30 October 2007

Cosmic messages

    Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.
      Dr. Carl Sagan

This week's Radio Lab episode was a rebroadcast of a 2006 episode. The topic is space.

It includes a segment about the famous Golden Records placed aboard the Voyager spacecraft. I features an interview with Ann Druyan, who helped create the record and married Carl Sagan soon after the Voyager probes launched. Their love story alone is worth hearing.

The episode uses the record to ask the question, "What would you send into space?" Composer Phillip Glass gives his answer in the episode, but they also asked chef Alice Waters, author Neil Gaiman, comedian Margaret Cho, and author Michael Cunningham. You can listen to these online via links on the Space episode page. (Unfortunately, you Real Player for the clips.)

If I had to construct a message for extraterrestrials that explains the human race, I'm not sure what I would send. These days we can probably send a Gold DVD with a lot more information on it.

I would likely choose some of the same sounds on the record: children laughing, babies, voices in different languages. They couldn't manage motion pictures on Voyager, but if I could, there would be time-lapse movies flower growing, trees budding, and something decomposing. 360-degree panoramas would be nice, from places like NYC, the Sahara desert, and the Amazon rain forest. As for books an poetry, I'm at a loss to choose authors. Shakespeare, Homer, and Steinbeck come to mind. Seeing Homer makes me think the Simpsons should be on there. And there should be Pink Floyd music on there somewhere....

What would you send?


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about John Steinbeck. How about Roger Ebert?

Your blog on the Lord of the Rings sparked my blog. First link ever for my baby effort.



Chris A. said...

First of all, thanks for your original post about Radio Lab; I've started listening to the podcasts.

I agree with being able to send video content now, it would be good to send the kind of things you suggested. For authors, I'm tempted to send a copy of "The Right Stuff" or "Contact", just to give them some idea of where we are in our explorations.


"Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys
"One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley & The Wailers
"Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin
"Also Sprach Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss
"The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss
"Svfen-G-Englar" by Sigur Ros (this would probably fill the Pink Floyd spot for me)
"My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder ("distant as the Milky Way"!)
"I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers
"Take the A Train" by Duke Ellington
"Rum and Coca Cola" by Professor Longhair
"The Song of Loving-Kindness" by Gary Bartz

(I could fill a box set if I kept going, but that's more than NASA will give me already.)