The Cultural Tutor

The Cultural Tutor

24-09-2022

23:20

In 1977 NASA sent the "Golden Records" into space with the two Voyager probes, intended to be found by intelligent extraterrestial life. They contain 115 images of life on earth, along with a variety of sounds and music. Here's what they included...

These two robotic probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched to collect data about the planets of the Solar System - and beyond - and transmit this back to earth. This is where they are now, still transmitting data over forty years later:

The contents of the Golden Records were chosen by a NASA committee led by Carl Sagan. They took a year to compile it. The records are in protective aluminium cases, along with a cartridge and needle. Instructions were added on the cover, and images were encoded in analogue.

Here you can see the Golden Record in situ on one of the Voyager probes. It seemed like a better chance than ever to send a physical message to interstellar space. That little golden vinyl is now over 14 billion miles away from earth...

Sagan and his team couldn't include much; they had to choose very carefully. Their aim was to convey the diversity of life on earth, not just of human civilisation but also of the animal and plant kingdoms. First of all, however, they shared the location of the Solar System:

And, after that, the planets of the Solar System, including Earth:

Then mathematical definitions, physical units, and the parameters of the Solar System:

Followed by chemical definitions, the structure of DNA, and the science of human reproduction:

Then a woman in a supermarket, sprinters, a woman with a microscope, and a man from Guatemala:

The UN Building, and street scenes from around the globe:

A page from the works of Isaac Newton and a rocket taking off:

And a rather comical demostration of how humans consume and taste food. Plus many, many other things.

As for the sound recordings, there were two greetings by the US President Jimmy Carter and UN Secretary General Kurl Waldheim. Followed by short greetings in 55 languages, starting with Akkadian - an ancient Mesopotamian language.

These multilingual greetings were followed by the sounds of life on earth: volcanoes, earthquakes, thunder, chimpanzees, rain, crashing waves, birds, elephants, laughter, footsteps, fire, sheepherding, tractors, morse code, trains, buses, and more.

They also included an hour-long recording of the brain waves of Ann Druyan, a member of the committee. She thought about human society, our problems and our achievements, the feeling of falling in love, and other such topics as her brainwaves were recorded.

After this came the 90-minute long selection of global music. It included everything from Bach and Beethoven and Mozart to Johhny B. Goode by Chuck Berry. There was also traditional music from India, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Japan, Georgia, China, and more.

And there was this inscription, written by President Carter: "This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours."

Voyager 1 and 2 are now the furthest manmade objects from earth. Will they and the Golden Records ever be found by extraterrestial life? The odds are phenomenally small. Then again, so were the odds of life ever appearing in the first place...

What would you have included on the Golden Record? Which images, pieces of music or art, words, equations, or sounds do you think represent life on earth and human civilisation?



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