Voyager

I had to run an errand in the middle of the work day which brought me all the way back home. Along the way I tuned in to Science Friday, where they were talking about the Voyager Record, and speculating on what might be on a new version if we were sending that out today. My guess was that people would be suggesting lots of popular music that I wasn’t familiar with. That would make me an alien on my home planet, wouldn’t it? But the popular culture references were not all that recent (Beach Boys, Aaron Copeland), and will probably tell the space aliens quite a lot about NPR’s listener demographic. Other suggestions included the Periodic Table and Wikipedia. I would probably want to see a few more animal sounds on there.

Aside from the fun crowd-sourced aspect to the project, this segment of the show included very different perspectives on what the project was really all about. Should the record only include positive things about human culture? What about representing some of the problems we’re currently working on? Should it be set pieces such as music and speeches that illustrate some aspect of our world, or should we just throw everything we’ve got on there and let the super-smart extraterrestrials sort it out? And why are we really doing this? The chances of intelligent life existing, finding the record, understanding it to some degree, and then following up with us if they have any questions, are all pretty remote. One of the participants described it as a message in a bottle thrown into an infinite sea. So maybe we’re sending the message to ourselves.

That is some pretty heavy duty material to process, especially when I am on my way home to place calls to the DMV and my insurance company. Some decompression will be required. But the universe had one more thing for me to experience first.

I drove past a mother, child and father on the sidewalk by the bank at the intersection of Brewster and El Camino. The mother was holding this super-tiny toddler up, and the father was a few steps away with his arms out. The youngster was about to take her first steps, right there by the bank at 11:30am on a Friday. The first of the estimated 216,262,500 she’ll take during her lifetime. Good luck, kid.

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