve read in this article and the links it contains. I’m referring to things like cosmic rays, nanotechnology, and data loss. It used to be that things like soft errors in your computer caused by things like cosmic rays or math errors in Intel processors would only make your rocket crash or oil rig sink or something, but now, it’s getting personal, and affecting the accelerator in your car. Either that or Toyota is getting desperate. Which in any case got me thinking about how we think of digitally stored and manipulated information as somehow perfect and eternal, when nothing could be farther from the truth. As well as the the aforementioned catastrophes (see more here) there’s the fact that your memory isn’t what you think it is. Your digital memory, that is. Aside from the occasional hard-drive crash (if you’ve never experienced one, I’m happy for you) there’s the rather limited longevity of CD’s and DVD’s. Although we think of them as a very reliable form of long-term data storage, the discs you burn probably only have a reliable life of 2-5 years. And although commercially burned discs have a much longer predicted life expectancy, even they are prone to disc rot and decay. And with device makers moving away from hard disc drives to solid state drives, the longevity of your personal computer’s data will diminish a bit too. At least the data will be a little easier to tote around while it’s dying. So you may as well enjoy the moment, because as cosmic rays help your data decay, they may be slowly killing you as well. Never mind the 50 trillion neutrinos passing through your body every day, it’s the gamma rays you have to watch out for. Or the nanoparticles. Or if you’re Arthur Firstenberg of Santa Fe, there’s the neighbor’s wifi to consider.