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The 1977 Voyager probes and their golden LPs – Carl Sagan; world music; my life and music in 1977; science fiction and space music.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Voyager, but not as we know it.


The golden LP – finding a copy, listening to it, trying to make sense of it.


Cosmic music – what we sent out there, and what we got back.




Page 13

...that’s if you consider the Heliopause to be the edge of the solar system...



The Voyagers are travelling backwards into outer space, their antennae and dishes always facing home.



Page 15

...attached to the side of each Voyager is a gold-plated aluminium cover, inside which is a gold-plated copper LP called "The Sounds Of Earth"...




Page 16

...a six-inch by nine-inch gold-coated aluminium plaque attached to the Pioneer 10 space probe in 1972...




Page 17

...the first intentional radio message from us to whoever...


From the top, what this graphic shows is

  • the numbers one to ten (shown in white here and throughout)
  • the atomic numbers of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and phosphorus, the elements that make up the compounds essential for life (purple)
  • the chemical formulas of these compounds, which form the nucleotides/building blocks of DNA (green)
  • the DNA double helix (blue), with the number of nucleotides in a strand of human DNA (white)
  • a human figure (red), which emerges from the DNA strand above it. On the left is the average human height (white), on the right the Earth population in 1974 (white)
  • a diagram of the solar system (yellow), with the third planet, Earth, offset towards the human figure
  • the Arecibo radio telescope (purple), its size shown as a number (white) and also in wavelengths (blue). The average human height is also expressed in wavelengths (blue) as well as numerically (white).

This message was sent as a sequence of two different pulses, intended to be interpreted as binary digits. There were 1,679 pulses, which were intended to produce a rectangular graphic measuring 73 x 23, both of which are prime numbers.

Unlike this graphic, there was no colour included in the message, meaning that if the graphic is ever assembled and viewed elsewhere it will be in two colours only – maybe black and white, but who knows.






Page 18

...a time capsule had been buried for recovery 5,000 years later in the year 6939...



The project was carried out by the Westinghouse Electric Company, which also produced a commemorative book telling the story of the time capsule and listing its contents.

The book can be viewed online or downloaded.

Westinghouse also produced a book containing all the text that was included in the capsule’s contents. There is A KEY TO THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE to get started, as well as MESSAGES FOR THE FUTURE FROM NOTED MEN OF OUR TIME: short pieces by physicist Robert Millikan, writer Thomas Mann and physicist Albert Einstein. The book also has chapters entitled SEEKING METALLIC SUBSTANCES BENEATH THE GROUND and DETERMINATION OF LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE: instructions on how to find the capsule.

The book can be viewed online or downloaded.




Page 18

...Assyrian kings such as Ashurbanipal, who in the seventh century BCE accumulated and stored written records to tell future generations of himself and his achievements...



Ashurbanipal was ruler of Neo-Assyria between around 669 and 631 BCE. At that time it was the largest empire in the world, extending from Cyprus in the west to Iran in the east, and at one stage also including Egypt. The capital was Nineveh, the world’s largest city. The Greek city states such as Athens were still at an early stage of development, and Rome was just a small settlement.

Because he wanted to gather together all the knowledge in the world, Ashurbanipal sent officials across the empire to obtain copies of every book considered worth having. In this way he developed the first systematically collected and catalogued library. The books were mostly written on clay tablets using a cuneiform or wedge-shaped script. Hundreds of thousands of these tablets were accumulated, around 30,000 of which are now in the British Museum.




Page 20

...an impromptu message scratched on the run-out area of the record...




Page 29

...books like "Chariots Of The Gods?" and "Flying Saucers Have Landed" filled me with yearning...



To the left is my copy of the original paperback; to the right a pewter sculpture bought in a local souvenir shop that was otherwise stocked with Loch Ness monsters and tartan tea towels. Because nobody wanted to buy “FIRST CONTACT”, it had been reduced to a third of its original selling price, which suited me fine.



Page 31

...the metal plaque glimpsed as Kirk inspects the probe...



Kirk examining the plaque on V'ger just before that light-bulb moment. On the right-hand side of the plaque you can make out the LAGEOS image, which is also reproduced above for comparison. On the left is the pulsar map previously included on the Pioneer and Voyager probes.

The original Voyager probes, 1 and 2, had no name plaques on them.



Page 33

...I spent over a year fiddling about on eBay...







Clockwise from top left:

‘Saturn Encounter’ transparencies with commentary

Official NASA Voyager mission sew-on patch

Small plastic self-assembly model (still unassembled)

Golden Record replica cover.



Page 37

...the medieval Fuke sect of wandering Zen monks, known as komuso...



The practice of walking suizen or ‘blowing Zen’ was in contrast to the more familiar zazen or ‘seated Zen’, and was meant to be performed in time with the monk’s footsteps. The woven tengai headgear was meant to denote the absence of ego.



Page 43

...a pin badge of the Voyager golden record cover, gold on black...



On the black fleece worn when working at Inverness Library.



Page 44

...having bought the Voyager badge, slides, toy, LP cover, book, CD-ROMs and LPs, I had to buy the box sets as well...





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