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Tuesday, 30 May 2006
An unusual challenge: how to develop warning signs that will last for longer than the English language.

From the Telegraph

Nuclear scientists are facing an unusual challenge: how to develop warning signs that will last for longer than the English language.

The Committee on Radioactive waster management recommending the construction of a concrete bunker 1,000ft or more beneath the surface at an estimated cost of £7 billion. 

Radioactivity from the waste in such a store would last for thousands of years, raising the issue of how to warn future generations not to reopen the sealed chamber. It is far from certain that English will be unRadioactivityderstood in 10,000 years, or that our rather benign pictogram for radiation - three circular wedges emanating from the central "atom" pictured - will denote anything dangerous at all.

In 1993 the US gathered a team of experts - an anthropologist, astronomer, archaeologist, environmental designer, linguist and materials scientist - to outline the best design for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (Wipp) in New Mexico, a nuclear waste dump housed in a salt mine half a mile below ground.

Danger messages would be written in each of the official UN languages - ArabThe Rosetta Stoneic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish - as well as Navajo in the case of the Wipp site.

This latter-day Rosetta Stone would have blank space, for future languages to be added when current tongues have drifted from memory.

The work being carried out in the UK is on a far less gargantuan scale, and at the moment focuses on preserving detailed knowledge of the depositories for future generations - what exactly they contain, how the waste was produced and why it was placed where it was.

"The Americans have got rather more space, so their approach would be rather different," said Andy Baker of the Environment Agency. "Our emphasis would be more on how to record information in archives and libraries."


"Now we have to concentrate on preserving our records for the next 10 generations and beyond."



I suggest not using any of the type of paper currently used for paperback books. I do suggest looking at how to reproduce the stuff used for the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Posted on 05/30/2006 9:47 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
30 May 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
But this presupposes that the English language ends with a bang rather than - well, not even a whimper, but gradually changing into something else.

"Have you got the Scrolls?" asked Kenneth Williams, or Sid James. "No," replied Sid James or Kenneth Williams, "It's just the way I walk."