Picture Piece: Sounds of Earth
Our longing to make contact with other beings in the cosmos - a mixtape
In about 40,000 years Voyager 1 and 2 will reach the next planetary system. Affixed to each spacecraft is a gold-plated copper record and a cartridge and stylus (instructions included) enclosed in an aluminium cover. Built to last a billion years, the record contains hundreds of sounds and images that are intended to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. It includes 60 human languages, one whale language, a kiss, a baby’s cry, an EEG recording of a woman in love, the sounds of laughter, wind, rain and surf, and musical excerpts ranging from 3000-year old compositions to the ‘Melancholy Blues’ performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven. According to Carl Sagan, who co-ordinated the selection in 1977, these samples express ‘our cosmic sense of loneliness, our wish to end our isolation, our longing to make contact with other beings in the cosmos.’
Ironically, the principal messages about life on Earth that we broadcast to the universe are television signals. They traverse in hours the distance it has taken Voyager years to travel. A confused jumble of programmes from the last 40 or so years are now hurtling through space. There is no way of calling them back.
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