Magnificent online experience inspired by the Voyager Golden Record supports SETI, Carl Sagan Institute, Astronomers Without Borders

Stephen Canfield and his colleagues at WeTransfer curated a stunning online experience inspired by the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials launched into space on a phonograph record 40 years ago. My friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad and I co-produced the first ever vinyl release of the Voyager Record this year and we were honored to help with WeTransfer's effort, titled A Message from Earth.

A Message To Earth includes newly-commissioned images, art, sound, and words from the likes of Gilles Peterson, Wanda Díaz Merced, Aspen Matis, S U R V I V E, Lawrence Krauss, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Oneohtrix Point Never. It's a beautiful, non-linear exhibition of creative work that embodies the sense of hope, optimism, and goodwill instilled by the original Voyager Record.

The exhibition's intention is to relay a message of goodwill and encourage further exploration while raising awareness and funding for Astronomers without Borders, the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University, and the SETI Institute. WeTransfer is providing $10,000 grants to each institution to initiate public donations, and the project will be commemorated in a $15 limited edition zine with 100% of generated revenues going to the non-profits above.

Far out.

Here are the contents of A Message From Earth:

Preface: A comic of illustrations by Sophy Hollington telling the story and brief history of the original Golden Record.

1. Greetings: Wanda Díaz Merced, a blind astronomer who uses sonification to study interstellar events, presents a study of stars as heard on earth - with a selection of images curated by NASA's Rebecca Roth.

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Erik Davis's Expanding Mind podcast: the Voyager Record, Institute for the Future, and optimism

I was honored to be yesterday's guest on my favorite interview podcast, Erik Davis's Expanding Mind. Erik and I have been friends since the cyberdelic early 1990s. He is a brilliant head and prolific writer who explores the cultures of consciousness with rigor, wit, and genuine curiosity. On the podcast, Erik and I had a freewheeling conversation about the Voyager Golden Record vinyl release that I co-produced with Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, my work at the Institute for the Future, and the intersection of science, art, and magic to spark the imagination. Have a listen:

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The Voyager Golden Record on "All Things Considered"

NPR's All Things Considered aired a wonderful piece about the Voyager Golden Record's first-ever vinyl release that I co-produced with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. Listen to Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi's report here:

Last week, (the original Voyager Golden Record's producer Timothy) Ferris got his box set in the mail. He says that his friend, the late Carl Sagan, would be delighted by what they made.

"I think this record exceeds Carl's — not only his expectations, but probably his highest hopes for a release of the Voyager record," Ferris says. "I'm glad these folks were finally able to make it happen."

Pescovitz says he's just glad to have returned the Golden Record to the world that created it.

At a moment of political division and media oversaturation, Pescovitz and Daly say they hope that their Golden Record can offer a chance for people to slow down for a moment; to gather around the turntable and bask in the crackly sounds of what Sagan called the "pale blue dot" that we call home.

"As much as it was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, it was really a gift to humanity as well," Pescovitz says. "It's a reminder of what we can accomplish when we're at our best."

"The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience" (NPR)

The Voyager Golden Record is now available for pre-order on vinyl or CD from Ozma Records. Read the rest

Pasadena 9/28: Voyager Golden Record panel with Ann Druyan, Reggie Watts, Lynda Obst, Ed Stone, and David Pescovitz

I'm honored to be included on a free panel discussion next Thursday, 9/28, at Caltech about the cultural influence of the Voyager Golden Record, the enchanting phonograph record launched into space on the twin Voyager spacecraft 40 years ago. (I co-produced the first vinyl release of the Golden Record with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad.) I'm incredibly excited to share the stage with the following inspiring individuals:

• Ann Druyan: Creative director of the Voyager interstellar message; writer, producer, and director of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

• Reggie Watts: Vocal artist, musician, comedian, and technologist

• Lynda Obst: Bestselling author, producer of Interstellar, Contact, Sleepless in Seattle, and many other films

• Ed Stone: Voyager project scientist; David Morrisroe Professor of Physics, and Vice Provost for Special Projects, Caltech

KCRW radio's music director, Jason Bentley, will moderate the discussion. Doors are 6:45pm and while it's free, reservations are required. Contact the Caltech Ticket Office by calling (626) 395-4652 to grab tickets. More details here. I hope to see you there!

Special thanks to Dan Goods of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for organizing this event!

The Voyager Golden Record is now available as a vinyl box set and CD/book package from Ozma Records.

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How to decode the images on the Voyager Golden Record

Editor's note: Forty years ago today, NASA launched Voyager 1, the second of two spacecraft on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Attached to each spacecraft is a Golden Record containing Earth's greatest music, spoken greetings, "Sounds of Earth," and more than 100 images encoded as audio signals, a technological feat at the time. Technical director Frank Drake had always planned to encode the photos in the audio spectrum for the record. The challenge was finding technology capable of the task. While flipping through an electronics catalog, Valentin Boriakoff, Drake’s colleague at the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, stumbled upon Colorado Video, a small television equipment firm in Boulder that had built a unique device for encoding television images as audio signals that could be transmitted over telephone lines. Donating their time and expertise to the project, engineers at Colorado Video projected each Voyager slide onto a television camera lens, generating a signal that their machine converted into several seconds of sound per photo. A diagram on the aluminum cover of the Golden Record explains how to play it and decode the images. Four decades later, Ron Barry followed the instructions.

How I decoded the images on the Voyager Golden Record

The video above is a decoding of more than 100 images that were packed into the audio channels of a record that was placed on each of the Voyager spacecraft. How does one pack data into audio? (Remember modems?) This article doesn’t answer that question directly, but it does attempt to reproduce the efforts an alien would go through to recover those images. Read the rest

Voyager's Golden Record still plays on

Boing Boing editor and partner David Pescovitz has an op-ed up at CNN about the Voyager probe's golden record. Even in the cold and distant darkness of space, this exemplar of human culture plays on.

It's a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth's greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach and Blind Willie Johnson to Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Natural sounds — birds, a train, a baby's cry, a kiss — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called "Sounds of Earth." There are spoken greetings in dozens of human languages— and one whale language — and more than 100 images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are. A diagram on the aluminum cover of the record explains how to play it and where it came from.

As an objet d'art and design, the Voyager Record represents deep insights about communication, context, and the power of media. In the realm of science, it raises fundamental questions about our place in the universe.

Pesco helped Kickstart a re-issue of the disc; you can still get in line and pre-order one here. Read the rest

The Voyager Golden Record now available as a vinyl box set

Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. The Voyager Golden Record is a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but it’s also a gift to humanity. It lies at the intersection of science and art to spark the imagination, and delivers a dose of hope that so many of us are jonesing for these days. Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I embarked on a long journey to release the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. We were humbled by the incredible support our project received. (You can read about our experience in the project updates here.)

Ten months after our Kickstarter ended, the enthusiasm and excitement around the Voyager anniversary and the golden record continues to increase. We feel very fortunate that the story of this historical artifact resonates with so many people! As promised, we will never reproduce the Kickstarter "40th Anniversary Edition" box set again. Our Kickstarter backers took the journey with us and we are deeply grateful. However, for those who were not able to participate in the Kickstarter, we have decided to repress the Voyager Golden Record in a different edition than the one our Kickstarter backers will receive. Read the rest

Friday in Berkeley, CA: Pop-Up Magazine and NoisePop's live stories and sound extravaganza

Right now, The Voyager Golden Record, containing a message from Earth for any extraterrestrials that might encounter it, is traveling on two spacecraft through the cosmic ocean at almost 40,000 miles per hour. But as we approach the 40th anniversary of Voyager, that beautiful gold phonograph record is also barreling through popular consciousness! Last week, I launched a Kickstarter with two friends, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad, to release the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time. We are blown away and humbled by the support our project has received!

While we were secretly developing our project, the good people at Pop-Up Magazine, California Sunday Magazine, and NoisePop were also quietly orchestrating their own homage to that magnificent golden artifact! The Golden State Record, taking place this Friday (9/30) at Berkeley's Greek Theater is an exquisitely-curated performance of "stories and sounds of California and the West from some of our favorite musicians, writers, filmmakers, radio producers, and artists." (We only found out about each others' efforts in July!)

The, well, stellar Golden State Record lineup include musicians like Lil B, Thao Nguyen, Mark Kozelek, and Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino, the Center for Investigative Reporting's Al Letson, music critic and "MacArthur Genius" Josh Kun, Jace Clayton aka DJ/rupture, and so many more.

I'll be there enjoying the scene under the stars.

Attend the Golden State Record at Berkeley's Greek Theater

Support the "Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition" on Kickstarter

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