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The best kind of gold record

The best kind of gold record

Today, we will be taking you far into the reaches of interstellar space; all the way out to about 131.7 AU from Earth (that's about 1.22436e10 miles from Earth) in fact!  All of this traveling just to check out some recordings.  These things must be pretty amazing pieces of music huh?  Like secret Zeppelin recordings or a snippet of John Lennon playing a Van Halen style solo right?  Perhaps it's something more classic, like a secret collection of Mozart that the world has never heard?  And if so, why the hell is it so far away? 

Well, in 1977, far before my and most of your time, NASA launched two deep-space probes into the solar system, to explore the outer planets, and now with an eventual destination of nearing the star AC +79 3888.  The two probes were the aptly-named Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. 

It was the aim of these probes to explore places that mankind had never seen before.  While they started out with the goal of checking out Jupiter and Saturn up close, they also were able to show us the moons of these huge planets as well as the rings of Saturn in higher detail than ever before.  But why just launch a probe all the way to Saturn to just stop there?  Hell it's already got the hard part of the journey out of the way.  After flying past Uranus and Neptune, V1 and V2 are now at the very edge of the Solar System, on their way to AC +79 3888- which they will reach in 40,000 years time.

The coolest thing about all of this?  Well, when I was younger, I remember reading about these probes carrying with them a plaque as well as some gold-plated records.  The purpose?  The plaque was to provide a sort of elementary map of where this probe was from, and who made it.  The Golden Records were to provide any future humans or other alien life it encountered with sound snippets of what life sounded like on Earth during the 20th century. 

I have always been so curious to know what exactly these records sounded like.  After all, what sorts of sounds and music would we choose to represent us?

The records being called "gold" are not implying the usual "mark of sales" nonsense that we're used to here on Earth, but these are actually constructed out of gold-plated copper.  The cover is made of aluminum that has been coated in uranium-238, which will help any future species to discover the date the record was made. 

This week, in an unbelievable reveal, NASA has posted these sounds to their Soundcloud, finally allowing current humanoids to hear the range of diverse sounds that were on these Golden Records.  So what sorts of sounds would make the cut?  Well, NASA included samples of everything ranging from human noises (like a baby crying), to pieces of technology that changed the world (like trains, cars, and tractors), to wildlife, to sounds of weather, to Morse Code and ships, to other signs of life like our heartbeat. Check out all the audio samples in this convenient playlist:

NASA also included a sample of the music of the spheres (which musically represents planetary motion), just to really freak any aliens out.  I mean, who wouldn't find this sound eerie?!

In addition to this, they also included vocal human greetings in most of the Earth languages, which you can hear here:

And finally, the Golden Records included samples of music from around the world.  You just can't have sounds, without including music; perhaps mankind's greatest expression of sound.  As mentioned above, they actually did choose to include music from Mozart (but it is a piece we've all heard)

along with many other greats such as Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Guan Pinghu, Blind Willie Johnson, Chuck Berry, Kesarbai Kerkar and Valya Balkanska.

The full list can be seen here:

Carl Sagan, the man who made science cool long before there was such a thing as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, chaired the committee to choose these sounds and images that would represent humans.  Interestingly enough he tried to include The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun", but EMI would not give copyright permission for the song to be included on the probe.  Ironically, that only further serves as proof to all alien life about how messed up Earth actually is... At least we're honest in proving how greedy we are!  For the classic and timeless songs that DID get pressed to this record, which is to be played at 16 2/3 RPM; it is just amazing to know that these songs are quite literally going where no one has gone before. 

Want to learn more?

Thanks and credit to NASA/JPL and Wikipedia for the images