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Science, Space, Technology

To Infinity and Beyond: The World’s Greatest Hits

33 years ago today – the ‘world’s greatest ever hits’ were released as part of the one of the most bizare scientific experiments. You’ve probably never heard the whole version: you will today. But first let me take you on a journey:

 Imagine, you are relaxing and content on a beautiful beach . It’s a sunny day and you’re thoroughly relaxed Perhaps you’re enjoying a favourate drink. Gazing off into the horizon, something catches your attention.

Whtat’s is it? Something is glinting in the distance. As you approach, you see that something has been washed up: a bottle. It’s an old and slightly odd looking bottle. You look closer you see that there is something inside.

Imagine the excitement as you open the bottle to find out what’s inside.

Unravelling what’s inside you find there are odd images and some strange looking writing:

Unusual Images

Some odd Hieroglyphics perhaps?

You delve deeper and find some very intruging picutres:

All rather weird! Who sent such images? Someone trying to say that they like schoolwork and eating chocolate digestives?

The amazing hing is, these actual images are part of a message ‘in a bottle’ that was part of the ‘world’s greatest hits’ 

“The Greatest Ever Hits”

In case you haven’t worked it out yet, today we celebrate the 33rd anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1: an unmanned space probe was launched on an ‘interstellar’ mission. It’s purpose was to pass through our solar system and send a ‘message in a bottle’ to outer space to extraterrestrial life. NASA put on the spacecraft a gold plated vinyl record that played sounds, music and images (CDs weren’t around then remember)! It was designed to reflect te “diversity of human life and culture”; in other words the highlights (‘greatest hits’) of everything it means to live on Earth.

If you click here you can listen to and see the whole recording.

If you listen to the record, you will hear a large selection of music – my personal favourate is Chuck Berry’s “Johny B Goode”! You can also be entertained by over 10 minutes of Earth sounds (rain, elephants, birds, etc) greetings in every langage and a hello from the (then) US President and the UN Secretary General!

Where is Chuck Berry Playing Now?

Better than most vehicles built in the 70’s the Voyager 1 craft is still going strong: it has gone 17 billion kilometers so far we’re still in contact with it! To me, that’s a mind-blowingly long way but it’s mission is far from over: it needs to go another 40,000 years beore it gets anywhere near another solar system!

Some other people’s ‘Greatest Hits’

NASA set up a team of people to decide what to put on the record. I like the idea of making the world’s greatest hits and it got me thinking… what would I put in a capsule to send to ET?

Award winning chef Alice Waters  said that she would put some kind of image involving a table and people eating because food and meal times involve people communicating, relating to each other and using all the sense (smell, taste, touch). She sees food and eating as an opportunity to “experience the world in the fullest possible way”.

Famous composer Philip Glass would include  footage from 1930 of Ghandi leading thousands of people in a peaceful march against oppression from the British government. He says this would show “how societies change. How people who feel powerless can bring about dramatic change”.

My ‘Greatest Hits’

What would you put in? I think Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speach, a favourte movie and a piece of music would be a good place to start.

What I do know is that in my ‘greatest hits’ there is something I definately would want an alien species to sample: as a self confessed ice-cream-addict I would have to send them a sample of what I think is the tastiest thing the world has to offer. And think about it, space is cold (about -270 degrees C) so it would still be frozen for them when it finally gets there!

ice cream - all the flavours!
A variety of flavours is essential!

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

One thought on “To Infinity and Beyond: The World’s Greatest Hits

  1. You certainly have a gift for writing! The content of the Gold disc was inspirational – from Chuck Berry to the Brandenberg – both favoutite genres of mine. Keep it up, Stu!

    Posted by Guy | September 7, 2010, 9:31 am

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