It fascinated me that Voyager 1, launched in 1977, could reach the edge of our solar system in as little as seven years time. It travels at about 1.6 million kilometres a day, reaching the “termination shock” - the zone where the solar wind piles up against heliopause, in three years time. It is the furthest man made object, and if you want a scale to measure its distance, it is already 85 times as far away from the sun as earth is.
Famously it includes a “Message from earth”. This could be the initial information alien life receives about us. Hence, I find it a little worrying. Anything chosen by someone, 25 years ago, in another country to represent me, is bound to be slightly inaccurate isn’t it? I want to know how the selection of what to include was made. “The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record-a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.” - http://vraptor.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/record.html
The information was selected by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan (1934-1996) of Cornell University for NASA. I would have liked to pick fault with the choice of Carl Sagan as committee chairman, but on the whole everything I have read about him shows a person with an open, intelligent mind.
Quotes from Carl Sagan found at
There is an interesting interview with him here
He says on encountering alien life -
“It would be an absolutely transforming event in human history. But, the stakes are so high on whether it's true or false, that we must demand the more rigorous standards of evidence. Precisely because it's so exciting. That's the circumstance in which our hopes may dominate our sceptical scrutiny of the data. So, we have to be very careful.”
Thus I think it’s fair to sceptically scrutinize the data that we chose to provide them.
The disk contains two printed messages one from Kurt Waldheim. It reads:
"As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization of the 147 member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth. I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship, to teach if we are called upon, to be taught if we are fortunate. We know full well that our planet and all its inhabitants are but a small part of this immense universe that surrounds us and it is with humility and hope that we take this step."
-Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General, United Nations.
While Austria may have forgiven his troubled past to elect him to presidency he was a German lieutenant during the Second World War. His German army unit committed atrocities in Yugoslavia and while he denied any knowledge it implies either a very poor officer unaware what his troops were doing, or else he was not imparting all that he knew. I am not going to question the mans peace keeping efforts since the end of WW2 as he did do phenomenal work.
Although his past had not been revealed in 1977, it makes me wonder that if the credentials of one of the two voices on the disc were not investigated what else may have been forgotten. Yugoslavians, and anyone horrified by genocide, may already feel this “message to the galaxy” is far from representing their interests.
39th President of the U.S. Jimmy Carter gave the second message on the disc aboard Voyager. An odd twist of irony has the president seeing UFO’s some time before election.“President Jimmy Carter's widely-reported "UFO sighting," which he made public while Governor of Georgia, was in fact a misidentification of the planet Venus. Several errors of identification within Mr. Carter's report demonstrate that the eyewitness testimony of even a future president of the United States cannot be taken at face value when investigating UFO sightings -
Jimmy Carter a UFO sighting man, a man who gave pre-election interviews to Playboy, who had helped build nuclear submarines in the navy, a Baptist who lessened his stance about race segregation to win the white vote in governor elections. .I am uncertain how well Jimmy Carter represents me either or even how well he represents Americans. For surely selected the Amercian president as one of the sole speaker, puts the American representation as a precident. Its an American mission, so who would think it would be any different? Already the Aliens will not be too surprised to find Waldheims speech “an organization of the 147 member states who represent almost all of the human inhabitants of the planet Earth.” Is actually somewhat geared towards and Amercian view point.As well as the speeches, the disc contains, Music, images and Sounds.
Music - http://vraptor.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/music.html
Images - http://vraptor.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/images.html
Sounds - http://vraptor.jpl.nasa.gov/voyager/sounds.html
As a visually aware person, my first question is why is Music the only art form represented? What about paintings? What about Sculpture? What about design, furniture making, ceramics. The list is endless. It seems an odd choice to represent our earthly culture with solely music and no visual art form. After all its cave paintings that have outlasted the beats of our early predecessors.
To not link the sounds with images seems somewhat unusual too. Dogs are over represented in the sound clips. What is the use of words to describe the sounds, without a picture of one in the image files isn’t it an exercise in futility? The culmination of these sounds and music ( which is predominantly very high brow and maybe some of the best ever written but does it really represent anything about our culture as we live it?) is for me the work of scientists not artists.
The disc is a product of the western male world. Images/Thoughts and ideas from the eastern world are under represented. Women are virtually only to be seen as baby carrying devices. Assuming that appealing to aliens as scientifically gifted “others” on the pretext that we are too, is not only a lie, but an assumption that may be wrong. Who's to say Aliens wouldn’t learn just as much from painting the space probe with a history of art? Who's to say Aliens can think? Hear? See? Have a concept of the world that even vaguely equates to our notions of science? The personification of alien life is almost as incorrect as their representation of me on Voyager ones “ Message from the earth”. Who's earth would that be exactly?