Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year! Earth's Greatest Hits

For this last post of 2008 I'll link to one of the more optimistic stories I know:

The Mix Tape of the Gods

Published: September 5, 2007

THIRTY years ago today, the Voyager 1 space probe — a one-ton robotic craft whose long antennas make it look rather like a spider the size of a school bus — was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a mission to reconnoiter Jupiter and Saturn. To succeed, Voyager would have to survive five years in the vacuum of space, where it would encounter cosmic rays, solar flares, the hurtling rocks and sand of the asteroid belt, and Jupiter’s intense radiation bands.

The probe did all that, transmitting back reams of scientific data and memorable color photos: of the sputtering red and yellow volcanoes of Jupiter’s moon Io; of the shimmering blue ice that shrouds Io’s fellow satellite Europa, beneath which a liquid ocean is suspected to dwell; of Saturn’s myriad rings and the murky mysteries of its orange satellite, Titan, whose hazy atmosphere is thought to approximate that of the early Earth .

Having accomplished its mission, Voyager 1 might have quietly retired. Instead it remains active to this day, faithfully calling home from nearly 10 billion miles away — so great a distance that its radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, take more than 14 hours to reach Earth. From Voyager’s perch, the Sun is just another star, south of Rigel in the constellation Orion, and the Sun’s planets have faded to invisibility.

Like its twin, Voyager 2 — which dallied behind to examine the outer planets Uranus and Neptune and is departing the solar system on another trajectory — Voyager 1 is approaching the edge of the solar system. That limit is defined by a teardrop-shaped bubble called the heliosphere, where the solar wind (particles blown off the Sun’s outer atmosphere) comes to a halt.

If all continues to go well, Voyager should pierce the heliosphere’s outer skin by around 2015. It will then depart into the void of interstellar space, where it is destined to wander among the stars forever.

Mindful of this mind-boggling fact, the astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake persuaded NASA to attach a gold-plated phonograph record to each of the Voyager spacecraft.

Containing photographs, natural sounds of Earth and 90 minutes of music from all over our world, the record was intended to preserve something of human culture beyond what an intelligent extraterrestrial, encountering the craft at some far-distant time and place, might infer from the spacecraft itself.

The information etched into the grooves of the Voyager record is expected to last at least one billion years. That’s a long time: A billion years ago, life on Earth was first venturing forth from the seas....MORE
Here's the cover of the disc (from NASA)-

Golden Record
Read more about the Golden Record Cover
(Click on the image for a larger view)

Here's a description of what the markings mean (you want your recipient to enjoy their extraterrestrial 'Howdy')

Hydrogen Transition This illustration on the lower right of the Voyager record cover could be considered the "Rosetta Stone" of the record, as it provides the key to interpreting the remaining cover illustrations. This illustrates the hyperfine transition of the hydrogen atom where it changes between its two lowest states. The time interval for this is a mathematical constant equal to 0.7 billionths of a second, or more precisely 7.04024183647E-10 seconds. The 1 between the two states indicates the length of the transition should be equal to a binary 1. The binary numbering system, with just two symbols, 0 and 1, is the simplest numbering system, and is more likely to be understood by other civilizations than our decimal system adopted simply because humans have 10 fingers. With hydrogen being the most abundant element in the galaxy, any advanced civilization likely to encounter the Voyager should be able to interpret the meaning of this diagram....MUCH MORE

Here's what's on the disc (NASA)-

Scenes From Earth

Greetings From Earth
Sounds Of Earth

Here are the first ten tunes on the musical playlist-

Music On Voyager Record

  • Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor. 4:40
  • Java, court gamelan, "Kinds of Flowers," recorded by Robert Brown. 4:43
  • Senegal, percussion, recorded by Charles Duvelle. 2:08
  • Zaire, Pygmy girls' initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull. 0:56
  • Australia, Aborigine songs, "Morning Star" and "Devil Bird," recorded by Sandra LeBrun Holmes. 1:26
  • Mexico, "El Cascabel," performed by Lorenzo Barcelata and the Mariachi México. 3:14
  • "Johnny B. Goode," written and performed by Chuck Berry. 2:38
  • New Guinea, men's house song, recorded by Robert MacLennan. 1:20
  • Japan, shakuhachi, "Tsuru No Sugomori" ("Crane's Nest,") performed by Goro Yamaguchi. 4:51
  • Bach, "Gavotte en rondeaux" from the Partita No. 3 in E major for Violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux. 2:55...
You can listen at

On April 22, 1978 during an SNL segment, "Next Week in Review" it was announced that after capturing the Voyager spacecraft, the first alien message received by earth would be:

"Send more Chuck Berry."

Episode 18/Season 3 is considered the greatest SNL episode ever.
Sources: CollectSpace, The Hits Just Keep on Comin', Amazon.