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Radioactive Warning for Future Generations 468

tengu1sd writes "The Los Angeles Times discusses the problems with trying to leave a message for generations down the line. From the article: 'Symbols tend to lose their meaning over time. Exactly how and why Stonehenge was built, for instance, has long remained a mystery. Warnings, they argue, would be misunderstood or dismissed, the same way ancient grave robbers ignored curses inscribed on the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs to seize the riches inside. The curse of plutonium packs a painful penalty.'"
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Radioactive Warning for Future Generations

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  • Simple solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:01PM (#15274806)
    Just write it in every major language. Several languages have survived thousands of years through today, which is how the Rosetta Stone worked.
    • by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:06PM (#15274827) Homepage Journal
      Na, just type:
      Warning, Lawyers buried here.

      No-one will ever dig it up.
    • Re:Simple solution (Score:5, Informative)

      by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) * on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:12PM (#15274861) Homepage Journal
      Just write it in every major language. Several languages have survived thousands of years through today, which is how the Rosetta Stone worked.

      It would be surrounded by 48 granite or concrete markers, 32 outside the berm and 16 inside, each 25 feet high and weighing 105 tons, engraved with warnings in English, Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese, Arabic and Navajo, with room for future discoverers to add warnings in contemporary languages. Pictures would denote buried hazards and human faces of horror and revulsion.
      • Meh. I think we ought to just do a really thorough job of hiding it, with warnings inside the perimeter. Obvious warnings will just draw attention to the site.
        • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Interesting)

          by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:27PM (#15274913)
          I agree. If you put warnings all over the place, there will eventually be some crazy people who think it's just a big stash of treasure and go dig it up.

          As the FTA points out, people who robbed the pyramids in Egypt didn't pay any attention to the warnings about curses and such... we can't be sure that a potentially uneducated group of future beings will believe all that mumbo jumbo about radioactivity.
          • Re:Simple solution (Score:4, Informative)

            by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:52PM (#15275023) Homepage Journal
            Do we really care about the grave-robbers and such? If we're trying to protect against the future equivalent, I'll note that most grave robbers were illiterate and did unmeasurable harm to archeology with their destruction. They'd note our warnings, however many languages we put them in, about as much as the historical ones paid to the egyptian writtings.

            For that matter, I can see scientists not leaving well enough alone and digging in there to find out what the horrible hazard is.

            Personally, I think that it's sad that we're this worried about the stuff and harming 'future generations'. Besides, most high-level waste is very recyclable, and what remains would be 'safe' radioactive wise within a thousand years. Warnings written in English, Spanish, Chinese(same written language, remember?), Japanese, Arabic, and Latin should be fairly easy to translate for longer than that. I'd throw Hebrew in there as it's seemed to survive well over time. Heck, we might just be making the Rosetta Stone of the future! On the other hand, Navajo? Isn't that pretty close to a dead language already?

            For that matter, if we bury it right, by the time anybody has the skills/technology to dig a half mile down into the earth they should be technologically advanced enough to know most of the hazards.

            A third plaque was pried off, perhaps as a souvenir. According to earlier visitors, it read, in plain English, "This site will remain dangerous for 24,000 years."

            This makes me think, but at what level of dangerous? Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt and are inhabited today. Would a society at a victorian technological level even have the average lifespan to notice minor radiation poisoning?
            • Re:Simple solution (Score:3, Interesting)

              by shmlco ( 594907 )
              24,000 years is overkill. In about 1,000 years HLRW is about as dangerous as the original uranium ore from which it came.
            • Not only are you wrong about Navaho (and it's no the only thriving Native Americna language, to the astonishing ignorance of other Americans), but i'ts very unwise to take for granted that a language that is "unpopular" or whatever now will be dead a millenium or longer in the future. I'm certain most people in the Middle East 3500 years ago were sure Hebrew would be a dead language long before now.
          • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) * on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:56PM (#15275038) Homepage Journal
            As the FTA points out, people who robbed the pyramids in Egypt didn't pay any attention to the warnings about curses

            Yeah, um, curses? Should I worry about black cats too?
          • by Andrzej Sawicki ( 921100 ) <> on Saturday May 06, 2006 @03:27AM (#15275828)
            So right. This reminded me of a Terry Pratchett quote:
            Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying "End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH," the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.
        • Meh. I think we ought to just do a really thorough job of hiding it, with warnings inside the perimeter. Obvious warnings will just draw attention to the site.

          I say we build a necropolis there.

          What says "deadly danger" more than a bunch of stiffs?
      • Gosh,

        Sounds like a pyramid....

        I want to investigate already!
      • sounds like a sacrificial alter for foreskin removal.
      • Maybe my understanding of history is flawed, but I was under the impression that Navejo is far from being a major language. I mean, wasn't it the primary basis for a US code in the Pacific during World War II or something?
      • Hippies will dance around it naked at the full moon....

      • It would be surrounded by 48 granite or concrete markers, 32 outside the berm and 16 inside, each 25 feet high and weighing 105 tons,

        Or here's another thought: just bury it.

        Bury it in a pluton of ancient rock, several hundred meters down, as most current proposals suggest. When the site is filled, backfill it with concrete from the top to the bottom of the shaft.

        Any society with sufficient resources (technology, tools, time) to cut through that to see what we buried will also undoubtedly have an archaeo

        • by Itchy Rich ( 818896 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @03:50AM (#15275867)

          Again, any society capable of getting there will also have discovered the periodicity of chemistry...

          So, you're saying that before 1896 the human race would have been incapable of mining out a couple of hundred metres of concrete? Any pharoah worth his salt could have that concrete shaft carved into a tasteful spiral staircase within his lifetime.
      • There are interesting considerations that have gone into the design of the warnings. For the Yucca Repository, the warning contains a disclaimer akin to, "No achievement of ours is worshipped here." The fear is that future generations will think we buried our treasure there, or set up some elaborate tomb like King Tut's. Future generations may understand the warning about sickness and death, but consider it a "curse" meant to dissuade grave robbers or the like. Perhaps they'll all be cavemen in the future i
    • I would suggest writing in not in major languages of today, but ancient languages that are still understood/studied. Latin, (Homeric) Greek, and Hebrew come to mind. Who knows if anyone will want to study Tom Clancy novels 10,000 years in the future, but if civilization still exists, they will still be studying the Bible, the Iliad, the Aeneid, etc.

      • That may make sense to most people, but it might not be true. Catullus was quite unpopular in Roman times, looked down upon as an inferior poet, but today he is up there with Horace and Ovid. Maybe a couple thousand years from now, people will be studying Star Trek: Enterprise. It's hard to imagine now, but Catullus himself wouldn't have guessed he would survive twenty-one centuries.
    • If you never read A canticle for Leibowitz, well you need to, it's part of any liberal education. In any case what is the most enduring instituion bar none. Religion. Start a religious order that protects the sites.
      • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @12:16AM (#15275352)
        That's not quite the story. It wasn't an order that survived but the church. In Canticle for Leibowitz the Catholic church survived a nuclear holocaust and an ensuing uprising against all technology. While some clung to hope, most started destroying any technology they found in a desperate effort to prevent the same thing from ever happening again. Humanity would've been completely back in the stone age but for a Catholic engineer dedicating his life to preserving it. It's pretty much all lost anyway, and the book follows the course of humanity trying to re-achieve the modern world based on what he was able to rescue, long after he and everyone else who understood it was dead. It often presents situations that suppose how a person not familiar with a technology might react. For example, when some monks who had studied Leibowitz's documents figured out how to make a light bulb, one of their brothers was scandalized that they were messing with devilish powers, while others recognized that there was some impressive knowledge that had long been lost.

        It's not a decidedly Catholic book, although the author was a member of the church and some issues like euthanasia and seperation of church and state enter into the story line. The Catholic chuch has maintained Apostolic succession for 2,000 years and is basically independent of political boundaries, so if any entity seems capable of enduring a nuclear war, the Catholic church is it, and it is a fitting structure for the plot to make use of.

        The church did not exist in the book for the purpose of preserving the works. The church was there, as it was before the war, to try to understand and bring humanity closer to God. One order of the church was founded on the idea that preserving the technology of the past could aid in that, just like Mother Theresa's Sister's of Charity was founded for providing care to the poor.

        A big tunnel filled with stuff that makes people sick hardly seems like something that could effectively inspire a religious devotion. At the very least, it would make a poor premise for a religion and an rather uninspiring reason to maintain an order. I think merely attempting to maintain the message that the stuff in the tunnel should be left alone (with further details for any potentially advanced civillization) is going to be the safest way to handle this.

        Away from the fictional side of things, while I think some measures should be taken to make it clear that the waste is a hazard, I doubt it will be a problem. First of all, I don't believe a massive collapse of civillization and loss of scientific knowledge will happen. We're unaware of anything like that happening in our past (discounting myths like Atlantis). Secondly, this isn't going to be easily accessible. The Yucca Mountain proposal places the waste something like 1000 feet down. It's also all in a very hard and chemically stable ceramic form, encased in concrete and steel. It will be hard for anybody dumb to get to and get out of the tunnel. Finally, it would not be the first time mankind has discovered harmful things. Bubonic plague comes to mind as one thing we handled in our history.
    • That's the UNIVERSAL symbol of death. And engraved depictions of people and bones, and stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:07PM (#15274830)
    Write it in English.

    If civilization ever devolves to the point where English is no longer recognized/understood, then guess what?

    The cavemen who have replaced us won't be our problem to deal with. We'll all be happily dead.

    Seriously, if such a warning is ever needed, to hell with Humanity 2.0. I can see it now:

    Ogg (sipping a skull full of blood): Me say, is nice of other human to warn us of glowy shiny.

    Eck (nodding his head before picking something out of his hair and eating it): Mmmm. Yes, is pity they stupid and bash selves.

    Ogg and Eck: Ahahahahaha!

    Well, screw you, future savages - may you all wilt and die from radiation poisoning.
    • The idea is to preserve humanity at all costs. As far as we know, Earth is the only home for intelligent life - and, perhaps, life at all - in the universe. Is that true? Probably not. But we don't know. I believe the the prospect of a lifeless Earth and, thus, universe (if the waste somehow made it to the ocean, that is possible) is unnerving, and so these steps are taken. Additionally, we don't know if the people of the future will be "cavemen" or not. Suppose civilzation is forced to move undergro
    • by oudzeeman ( 684485 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:22PM (#15274896)
      Thats right - in 10,000 years English will be unchanged!

      Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, eodcyninga, rym gefrunon hu ða æelingas ellen fremedon.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:33PM (#15274940)
        Good for you, you can recite Beowulf.

        Oh - wait, you've proved my point. English may change, but the knowledge to decipher it isn't likely to disappear.

        Try to keep in mind that there's almost certainly never going to be another 'Dark Ages'. The world's population is a damned sight higher, and the idea that every last person who understands English is just going to disappear off the face of the planet is ludicrous, at best.

        We have no Library of Alexandria to burn to the ground - in the US alone, we have libraries in every moderately sized town. Not to mention countless brick and mortar stores. And college campuses. And elementary schools.

        And let's not forget the Internet(tm). While reading it on the Internet doesn't make it true, there's a hell of a lot of knowledge that's scattered across the world.

        So, where is Rome, that it might fall and plunge the world into the damnable darkness? Rome no longer exists, and that weakpoint of our civilization has been condemned with her.
        • Are you kidding me? A CITY? You do realise that we have enough nuclear weapons to wipe out every living thing on this planet, right? Destroying a civilisation nowadays doesn't require the destruction of a city by a marauding army. That's far too much effort...

          A Biological Weapon is accidentally released. In an attempt to protect the population, nuclear weapons are fired at supposed infection hot-spots. Anarchy errpupts as the deaths from this plague start killing all over the world, spread by the rap
        • its not that English will no longer exist, its that it will change so significantly, that what we've written will no longer be recognised.

          compare old English (around year 1000) to modern English. a good deal of change. then multiply that change by a factor of about 15.
      • by BobNET ( 119675 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:47PM (#15275003)
        Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum, eodcyninga, rym gefrunon hu ða æelingas ellen fremedon.

        Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

      • seriously, English is likely to change very little in the next 10,000 years. The reason languages changed so rapidly in the past was that not that they were learned orally, and there were very few written rules as to the usage of the language. In the last 200-300 years though, we've started to educate almost everybody about the proper usage of English and the rules are written down clearly and are easily accessible. If you go back and read something from 300 years ago, you will find that it is still quite r
    • And if that doesn't work, write it in VERY... SLOW... AND... LOUD... ENGLISH.

      EVERYBODY can understand that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:08PM (#15274836)
    Then future generations can look it up on the wayback machine.
  • In response to the problem of symbols losing their meaning: haven't any of these people read "Contact"? Use prime numbers -it doesn't matter what language you speak, prime numbers are the same to everyone!

    In response to the problem itself (how to warn future generations about a dangerous radioactive stockpile underground) why are we so concerned about future generations 100,000 years from now, and not even concerned with our own well-being? Get on the global warming problem and curbing nuke proliferation

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In response to the problem of symbols losing their meaning: haven't any of these people read "Contact"? Use prime numbers -it doesn't matter what language you speak, prime numbers are the same to everyone!

      Are you kidding? I can't tell.

      If I give you the sequence 43, 7, 23, 119, what does that mean? A short story? A warning? A name? Prime numbers aren't a language, they have no inherent semantics.

    • If you're advanced enough mathematically to understand them, which 'Mad Max' types are often not. You don't need to know what prime numbers are to dig or drill.

      We're talking about a warning system that hopefully would be understood by everyone from the Native Americans to the Mongol hordes, to Victorian adventurers over a span of 10,000 years.

      Unfortuantely, history shows us that looters just think that warning = hidden treasure.

      I think that a better solution would be putting the effort towards making sure
    • The prime numbers were just an indicator for the TV clip (did the aliens ever ask the MPAA for permission?) which, in turn, was an indicator for the Message which, in turn, carried the primer within the polarity.

      The message was also coded from first principles, starting with true = true and true != false. A messgae of that kind long enough to talk about radioactive waste would be too long to be useful or have much chance of surviving. A better method would be to have a diagram of the periodic table, highlig

  • by dotslashdot ( 694478 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:15PM (#15274868)
    Today's warning sign is tomorrow's tourist attraction. If anything, the warning signs will attract tourists, exposing them to more radiation. "Hey lookie here FuturoBillyBob, these ancient symbols must lead to treasure, because no ancient symbol would ever be a warning, right?" This will inevitably lead to naturally selecting out curious tourists who will die out from radiation poisoning and not pass on the curious gene. The "Where's Waldo" series will plummet in sales, causing its publisher to go out of business, reducing the sales of red and white horizontally striped sweaters, thick glasses, blue pants and brown shoes as well as stocking hats, unleashing an economic chain reaction leading to a global economic collapse that will start nuclear war, resulting in the annihilation of mankind. So don't mess this up, LA!
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:15PM (#15274869)
    just make a huge pile of glowing, long-lived nuclear waste, and surround it with a high stone fence. Put signs on that barrier in every language known to Mankind that say "if you cross this fence you will die". Undoubtedly, some people will cross that fence. Niven called this effect "Evolution in action" and that's certainly the case. However, after a few years, the growing pile of radioactive skeletons would serve as a graphic example to future generations about the dangers of radioactive waste, while simultaneously cleaning the gene pool.
    • Just leave the radioactive waste in the open, add something that attracts animals, and let the future civilizations figure it out from the three-headed buffalo in the region.
      • Well, Sir James Lovelock (of "Gaia Theory" fame) has suggested the best way to preserve regions of high biodiversity (such as rainforests) is to do just that. The developers wouldn't touch the land (just imagine trying to sell it!) and the critters will only have slightly reduced lifespans - something that they are unlikely to appreciate or care about. Chernobyl is his example of just how well this works.

        Of course, this is hardly a long term solution to waste management, as the only reason why it works as a
    • and when it rains?

      By which I mean that (and this may shock you) the ground is not water proof.

  • Tell noone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ColaMan ( 37550 )
    Leave it unmarked and buried deep in an area that has no mineral deposits or anything worth mining. No-one will know, so no-one will want to go snooping for treasure. To get to it, you'll have to know that something's there in the first place. To dig that far you'll need tech. If you've got the tech to drop a shaft down 1000ft, well, you'll have all the gear necessary (and normally, on-hand)to detect radioactivity.
    • Ever hear of prospecting? If we ever collapse, records lost, languages changed, etc... On the way back up they'll be looking everywhere for resources, just like us. In doing that, they're likely to eventually survey the region. They'll detect unusual formations if they're at all advanced beyond the 'dig a shaft and hope' stage.

      You can only hope that, like you said, if they're advanced enough to dig down a thousand feet, they're also advanced enough to know about radioactivity(and pay it mind). For tha
  • by mxpengin ( 516866 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:18PM (#15274878) Homepage
    An article about the same topic here []. Its foccused on the repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
  • The curse of plutonium packs a painful penalty.

    And probably makes more sense millenia to come than the English phrase:

    "Do not install this software, 'Duke Nuke 'em Forever', under any circumstances!"
  • by artifex2004 ( 766107 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:25PM (#15274906) Journal
    There need to be additional deterrants, in case whoever finds the site later is too stupid, too greedy, or too malevolent to keep away from the site.

    This may sound cruel, but I really think some attractively shiny sealed containers with neurotoxins or simple, stable, chemical poisons should be added in another layer under the surface. Perhaps they already plan to do this, and just don't want to make the information public. But would you rather a few people die on the surface, reinforcing the idea that the site is full of death, or let those people dig down and extract some of that waste, before expiring and leaving it out in the open on the surface, later? That would surely end up having a more catastrophic effect on local life.

  • Does anyone else think it's stupid to bury a huge super-structure around this site? I mean, if I were from the future, that would make me want to explore the place MORE. I think just keeping it as small and as simple as possible is the best solution.
  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:29PM (#15274923) Journal
    If civilization has deteriorated to the point that the future critters no longer have the technology to detect the danger, maybe a good old fashioned dose of mutation will kick-start them back on the path!
    • If civilization has deteriorated to the point that the future critters no longer have the technology to detect the danger
      Thats why I'm not worried about this. This stuff is going to be buried VERY deep, so in effect any civilization advanced enough to dig it up should be advanced enough to know whats in it, especially if you put basic atomic symbols and math on it.
  • The third arm that they sprout will serve as a good warning. A bit after the fact though.
  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:32PM (#15274939)
    The problem with our current reactors is that they only "burn" a small fraction of their nuclear fuel and leave the rest as waste. With reprocessing and more advanced reactor designs, it's possible to extract far more energy and leave behind waste that's not dangerous for anywhere near as long.

    The highly radioactive stuff we're struggling to "entomb forever" at Yucca Mountain is probably the same stuff we'll be scrambling to dig up and use as fuel 50 years from now.
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:02PM (#15275071) Homepage Journal
      BNFL really F'ed up the whole reprocessing idea at Windscale, err, Selafield, by occasionally "accidently" dumping radioactive waste into the Irish Sea (which is now the most radioactive in the world). The sea spray contains measurable levels of plutonium. Cancer levels are something like 100 times background levels. A burst pipe contaminated so much of the infrastructure of THORP that it is unclear if it can ever be made safe. And this is the center that was taking radioactive waste from nuclear power stations across the globe, on account of nobody else wanting something like that in their backyard.

      Nuclear reprocessing is a must. At the current rate of development and fuel use, uranium ore will run out 25+ years before we are due to have a commercially viable fusion reactor, never mind enough such reactors that fission reactors can all be replaced. Well, either reprocessing is a must, or we need to invest an order of magnitude more in fusion research, but Governments don't like funding speculative research much and the decades of fuel we currently have will outlast the career of any politician currently with sufficient influence to actually bring about radical funding programs.

      However, if we do have reprocessing, it absolutely needs to be far better managed than BNFL can do. Oh, and don't get Group 4 to carry the nuclear fuel, either. They tend to lose things a lot.

  • One would think that with the prevalance of technology today, that the availablity of a Geiger counter or dosimeter would be a fairly common device in the future...

    If not, then I think it likely that, oh, we have probably nuked ourselves back into the stone or iron age, and knowledge of radioactivity will be fairly moot, not to mention its omnipresence in such a scenario...

    Either way, I think it is a far better idea to use Nuclear waste as FUEL in a nuclear reactor, as opposed to just waste... But then that
  • Solved. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:35PM (#15274953)
    Skull and crossed bones.
    • by TCQuad ( 537187 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:41PM (#15274977)
      Skull and crossed bones.

      Cool! Pirate treasure!
    • I was thinking along the same lines. The universal warning to all Humans is to see a skull or full skeleton in view. It denotes a universal message of death! Better yet, just carve out images in stone of mass human suffering (hands grasping around the throat , vomiting...etc).

      Of course, I like the idea of constructing gigantic walls out of millions of skulls!
    • Re:Solved. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Bemopolis ( 698691 )
      Just label it something no self-respecting American would go near, like "Health Food", or "Books".

      As for any other nationalities, screw them. That's what they get for winning the war against us and occupying Yucca Mountain.

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing. Not sure how long this has been used, but putting a skull and cross bones on something like a bottle or a barrel is still quite effective at warning people.
  • by hedley ( 8715 ) <> on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:36PM (#15274961) Journal
    I am Nobutu Bangari and I am in posession of a large consignment of gold
    that my people left me some time ago. you are free to dig here to find it but
    as a token of good faith I ask that you remit to my swiss bank account a small
    fee that we will reimburse to you once the bullion is secured by you.


    Just translate that and no-one would dare bother digging.

  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:40PM (#15274975)
    It'll be reposted about every year, just like this 'news' item.

  • Why don't they just type it out in ALL CAPS? (After all, doesn't yelling your language to foreigners work?):


  • ... which has been around for ages: e.g. was on the table in 1991 [] Probably originates much earlier.

    News?? ???
  • The curse of plutonium packs a painful penalty.

    Well, I'm sure a bunch of poison darts, spike gates coming out of the walls, and a large, rolling, crushing boulder would do the trick, too.

  • by r00t ( 33219 )
    We could use a radioactive marker.

  • What's really the big deal here? I mean, assuming that for some reason the people living in those areas "forget" they are not supposed to dig stuff up by the radioactive waste dump over a few generatinos, and assuming that some people way in the future try to, I would think that that civilization would figure out rather quickly that they shouldn't have dug stuff up there when some of their people start to die gruesomely. If civilization has regressed so much that they wouldn't have any geiger counters or
  • Just make a bunch of glass logs out of the stuff and build moon/mars habitats out of it.
    Stamp on the logs the radioactive icon with a clock icon and a date. [] []
    • With vitrification of radio active materials, do they mix it with lead? The idea would be no matter how many times you crack the glass into pieces, radio activity would be very very minimal.
  • They'll learn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bl00d6789 ( 714958 )
    Since there is no language or system of symbols which is instinctively understood by humans, coming up with a symbol or something to write on a sign that a generation of people with no knowledge of our civilization would understand is a lost cause.

    The best solution is to just use a well defined symbol, such as the nuclear hazard symbol we use now, and plaster it all over the place. The first time it's encountered, it won't mean anything. But after the 5th guy dies soon after building his hut near one o
  • Languages change and symbols are open to interpretation.

    The answer? Show what happens to those who cross into the area. Showing signs of a dead body encircling an area, while morbid, does get a point across. Vlad the impaler impaled his enemies in front of his castle/region and i'm sure people of many languages got the hint without a single written word.

    But what if a future intelligent species doesn't look like a current human? Show a skeleton. Any type of semi-intelligent species would know how a body
  • Take the Gamble (Score:3, Insightful)

    by logicnazi ( 169418 ) <logicnazi@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:31PM (#15275176) Homepage
    Look their are two possible scenarios we need to worry about.

    In the first scenario we continue our impressive technological progress and civilization does not collapse. In this case simple messages in major world languages and records in other places around the country plus the radioactivity itself will be more than enough to pass this information on to a civilization unimagineably more technically adept than we are. Likely this civilization will have found a much better solution for radioactive disposal (or will just want to reprocess the waste) but even if not we can count on them to be better able to solve the problem of warning people away thatn we are.

    In short if we expect civilization to continue to progress we don't need to make warnings that will last for more than 500 years and english will accomplish that.

    On the other hand if civilization does collapse and humanity returns to primitive existance it seems a bit silly to worry about this radioactive waste. If societal collapse is a serious worry then we should be putting this effort into caching technology and information to help rebuild civilization not making sure future cave-men avoid cancer. The harm from radioactivity is bad and sucks but it doesn't even register compared to the harms and loss of lifespan from global collapse of civilization. Heck, while some people might die discovering the mysterious deadly waves might even help civilization to rediscover scientific knowledge.

    Overall I think a lot of this buisness is just silly. Before going and wasting all this time trying to communicate the danger first figure out in what scenarios it will be important to do that and then ask if in those scenarios these sort of warnings really are the most productive thing we can do to help.
  • ... is not to stockpile the radioactive wastes, but to recycle them!

    Bury them in a subduction zone, deep in the ocean. As geologic time marches on, they will be pulled down into the earth, where they will be safe and secure until they emerge from some volcano (hint, lava is mildly radioactive from just this sort of thing occuring naturally -- it's one reason the Earth has a molten core).

    These materials will resurface hundreds of thousands of years from now, at which point most of their radioactive decay wi
    • What a stupid idea! Wake up and smell the coffee - its not waste and if you think it is then send it to Alberta.

      Up here we need about 75 nuclear plants and of course most Canadians have not come to grips with this idea either. But we need those plants and if we have them we'll make gasoline for our good friends just south of us.

      So send all your nuclear waste up here. We do know what to do with it. Send up your nuclear engineers too. We need them also.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:56PM (#15275275) Journal
    A Goatse statue/image! It crosses cultural and language boundaries like nothing a bunch of eggheads in a lab can ever cook up.
  • :-[ :-( :'-( :( :( :-C FYI WB to ADIH. GUD! FE! FO! FUM! ADBB! TARFU!! TEOTWAWKI!!! :( :( :( :( :-C :( :'-( :( :( :-[ I had to add this section of text to get this comment past the lameness filter, which may or may not have been a good idea.
  • by Kamel Jockey ( 409856 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @12:41AM (#15275435) Homepage
    bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong
  • COBOL (Score:5, Funny)

    by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @01:56AM (#15275620) Homepage
    languages die and words once poetic or portentous become the indecipherable marks of a long-forgotten scribbler

    Heck, write the damn thing in COBOL. After all, what better language to use than one that refuses to die despite every best effort to kill it?

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer