Sunday, March 29, 2009

Data storage media concerns.

Concern has been voiced lately about the fact that media of all kinds degrades after ten or twenty years, and thus the information is lost. This is a matter of some concern. However, it should be noted that the Internet itself is a data storage medium. One that changes over the years as new methods of storage are attached, and old ones drop off.
For instance, when the Internet first gained its legs, there were only mainframes, using cards, tape drives and large, fixed-head and removable disk drives. As the Internet grew, smaller computers, servers and terminals were attached and connected. The connections themselves have gone from copper T-1 lines and such to multimode fibers carrying OC-192 and larger capacities.

Thus, the Internet has become a thing that improves, enhances itself over time. It seems to be in the economic interests of most everyone connected to "keep it alive and growing".
One essential component of any large network, or network of networks, is some kind of cache capability. If only to store tables of IP numbers, or DNS names on routers. And, as long as some interested parties continue posting articles to or Wikipedia or any one of a multitude of blogs, there will exist a sea of information, electronically stored on whatever future storage devices exist. As long as the Internet exists, an ocean of information will be there to accompany it!

So, we may lose bits and pieces here and there, but we should be able to hold onto most valuable recorded knowledge, even as we keep expanding it. As long as we keep the Internet alive.

As for the artistic paper artwork, books, that sort of thing, we will either have to seal it away, or risk eventual degredation. Just an opinion, albeit optimistic. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The new rebellion of youth.

The young of today, including some now in middle school, will have a new mantra to chant, a new call to action, a new rallying cry. While the youth of the last fifty years have indulged themselves in chemical adventures and intoxications, the youth of today and the near-future will have an even stronger pull.

Like the young in a previous century, they will want to escape the common drudgery of the usual. They will want to go where adventure and excitement await, as well as a possible chance to stake their own claim. They will want to go into space.

The sheer vastness of resources in our Solar system alone is staggering. Thousands of multi-ton asteroids and comets. Entire moons orbiting Saturn, Neptune, Uranus. Objects lying beyond the orbit of Pluto, some as yet undiscovered. All awaiting an individual or group bold, daring enough to claim them. More and more nations are lining up to join the ranks of astronaut-launchers. Technology is continuing its slow but inexorable progress. It will not be long before we have routine, cheap access to low Earth Orbit and beyond. And then the young will be itching to go, to get away from the common, peas-and-mashed-potatoes existence of Earth, and move out there to the greater beyond.

And, since there will always be cost constraints to space development – the luddites are persistent and vocal – robotics will play a very important role in all of this. Autonomous activity by robotic-type vehicles has already been validated by the Mars rovers, and the distant science probes like Cassini and New Horizons. A few more improvements, and we can have task groups of robots constructing living habitats on a number of moons and asteroids. The young will insist, indeed, demand it. It is time to move on and move outward.

And then the real boom will begin. An economic expansion that will make every other one up until now pale into insignificance. The only question is, will we (in the US) join the party, or will we be left behind? So far, we have kept in the Space game. Here is hoping that we stay in it in a major way. Or risk having our youth going overseas to hitch a ride to the stars. In much the same way that space tourists must hitch a ride on a Soyuz to go to the ISS. Something to think about, anyways.