Scientists at the University of Southampton have come up with a new data storage system expected to last 13.8 billion years at 190°C (370°F). This system uses glass discs to optically encode 360 TB of data.
The problem with the original estimate is that a lot of things can happen in 13.8 billion years, and the odds of something not happening during that time period is infinitesimally small. The scientists who made the original estimate neglected to include many events that are possible during the next 13.8 billion years.
- Nuclear war and other man-made events (3 minutes till midnight according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
- Asteroid impact (450 million years)
- Volcanic eruption (0-100 million years)
- Gamma ray bursts (500,000 years or so)
- Wandering stars (possibly in the next million years)
- Expanding sun (in 7.5 billion years the sun’s surface is expected to reach the earth’s current orbit)
When all these events are included, the expected lifetime will be dramatically shorter.
In addition, we need to consider whether anyone will be around in 13.8 billion years to read these discs and whether they will have the technology required to read them.
I am not saying that glass discs do not represent a viable long-term storage system, only that the estimate of 13.8 billion years is ridiculous. For more on using glass discs for data storage see This Glass Disc Can Store 360 TB of Your Photos for 13.8 Billion Years and or Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind.