[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a very distant future an alien spaceship will come across one of the Voyager spacecrafts. And when they do, they will find two things: a golden disc — a space-proof metal version of a normal vinyl record containing sounds, music and images from Earth — and a a record player.
When that happens, we will subject the aliens to the same torture that gadget companies have been imposing on us for decades: a user manual. It’s not hard to imagine that this reason alone will be enough to cause an interplanetary war.
When NASA started to work on the Voyagers, Carl Sagan and other scientists working in the project wanted to include a description of us and our planet, for anyone who could come across the spaceships, being alien or human. His words:
The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.
Sagan also publicly said that “the record is best seen as a time capsule or a symbolic statement more than a serious attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial life” but, knowing his views on the matter, I can’t help but think that he probably had some hope about it being found by someone.
To that effect, a team started to curate a list of sounds, music pieces and images that would be the perfect representation of planet Earth. Or, at least a nice testimony of our understanding of it.
They recorded all this data in analogue form on one side of the disc. That was the only technology available at the time, when they launched in 1977. No MP3s or JPEGs or animated GIFs. On the other side of the disc they etched a quick reference card. I can’t make any sense out of it, but obviously I’m neither an engineer nor an alien, despite what some of my wives have said.
If they are successful at deciphering this gibberish — and, given that they will have interstellar spaceships, chances are that they will be more successful than you or I — they will get to listen to the sounds in this video among many others. Some of them are quite scary. I don’t know if I would like to visit Eart