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This thing is called a 5D optical data storage crystal. It's a little piece of fused quartz, etched to remarkable precision using a femtosecond ultraviolet laser.

The "5D" part of the name is just a marketing gimmick (it only has three dimensions, obviously), but it's impressive anyway. Using current technology, these little things can store 360 terabytes of data. Once written, these crystals can survive temperatures up to 1000°C, and could theoretically last for billions of years.

A betavoltaic device uses beta particles from radioactive decay to generate electricity. Basically, it works like a solar cell, but using radiation instead of light.

Hypothetically, this could be used to make batteries which last a long time. Using thin layers of radioactive carbon-14 sandwiched between layers of semiconductive diamond (which would also keep the radioactivity contained), tiny batteries like these could supply small amounts of power for thousands of years. Prototypes have been made using nickel-63 as the energy source,

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@InvaderXan Those would be super cool even with smaller capacity (therefore maybe with improved robustness) to exchange day-to-day data goods like music, movies or games.

I’d bet some cryptocurrency heads also would make use of this technology ;)

@irimi1 As far as I know though, they're read only, like CDs, so memory sticks are probably better for everyday use.

Also, ugh, let's just not talk about cryptocurrency nonsense.

@InvaderXan I liked the discreetness of data storage in the past though. “This floppy disk IS $game”. “This minidisc IS $live_concert”.

Although memory sticks and their capacity today are amazing, the feel of “this is an immense amount of storage, put on there whatever you want” lacks this notion.

Maybe I’m getting old.

@irimi1 I prefer not having to swap my media all the time TBH. It's like carrying a whole shelf instead of individual books. That said, I do have at least one memory stick which is basically all scientific data. But that stuff *always* takes up gigabytes.

@InvaderXan @irimi1 Look, all we're saying is, imagine having half of a complete anime collection on a single disc smaller than the palm of your hand...

@FrazzledBrynn I maaaaay be researching ideas for things to use in stories :flow:

@FrazzledBrynn Presumably when humanity learns to stop spending all its money on advertising and marketing 😂

@InvaderXan @FrazzledBrynn What if someone has made a crystal spaceship but hasn't advertised it so no-one knows it exists 🤔 :P

@diffractie @FrazzledBrynn Have you ever seen an advert for the Hubble Space Telescope? :P

@InvaderXan @FrazzledBrynn The telescope is the advertisement, it's Sponsored by Hubble-teas.

@FuchsiaShock For real, imagine having a phone or something which you never need to charge. Just swap the battery out once every couple of decades and you're good!

@InvaderXan @FuchsiaShock i looked into this too a while back! the trouble is that betavoltaic cells have power output typically in the range of tens to hundreds of microwatts, which can be useful for low draw hard-to-reach applications, but many orders of magnitude lower than what a phone battery puts out (on the order of 1-10W). for that you'd need something more like a SNAP RTG, using the decay heat from a slug of plutonium to drive thermocouples. smaller slug in this case and thus cooler running, since it just needs a few watts and not the hundreds that space rated RTGs produce, but i don't know any other passive nuclear process that has power density comparable with lithium batteries. (and plutonium is also pretty hazardous, less for its alpha emissions than because it's a toxic heavy metal and also occasionally pyrophoric. idk how i'd feel about carrying that around in my pocket, however well shielded)

(also as someone who literally has an "atomkraft? ja, bitte!" sticker on her laptop i feel bound to note that we could probably most easily produce beta sources at industrial scale via neutron activation in a running reactor, the same way a lot of medical isotopes are made)

@InvaderXan Don't tell this to Musk. He'll mine all the radioactive carbon in the name of saving the planet.

@InvaderXan I had no idea technology this tiny and effective existed. :O

@vicorva @InvaderXan it's actually new iteration of quite old and commonly used technology. Most of our deep space probes are powered by RTG devices en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioi that is devices that use heat gradient between radionuclide and environment to produce electricity. I think Martian rover will also use that.

Soviet Union used RTG to power siberian lighthouses (before GPS). I think they had other wacky ideas for it but overally safety was a concern.

@Jo Low energy beta radiation is easy to contain. The concept here is to use layers of diamond which are thick enough to contain the radioactivity while also acting as semiconductors to generate electric current.

In short, if it’s properly constructed, it should be perfectly safe.

@Jo Side note: for a while, in the 20th century, people made wrist watches which used radioactive paint to make the numbers glow in the dark. Pretty clever idea, really. The watches themselves weren’t dangerous at all to the people wearing them, as radiation couldn’t escape from the glass and metal of the watch casing. The danger was to the factory workers who were assembling them, using radioactive paint for hours every day, which had the kind of effect you might expect.

But in a world where robots can do these jobs, that shouldn’t be a problem.

@InvaderXan @Jo As an enthusiast of vintage watches, I'd like to add: It's still a very bad idea.
The radioactive paint might crumble, and you might inhale that shit.
We have non-radioactive, non-toxic glow-in-the-dark stuff. Let's keep using that, robots or no robots.

@therealraccoon @Jo I hate to Well Actually™ you but, well, actually, radio luminescent tritium vials are not an uncommon thing in the modern world, and tritium is literally a gas. Again, radioactive materials are not dangerous when properly contained.

@InvaderXan @Jo "radio luminescent tritium vials are not an uncommon thing in the modern world"
I never said they weren't. What I said boils down to: let's just not use radioactive paint for glow-in-the-dark consumer items because 1) there is safer stuff for that, and 2) there are actual cases of health hazards not only for workers in production, but also for end users due to material decay.

"Again, radioactive materials are not dangerous when properly contained."
Yes, but that's not the point.

@InvaderXan @Jo Mercury is not dangerous when properly contained, either.
Does that mean mercury thermometers should be household items? Nope.

@therealraccoon You can argue the case for “there are actual cases of health hazards not only for workers in production, but also for end users due to material decay” for any number of things which are commonly found in our homes. I’d be willing to bet you still have a smoke alarm on your ceiling though.

@InvaderXan 1) The smoke alarm on my ceiling was forced on me, not chosen.
2) It's an optical smoke detector, not an ionization one.
3) Whether or not I personally have a radioactive smoke detector in my home is really not the point. I have owned frickin' radioactive watches. That still doesn't make radioactive paint on watches a safe choice or one that should be pursued any further.

"Gotchas" like these are intellectually dishonest.

@InvaderXan Yes, there are lot of things commonly found in our homes that are or can become health hazards.

The "technological realism" in your replies is appalling, and so I'm outta here.

@therealraccoon I have no idea what “technological realism” is supposed to mean, but ok.

@InvaderXan The ivory tower hubris that frames common safety hazards not as situations to improve on, but as an argument for more everyday use of hazardous materials.

@therealraccoon The point is that humans always have been and always will be surrounded by potentially dangerous things.

With proper education and careful use, many things are not so hazardous. For all things, we learn safety – Don't get bleach on your skin. Don't use light switches with wet hands. Don't touch corroded batteries. Don't eat raw rhubarb. Don't piss off hornets. Don't go near trees in thunderstorms.

The only way to live without potential hazards is not to live at all.

@InvaderXan @Jo Yeah, to minimize the risk of rupture, batteries should definitely be resistant to impact, tampering, and corrosion, as well as firesafe, given the flammability of diamonds. At smaller sizes, it's generally okay, but if these end up being used similarly to classic RTGs for longterm systems, the casing should be up to the task to avoid any INES events at large scales.

@bunny_jane @InvaderXan @Jo i read a recent article about new developments in sodium battery research which could put them on par with lithium, rendering lithium batteries obsolete cuz sodium is way more accessible and abundant

@Sapphicgiraffic @InvaderXan @Jo Yeah! There's a lot of cool advancements in battery tech that's around the corner and I'm excited for it.

Solid state batteries are starting to go into production already.

@bunny_jane @Sapphicgiraffic @Jo I’m still excited for the sugar batteries. I hope they turn out to be viable, because they’d certainly be environmentally friendly. solarpunk-aesthetic.tumblr.com

@InvaderXan
Is it a capacitor or is the C14 beta decay the energy source?
@Jo

@cryptoxic The energy source is beta decay. It's like a solar cell but using beta particles instead of photons.

@InvaderXan I think my favourite part is that in the '70s, a few people actually had pacemakers fitted that ran off betavoltaic cells.

It sounds like such a science-fictional concept, but there used to be cyborgs walking around whose hearts beat to the rhythm of a nuclear-powered implant.

(Nowadays, they're powered by lithium batteries instead, which somehow doesn't sound as cool).

@lilly Ooo yes, I read about this! Honestly, you’re so right, the idea of someone whose heart is powered by radiation from decaying atoms is just seriously cool!

@lilly @InvaderXan I have no veracity to this claim, but a friend of mine is claiming his pacemaker is also powered off a betavoltaic cell, so it might still be in limited practice.

@InvaderXan Mirá @SeverianX: el mismo paper popped up de nuevo!

Me refiero a las batterias de C14... por ahí hay gran stock de ese material proveniente de reactores carbonatados?

@pthenq1

Hay un start up muy propagandeado con esa idea. El problema es que no hay ningún avance respecto de lo que ya se sabe desde hace décadas, sólo hay confianza en que "nosotros lo lograremos". Como Elon con el neuralink o el hyperloop, son pibes que ser creen destinados a ser más vivos que la gente que se atascó en esos problemas antes.

@InvaderXan

@randomthoughts 1990s: Go to a video store to rent a movie

2090s: Every movie you could ever want to watch is stored on this little crystal, the size of a poker chip

@InvaderXan

Okay but this sounds like it's gonna have the same problem as high capacity tape where the information density makes it take forever to load.

Unless it doesn't, in which case I'll take 4 for my gaming rig.

@Chickiepup I have a feeling that when they made this thing to allow data to survive apocalypses and natural disasters, and potentially last longer than the Sun itself, optimising it for speed probably wasn't one of their main concerns.

@InvaderXan

I wanna read what's on the disk before the sun explodes tho. Cus I can't survive that.

@Chickiepup I'm pretty sure you'll be able to load one of these discs before the Sun dies. Which is an improvement over DAT tapes.

@InvaderXan @Chickiepup based purely on the image, this thing seems to work more like a CD, so seek times shouldn't be such a big issue. but who knows what device can even read it.

@InvaderXan @grainloom

It's unethical to use these in a computer cus you hafta have a gnome read the runes ethched on it for you

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