Artist to send picture disc into orbit to serve as time capsule

Oct 10, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org)—Multimedia artist Trevor Paglen, part of a group known as Creative Time, has created a gold-plated crystalline silicon disc with bit mapped re-creations of photographs etched onto its surface. The disc is to serve as a form of time capsule that will orbit Earth for billions of years—if all goes according to plan. The disc, containing 100 images and referred to as the "Last Pictures" project, has been attached to the EchoStar XVI satellite, scheduled for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome sometime over the next few months.

The idea behind the project is to provide a record of human existence to intelligent life forms—as yet undiscovered—from other parts of the galaxy. The group at Creative Time notes on their website that they expect to disappear long before the disc is destroyed by the Sun, five billion years from now when the Sun becomes a red giant. They believe the disc, along with its images, will survive. Because, unlike the copper discs sent with the , it's made of silicon which has a crystalline structure.

Paglen has been assembling the collection of pictures for nearly five years, speaking with scientists, artists, geologists, philosophers and mathematicians about ways in which to represent the history of Earth's people. Despite his work, Paglen has also spoken publicly about his belief that no one will ever find the disc and view his work. Also, his assumption that the disc will survive in orbit for billions of years might have one fatal flaw: it's quite possible that scientists will develop a method to clear the circling the planet, consequently removing the EchoStar XVI satellite from its geosynchronous orbit long before we as a civilization go extinct. Which, of course, is also not a certainty.

The pictures aren't meant to offer a chronological history of the planet or of the human beings that evolved to become its dominant species. Instead, they are meant to convey a sense of who we are in the event that "anyone else" ever wants to know.

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User comments : 7

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Telekinetic
3 / 5 (6) Oct 10, 2012
"Instead, they are meant to convey a sense of who we are in the event that "anyone else" ever wants to know."

Like the cave paintings of Lascaux- beautiful art by primitives.

kenneth_mui01
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2012
Why just 100 pictures? Seems so silly to me with the current state of technology that we have. If you can preserve 100 pictures in a special disk, why not more? If we had tons more cave paintings or hieroglyphs, we'd know so much more about our past history. I'd be a disappointed alien or future human to find so little information.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2012
It doesn't say, but I suspect these will be real images, visible with a microscope, rather than digital files. A file would be very difficult for any finder to interpret, but an image would be readable by any species seeing with visible light.
Blakut
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2012
Orbiting the Earth? Yeah, way to go!...Pioneer FTW!
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2012
One reason for leaving it in Earth orbit is that it would be easier to find. Even after we're gone, the Earth will be here, and will likely attract explorers. On the other hand, finding a non-transmitting spacecraft in interstellar space would be almost impossible.
Lex Talonis
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2012
One reason for leaving it in Earth orbit is that it would be easier to find. Even after we're gone, the Earth will be here, and will likely attract explorers. On the other hand, finding a non-transmitting spacecraft in interstellar space would be almost impossible.


Well they found the space ship with the "aliens" on it, because it was still transmitting - the warning signal.

I know how to do it actually - to make them transmit for eternity.
roboferret
not rated yet Oct 11, 2012

I know how to do it actually - to make them transmit for eternity.


You think you do, but you don't.