Friday, March 28, 2014

[OM] On keeping people away for 10000 years and more

Do not trespass: How one keeps people away from a site for 10k, perhaps 100k years? The original article is here. And some of the warnings are here.

This is the problem facing scientists trying to cover/bury radioactive nuclear waste. This is, to say the least, a very unique situation. How would you keep people (assuming you can keep out the elements and so forth) away for 10000 years, or perhaps longer?

Having a mere sign with the currently universal radioactive sign being used with black on bright yellow or making certain that the site is part of blueprints and all maps of an area won't cut it as you must assume that no language will last that long (even in a best case scenario it will be thoroughly different). And as far as regional governments there would be, in such a time period, enough revolutions and change of guards that there wouldn't be any sense of continuity.

To further make a point in this matter one need only look at the past 10000 years in any other area (though one needn't assume that the past 10k years will be exactly the same as the next 10k years, after all the alphabet was only recently invented, so that in of itself would change a lot) and it should become clear that even with the invention of the written language one can't assume a certain amount of continuity. Even with something like the Internet, there would need to be a way to make sure that with each change of programming language and the real language this vital piece of information is somehow stored.

But let's assume that doesn't happen. So how to do it? How to make sure that one way or another people will stay away (well aware that some people might see signs to stay away as signs to enter—in the worst case of assuming reverse psychology ever)?

I'm assuming current technologies. I'm assuming that anyone entering and opening or retrieving any of these radioactive items will be causing more than harm to themselves (if they were to bring this back to the world), and thus their wounding or possible death would be better than them getting inside and back out.

I'm assuming limited power. One could envision a situation where through nuclear, or some renewable source, there would be some power for the defenses (I will give examples for both). And finally I'll assume a single entrance to a deep hole as the main setup here. [1] I'll also assume that no one else finds this to be a perfect setup and copies it to merely keep people away from other treasures. Once that happens it would almost surely render this system worthless.

The first thing would be physical barriers for access to the outside, above-ground entrance/top. A simple and tall wall with the signs in all major languages (and symbols like the radioactive sign and scientific signs and periodic tables to help convey this) to keep out while providing all information to let people know what's inside will help. These signs can be intermittently placed elsewhere to serve as reminders (and in case one gets knocked down, there will be another one near by and so forth).

What next? [2] The first thing would be a series of statues, made of some durable material, that will be a series of humans and animals (all nude) in various states of happiness and health, yet as they get closer to the entrance, they will grow emaciated and have faces of despair [3], before falling down, crawling and finally dying and turning into skeletons, then some level of dust.

To add to this visceral feeling, there must also be a sound. One could add increasing amount of wind chimes, as well as several holes (perhaps more reliable) which would make noise when wind comes through. But how to guarantee wind? On at least one part there could be a shaft which would have differentiated temperatures, but this would require a permanent source of power [4] and we cannot assume it would work.

Finally, the place would need a variety of traps of increasingly debilitating abilities. Some would merely drop a person (we're assuming no landing space for airborne vehicles, forcing most to go on foot) and break a foot. But the closer they get the more likely there would be trips, and booby traps resulting in immobilizing or death. [5]

If we have a constant power source, I would have robots with some level of AI, made to chase large living objects around. But this, even if the power source problem is solved, wouldn't be a very good system to rely upon. One would need to rely on these to stay functioning for too many centuries.

Finally, on the tunnel down to where the waste is, there needs to be some level of barriers that cannot be simply drilled through. And if someone can get through them (blasting) there needs to be, in addition to horrendous traps, backup doors closing in on any holes.

This last part will be the hard to implement as well. We can have the barriers, but how to enforce it? No barrier is permanent. At the least these should be earthquake proof, to hope that they will work as needed. Also, there should be multiple fake tunnels, leading people own the wrong shaft etc. There can't be infinite, however. If someone is intent of getting to the center of all this, it appears that they just might and that there is no thorough solution to this matter.

Nevertheless, this is still an exercise in imagination, and I already see the flaws in my design.

So what are your thoughts on creating the 10000 year keep out sign? What flaws does mine have? I'm sure there are better ideas out there. Anyone have one?

I will update this as more ideas come to mind. Also, if any one has anything they want to add, please do. 

[1] This hole may well be filled with concrete, but what happens when someone decides to blast through that?

[2] A maze wouldn't work as that would only result someone climbing over that. 

[3] Hopefully still pretty universal, though who knows what turns culture will force us through.

[4] I'm not sure if this could be maintained with a cool chamber beneath the ground and one above.

[5] Since we are also aiming against people dropping in from the air, this would be a sphere of traps to make sure everyone has to go through it. It hasn't been lost on me that the sphere wouldn't be allowed to stick too far above ground. After all, keeping people somewhat unaware of this place would be part of the fight. So a sphere would be something mostly underground.

Thanks for reading. As always, you can contact me at if you have any questions or wish to discuss something or just to say hi. Look forward to hearing from you.  

Some other articles you will find interesting:

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1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of an abandoned building I saw in the woods once. Vines were growing all over, and moss clung to the wood like a sad child. I felt scared looking on at it all, thinking of ghosts and what have you. But I went in and explored it anyways. I left before nightfall. But there are certainly braver souls than I who would have either stayed or looked through everything in there.
    And what would they have done should they have come across this site that you just described? For what remains the same in one culture may not be so in another.
    I'm guessing that the handful of people I know (men, mostly) would dive in and try to find out why all these statues and oddly shaped buildings are around. And then they would find a labyrinth of sorts and figure out that there's something beyond all of this that will indeed be worth the trip. They'll find nothing, but they will find ghosts, radioactive ghosts. And they won't survive, will they? But they will have a chance to warn others. But maybe not even that.
    I guess what I'm saying is that there are ways to keep people out, but they might not work. And that there is something ingrained in our species that means that all groups will have a handful of people who will be brave or foolish enough to explore in places they shouldn't. This is, indeed, the great march forward....


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