When I was a graduate student at University of New Mexico, I went to a talk on “Art and the Environment.” One of the most interesting speakers was a guy who seemed a little out of place. Amidst all the artists who liked to use dirt and feathers in their artwork, there was a scientist who talked about the challenges of designing markers for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
WIPP is a program whereby nuclear waste will be buried deep in the ground. Designing structures and containers to enclose this waste is one thing. Warning people to stay away from it for 10,000 years is an entirely different challenge. They needed to put up signs that would stick around and let people know not to dig or drill there. Let me emphasize: this message has to be conveyed for 10,000 years.