In 1977, NASA mounted copies of the above record album on the Voyager I and Voyager II space probes and launched them into the depths of space. Each album contained recordings of Earth, greetings in 55 languages, music, analog-encoded photographs, and a marvelous etching depicting a man, a woman, and our address in space. The Golden Record was produced by science journalist and Rolling Stone editor Timothy Ferris, astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, science writer Ann Druyan, and artists Linda Sagan and Jon Lomberg. Tim Ferris was my mentor in graduate school at UC Berkeley and I occasionally peppered him with questions about that amazing task of creating an album meant to represent life on Earth for any extraterrestrials that might, well, have access to a record player. In the new Smithsonian, Tim wrote about the two Voyager probes that in the next three years will likely pop through the "heliospheric bubble" into interstellar space. To complement Tim's beautiful piece, the magazine tells the story of the Golden Record. From Smithsonian:
"What Is on Voyager's Golden Record?"
The exercise, says Ferris, involved a considerable number of presuppositions about what aliens want to know about us and how they might interpret our selections. “I found myself increasingly playing the role of extraterrestrial,” recounts Lomberg in Murmurs of Earth, a 1978 book on the making of the record. When considering photographs to include, the panel was careful to try to eliminate those that could be misconstrued. Though war is a reality of human existence, images of it might send an aggressive message when the record was intended as a friendly gesture. The team veered from politics and religion in its efforts to be as inclusive as possible given a limited amount of space.
Over the course of ten months, a solid outline emerged. The Golden Record consists of 115 analog-encoded photographs, greetings in 55 languages, a 12-minute montage of sounds on Earth and 90 minutes of music. As producer of the record, Ferris was involved in each of its sections in some way. But his largest role was in selecting the musical tracks. “There are a thousand worthy pieces of music in the world for every one that is on the record,” says Ferris.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.