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Re: Titanosaurs from Malawi

Most pre-1850 paper holds up surprisingly  well.  Survival plummeted only
after the switch over to cheaper acidic wood pulp.  Many libraries
currently lack funding to refurbish old rare books in their collections. 
The bindings are broken, yet the information is still there.  A neglected
CD which survives to A.D. 2200 may fare worse.  The expected longevity of
a commercially-burned CD is less than 100 years.  The longevity of a CD
burned on a home computer is purportedly somewhere around 30-50 years
(assuming ideal storage conditions).

The long-term fate of digital science publications will ultimately lay in
the hands of caretakers, be they human or `bots.  Salvaging old digital
information will depend on the availability of money, which usually comes
from some type of "collective" (aka, the taxpayer).  And if history is
any guide, these information caretakers will still be cash-strapped 200
years from now. Hypatia, the last librarian of the ancient library at
Alexandria, would probably empathize with her modern counterparts.

It is possible that in the future, there will be no explicit "information
caretakers".  Instead, this network of scientific information may become
self-perpetuating; being recopied by an automaton and placed into an ever
newer information format.  This raises the disturbing possibility of
information tampering or the inclusion of systemic errors.

The power of today's Internet lies in its decentralization.  This creates
a constant underlying hum of white noise and a *lot* of associated
digital garbage, but it also prevents an Orwellian "1984" situation from
developing.  Hopefully, 200 years in the future, authoritative scientific
information will also possess enough of that chaotic flavor to avoid
Orwell's nightmare (which unfortunately has already penetrated into other
aspects of our lives). 


On Sun, 22 May 2005 17:45:15 -0700 (PDT) "Jaime A. Headden"
<qilongia@yahoo.com> writes:
> Mike Keesey (keesey@gmail.com) wrote:
> <That said, paper is certainly cheaper and has fewer 
> requirements....>
>   And paper will biodegrade a LOT faster than plastic. So there will 
> be a time
> any non-biodegraded data will supercede that which has disappeared 
> to the lack
> of preservation or a more permanent form of storage, or 
> accessibility. We have
> already lost countless texts from ancient Ur, Arabia and the 
> Egyptian
> dynasties, not to mention the southeast of Asia, Europe, and 
> elsewhere where
> man's dispersal may have been recorded and lost to time. Now, if 
> only they had
> had CD's....
>   Cheers,
> Jaime A. Headden
>   Little steps are often the hardest to take.  We are too used to 
> making leaps in the face of adversity, that a simple skip is so hard 
> to do.  We should all learn to walk soft, walk small, see the world 
> around us rather than zoom by it.
> "Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
> Yahoo! Mail
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