In 1990, the federal government invited a group of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers to the New Mexico desert, to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. They were there on a mission.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is the nation's only permanent underground repository for nuclear waste. Eventually, WIPP will be sealed up and left alone. Years will pass and those years will become decades. Those decades will become centuries and those centuries will roll into millennia. People above ground will come and go. Cultures will rise and fall. And all the while, below the surface, that cave full of waste will get smaller and smaller, until the salt caverns swallow up all those oil drums and entombs them. Then, all the old radioactive gloves and tools and little bits from bombs –all still radioactive– will be solidified in the earth's crust for more than 200,000 years. Basically forever.
The problem that the aforementioned panel was convened to address was how to convey this information to people 10,000 years in the future, when language and symbols may be so different as to make direct communication impossible.