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Data vs the Apocalypse

Data vs the Apocalypse

According to the predictions made by scientists, only debris and cockroaches will survive a nuclear holocaust. Irrespective of who (cockroaches? intelligent apes? alien civilisation?) takes place of humanity in the future and acquires the skill of retrieving data, we have decided to examine several apocalyptic scenarios, sprung from the heads of screenwriters, to see if we stand a chance of leaving any trace on data carriers excavated by future generations. Or is it true that paper is the best safeguard of humanity’s civilisational achievements?

The assumptions we had our experts work under were as follows: first we took into consideration the types of data carriers mankind used at the time of the cinematic apocalypse; then we imagined them being treated by the destructive factors served up by the filmmakers.)

Would it be possible to retrieve the data after the apocalypse?

The Planet of the Apes, dir. F. Schaffner, (1968)

At the beginning of Beneath the Planet of the Apes – the second part of the famous trilogy – we find out that the world we came to know in the first film came to be as a result of a nuclear conflict. The majority of mankind have devolved into a more primitive evolutionary stage, while the apes took this opportunity to create a new civilisation. Thereby, data from the late 1960s (saved, in major part, on magnetic tapes – since the first hard disks of the kind we use nowadays did not appear until the 1980s) could be excavated by intelligent apes around the year 3955. Would the chimpanzees (ape intellectuals) be able to decipher from these tapes information that would allow the gorillas (ape military) to build an atomic bomb once again?

Data carriers

  • Magnetic tapes
  • Floppy discs

Destructive forces

  • Electromagnetic pulse
  • The passage of time (2000 years)
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Dust
  • Moisture.

Would it be possible to retrieve the data?

Magnetic tape can survive temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, copes well with moisture, and resists the eroding influence of time. Provided they’re stored under appropriate conditions, magnetic tapes can quite likely be deciphered even after thirty years. In contrast, floppy disks – still popular in the 1990s – would get damaged after two to three years, causing the data saved on them to be irretrievably lost.

Nylon, which magnetic tapes were made of, does not undergo bio-degeneration, therefore as long as the storage conditions were good, the data stored there could be deciphered by experts after an even longer time.

Sadly, after two thousand years, intelligent apes would most likely have nothing to look for on the tapes. The problem would lie in the exposure of the tapes to a strong electromagnetic field caused by the explosion of the atomic bomb. If the data carriers were to undergo radiation, a complete destruction of the data would ensue.

Trailer: The Planet of the Apes, 1968.

Data vs. the Apocalypse, part 1/6

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