The Golden Record (1977) is a record made of gold and copper that is on each of the two Voyager spacecrafts, now well beyond Pluto, headed for the stars. It was the brainchild of Carl Sagan, his message in a bottle thrown into the cosmic ocean. One that will probably last at least a billion years.
On the cover (pictured above) is a star map, showing when and where it came from, and instructions for how to play the record to get sounds and pictures. It assumes a knowledge of physics and mathematics at least as good as ours. A safe assumption since only beings able to travel between the stars are likely to find it. It also assumes they can see and hear. A not-so-safe assumption.
- greetings in 55 languages and the song of a humpback whale;
- 40 sounds from Earth (volcanoes, the sea, birds, a bus, a rocket, etc);
- the brain waves of a woman in love (with Carl Sagan);
- 90 minutes of music: 27 songs, from Beethoven’s “Fifth” to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” to Peruvian pipe music;
- 116 pictures (drawings and photographs).
One of the English greetings, from Sagan’s son:
“Hello from the children of planet Earth.”
The pictures show the Earth and other planets and many scenes on the Earth itself. They show how big humans are, what they are made of, what they look like inside and out, things they do, things they make, and so on.
- 1977: Voyager 2 and 1 leave Earth.
- 1979: Jupiter (Voyager 1 and 2)
- 1980: Saturn (Voyager 1)
- 1981: Saturn (Voyager 2)
- 1985: Uranus (Voyager 2)
- 1989: Neptune (Voyager 2)
- 1990: Voyager 1 looks back and takes one last picture of Earth: a pale blue dot.
- 2012: Voyager 1 enters interstellar space.
- 2015: Voyager 1 is 4 times farther away than Pluto. Voyager 2 is 3.3 times farther.
- 2020: NASA starts to shut down Voyager 1’s instruments.
- 19,600: Voyager 1 is one light year away.
- 42,000: Voyager 1 passes within 1.6 light years Gliese 445, a star in the constellation of Camelopardis.
- 298,000: Voyager 2 passes within 4.3 light years of Sirius.
- 1,000,000,000: The Golden Records are probably still playable. Voyager 1 has travelled 57,000 light years, one third of the way round the centre of the galaxy.
Eurocentrism: Sagan clearly wanted the Golden Record to represent the whole human race, not just the US or the West:
Languages come from:
- Asia: India (8), China (5), Iraq (2), Turkey (2), Armenia, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Vietnam.
- Europe: Britain (2), Italy (2), Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine.
- Africa: Zambia (2), Uganda.
- Americas: Peru.
- Oceania: none.
Only Eurasia is well represented. There are even five dead Eurasian languages (Latin, Ancient Greek, Hittite, Akkadian and Sumerian), but no Swahili.
Songs come from:
- Asia: Azerbaijan, China, India, Indonesia, Japan.
- Europe: Germany (5), Austria, Britain, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia.
- Africa: D.R. Congo, Senegal.
- Americas: US (4), Peru (2), Mexico.
- Oceania: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands.
A third of the songs come from the US and Germany.
In 1980, Africa and the Diaspora made up 14% of the world. On the Golden Record they appear in:
- 5% of the languages used in greetings.
- 19% of the songs
- 16% of the people in pictures whose race can be determined.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Wikipedia: a list of contents
- The Clock of the Long Now
- Library of Alexandria
- The libraries of Timbuktu
- demographically weighted world history
- Top languages