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Data vs Waterworld

Waterworld, dir. K. Costner, K. Reynolds (1995)

Do you remember Kevin Costner swaying in his boat, patched together from bits of scrap metal, traversing a boundless ocean in search of land? Water from melting glaciers had flooded all the continents and the remnants of humanity took shelter on floating scrap. People survive only on what they can find floating on the water and are forced to fight for survival until they reach a mythical dry land.

Waterworld was made in 1995 so if the deluge came in the near future, data carriers found at the bottom of the ocean would consist mainly of traditional hard disks, CDs, and magnetic tapes. Would endowed-with-gills-scientists exploring the underwater world of the technological graveyard have a chance to uncover the secret of the destroyed civilisation?

Data carriers

  • Hard disks
  • CDs
  • Magnetic tapes

Destroying forces

  • Salt water
  • Corrosion.

Would it be possible to retrieve the data?

The salt present in sea water is unfortunately lethal to the majority of data carriers of the time – as well as contemporary ones. Both the hard disks and the CDs are made of easily-corrosive materials. Whether the data could be retrieved depends to a great extent on the time spent at the bottom of the ocean and on the level of corrosion of the data carrier. Magnetic tapes would fare much better in the above situation as they are quite resistant to water damage, but even they degrade as a result of water-induced chemical processes (polymer hydrolysis, corrosion of the metal components of the tape) – more or less, depending on the materials they’re made of.

Trailer: Waterworld (1995)

To be continued.

Data vs. the Apocalypse, part 2/6

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