Message To The Future
In 1914, Richard Platz, a 20-year-old son of a baker was hiking when he threw a message in a bottle into the Baltic Sea. Little did he know that it would take over a century before anyone would read his message. Earlier this year, a fisherman named Konrad Fischer pulled the beer bottle out of the ocean.
The message in the bottle was mostly unreadable, but there was an address, which led researchers to Richard Platz. Handwriting samples were compared, and they confirmed that Platz was the author. These researchers tracked down Platz’s granddaughter, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann. Richard Platz died in 1946 before Angela was born, so this message in a bottle was an amazing chance for her to learn about the grandfather she never met. “That was a pretty moving moment. Tears rolled down my cheek,” she said.
If Richard Platz’s message had almost completely degraded over the past 101 years, how can we possibly send messages further into the future? Scientists at a nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico are struggling with this question. When it is full and can no longer hold any more poisonous waste, it will be closed. The problem is how to warn future generations not to open it.
This storage facility is 600 meters underground, but what if the people of the future one day decide to dig there? Imagine ten thousand years into the future after some apocalypse, when the history of our civilization is lost. Today the international language is English, but language is always changing. We can barely understand the English of just 1,000 years ago. How could we possibly communicate with a culture that far in the future?
Communicating through architecture has been one suggestion. Fields of giant spikes have been considered to scare people away, but that might backfire and encourage people to explore it. Symbols have also been considered, but everything has the potential for misinterpretation. Even a skull and crossbones, the modern symbol for death and poison, was once used as a symbol of rebirth. The current plan includes a message warning people to stay away in 6 languages, and a simple drawing of a screaming man similar to Munch’s famous painting, The Scream. Let’s hope that people of the future won’t think the messages are a trick to hide buried treasure.