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Contributor to project:
The Voyager update project
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Immortal since Jan 9, 2008
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  • HighVoltage’s project
    The Voyager update project
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
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    Project: The Voyager update project

    THE PROJECT / RESEARCH (with edits…I can’t help myself)

    The Lighthouse Project is a temporary name for the “Voyager Update Project.” In a nutshell we want to mark our territory. This post covers some of the social connotations and implications of this effort. Before I get into the specifics of the social contextualization, I want to first iterate why this idea of marking our territory is so compelling for us.

    In thinking about why we want to communicate with an alien life form we realized that there is no way to really come up with anything practical. The alien could be in the spectrum of our imagination, but most likely is something outside of that limited bandwidth of the imaginary. This forces us to look within…at our own Earth and Solar System.

    Aside from us not being able to imagine or comprehend what we could possibly be communicating with, there are some humane implications that our group felt were worth considering. The first being that any sort of artifact blasted into space, particularly with contents from our earth (a la KEO and Voyager), could render whatever life form overwhelmed. A literary example would be “Ice-Nine” in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat's Cradle, or on a more physical level, Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain.

    A commonplace example would be the episode of the Simpsons where the Simpsons go to Australia. The last scene in the episode finds a Koala Bear on the plane that carries the Simpsons back to the United States. Subsequently the United States becomes overcome with Koala's.

    The inclusion of these examples is to bring up the notion of colonialism. This overwhelming of an element or some other artifact from Earth could damage and possibly hurt the recipient of our message. This is something we do not want as we desire a friendly or at the very least platonic relationship with these aliens. The result is to look within and make our own planet the message.

    This “message”—or technically, absence of a message—isn’t intended to be so egotistical that we get stuck and stare at the pond like Narcissus. The message is the connection. That is why the driving force behind our idea is curiosity. This is not like the 60's where we were in a race to the moon to beat Russia, this is an age of Web 2.0. This collective knowledge is a powerful symbol of humanity and the curiosity that drives this is what our group wants to harness for this project.

    So what exactly is it that we're doing? Well we're marking our territory. More specifically, we want to create a lighthouse for the rest of the universe. A beacon stemming from our planet or solar system. We see this in many forms from a dog peeing on a fire hydrant, to pheromones, to the yellow stickers German Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.

    The Lighthouse of Alexandria describes our marking system the best. Not for its physical qualities, but for the social qualities it happened to exude.

    It was a navigational beacon.

    It was a resource silo.

    It notified other nations, specifically the Chinese in the 13th century AD, that these lands have been accounted for.

    Finally, it was a monument of spectacle.

    This is just our first iteration, so the marking system will undoubtedly change. We are currently talking about the feasibility of cosmic background radiation as the practical means of communication. But, figuratively this is the intent of the group.

    Cosmic Background Radiation is the medium we’ve proposed to “mark” our place in the cosmic neighborhood. Cosmic Background Radiation is essentially a left over from the cooling of the universe. It was scattered across the universe 400,000 years after the big bang. The universe had cooled enough that there wasn't enough energy to keep electrons and protons apart. So the universe went from being a plasma to consisting of helium and hydrogen and the areas the were more dense with these kept attracting more and more matter around them and formed the galaxies.

    Our instrument of detecting CBR:

    The CMR photons scatter off free charges such as electrons that are not bound in atoms. In an ionized universe, such electrons have been liberated from neutral atoms by ionizing (ultraviolet) radiation. Today these free charges are at sufficiently low density in most of the volume of the Universe that they do not measurably affect the CMR. However, if the IGM was ionized at very early times when the universe was still denser, then there are two main effects on the CMR:

    1. Small scale anisotropies are erased (just as when looking at an object through fog, details of the object appear fuzzy).

    2. The physics of how photons scatter off free electrons (Thomson scattering) induces polarization anisotropies on large angular scales. This large angle polarization is correlated with the large angle temperature perturbation.

    So if we can ionize (removing charged particles such as electrons) parts of the CBR around us, it will change the ripples (small scale anisotropies) in the areas around our cosmic neighborhood.

    There have already been machines built that have been able to do massive scale ionization on earth. This was done in the hopes of being able to control the weather and is called atmospheric ionization.


    From the very beginning, we knew that communication was the key element that needed to be solved for this project to be a success. And sitting around a table, conceptualizing this huge question of how we could make contact with “intelligent life” in the universe, was really mind blowing. The scale of the question, and the resulting hypothetical answers were just beyond anything we’d tried to answer. It was almost like the “God” question. “Is there a god?” “Is there a higher being?” At some point, you have to recognize the inability of the human brain to be able to cognitively understand this kind of question. “Is there life in the universe?” That was probably the first question we really debated. To create a project based on the fact that no life has ever been discovered in the universe other than on Earth could be a huge leap of faith for some people. Then you start to look at the facts, the roughest estimate of how many stars there are in the universe is 10 to the 24th, and to date, 267 extrasolar planets have been discovered. Two days ago, on March 19th, there was an article published that declared that the Hubble Space Telescope had made the first detection ever of an organic molecule in the atmosphere of one of these 267 extrasolar planets: methane.

    For humans to be an anomaly in the universe seems completely unrealistic, and somewhat vain to believe. Also, isn’t it just a little bit boring? So once the question of potential life was covered, how do we possibly communicate with it? I think that’s were our group made a step past anything anyone else had thought of. I mean, we’re faced with trying to perceive the unperceivable: life that has evolved on an entirely different planet, in circumstances and potential elements and other states of matter that we as mankind have not even discovered. It’s like trying to solve a murder with no body, no date of death, no location, no name, no gender, no weapon, no cause of death, no nothing. You can’t answer these questions. Not even if you look at the scientific reasoning behind how life on Earth evolved, it doesn’t matter. Those planets with life somewhere out in the universe have evolved under entirely different circumstances. So trying to create a “message” or a “picture” or a “map” to put on a satellite or send via radio waves is just a waste time, money, and is completely vain and ignorant. It’s like a fucking fairy tale. The original Voyager golden disk is a complete joke. We didn’t want to update it, we wanted to destroy it. That’s why we immediately thought, “forget a message.” Besides the fact that we have no idea how this potential life we may contact has evolved (i.e. they might not have the same senses as humans), a message faces too many obstacles: radio messages can get distorted by cosmic dust, physical objects can get damaged or may not even be recognizable as mentioned before. Oh, and my personal favorite issue: time. Sure, we’ll send something to X galaxy and wait 150,000 years for a response—sounds good. That’s bullshit. So we had define what this hypothetical, unperceivable, intelligent life was…and we did: any life actively observing the cosmos.

    We recognized this all literally in the span of an hour. That’s how fast we were moving. We wanted to answer the question, we wanted create something better, something that could work. So we started talking about history and about how this same sort of issue may have been present or may be present on Earth. We talked about imperialism, how countries sailing to new continents like the Americas had no idea how to speak native tongues and how they would communicate. Monuments came up, the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, and then Chris Chernoff said two words: light house.

    A lighthouse was a perfect analogy. It was a wordless message, a beacon, a sign. That’s when you pull back and look at what the project is about. It’s about establishing communication, but before you can do that, you have to make CONTACT. Forget trying to develop a language based on math, creating the perfect image of man—guess what, we’re far from perfect. MAKE CONTACT. We dove deeper into history, and found The Lighthouse of Alexandria, which represented so much of what we were trying to do. It was a beacon, it represented that land, that time. Our world needed a beacon, it needed a lighthouse.

    Technically speaking, light was a solution to the speed and time problem. It was a solution to the message problem. But we needed a further understanding of space. For those of us lucky enough to have taken astronomy classes, we started pulling the reserves of knowledge from those classes—I guess those test weren’t a total waste. Fred Jasier-Chasen was the one who brought Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation to the table, and a lot of us had no clue what the hell he was talking about at first. But upon further examination, CBR seemed like our perfect medium. It had been around since the conception—basically—of the universe, so if there was some sort of way to alter it, we could be popping up on the grid for any intelligent life actively observing the cosmos (with the assumption being that they would be able to view that spectrum of light either naturally or with technology). Ionization was, of course, the answer to that problem.

    So, we ionize the cosmic microwave background radiation in our vicinity of the cosmos, and BOOM, we pop up on the grid and any intelligent life that notices will most likely investigate, and THEY can figure out how to make contact with us—it’d be pretty hard to ignore something that had been around for trillions of years suddenly changing.

    So that’s it.

    That’s were it should have stopped.

    Figuring out how to fund it, and create some sort of a business model was waste of time—we’re designers, creators, thinkers. Fuck the money issue, that’s why we have producers.

    This aspect of the project created so much frustration, so much anger, and was literally a fucking waste of time.

    So take the good, fuck the bad, and just remember that the answer to life, the universe, and everything…is 42.

    Fri, Mar 21, 2008  Permanent link
    Categories: lighthouse
    Sent to project: The Voyager update project
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