I made the above video, Greetings from the People of Earth, to open the World Science Festival 2010 panel “The Search for Life in the Universe,” which featured personal hero Jill Tarter, David Charbonneau, and Steven Squyres.
In 1977, taking advantage of a fortuitous alignment of planets, NASA dispatched two spacecraft named Voyager into space. These probes, now the farthest human-made objects from Earth, carry with them a unique recording, the Voyager Golden Record. Compiled by a team under Dr. Carl Sagan, the Golden Record holds images and sounds ranging from pulsar beeps and x-ray photographs, to songs of whales and human heartbeats. In addition, the Golden Record holds spoken greetings from the people of Earth, recorded in 55 languages both dead and alive. Listened to now, these recordings are tragi-beautiful, testament to a moment of unbridled scientific hope.
This video montage, Greetings from the People of Earth, is a meditation on these recordings, our loneliness, and the herculean, courageous task of SETI. The now-distant voices–all of whom make statements of earnest peace, curiosity, and goodwill, our best human attributes–are paired with images of the night sky from their countries of origin. It seems they are shouting out into the void; indeed, the people on the Golden Record (and perhaps our entire civilization) will be long gone by the time the Voyager craft pass within range of another star system.
Full video of “The Search for Life in the Universe” panel — complete with live commenting and Q/A with some of the original panelists and top-notch guest moderators — will soon be re-broadcast online on the World Science Festival website. Stay alert!