It’s official: we’ve made contact.
The Voyager spacecrafts, launched to infinity and beyond in 1977, each carried a golden record etched with earthly sounds (from animal noises and human greetings to “thunder” and “surf”) that would give any extraterrestial listeners a sample of what our world is like. More than three decades later, the sounds have returned as alien remixes.
SETI-X (a self-proclaimed “dissident offshoot” of the private, non-profit organization “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”) received the transmissions, but faced skepticism from the majority of the scientific community. Seeking to publicize their finding, SETI-X released the transmissions on a CD, conveniently named “Scrambles of Earth.”
Some scientists anticipated a discovery like this months ago, when Voyager’s data stream back to Earth suddenly changed. British newspaper “The Daily Telegraph” reported that Hartwig Hausdorf, a German academic, believed that something must have hijacked or reprogrammed the spacecraft.
Now we know that’s true.
What “Scrambles” holds is a Pandora’s box of alien information. The first transmission combines the Brandenburg Concerto found on the record with the spoken greeting of Kurt Waldheim, UN Secretary General at the time of the Voyager launch, which sets an eerie, decidedly freakish tone. Another track starts out in a festive, jangly tone before evolving into the gasps of the human speakers taken from the original Voyager record. A third, short remix is a dashing symphony of tones that seems to echo through the emptiness of space. The universe. Infinity.
All alien. All unknown.
Why would they take apart our sounds and construct them as they did? What could The Aliens mean by these adaptations of our transmissions? And what should we expect in the future? I assume that SETI-X is hard at work deciphering each track, piecing together what little they can. But all our efforts are inevitably futile. What can we really learn from 60 minutes of alien music?
In any case, who/whatever replied is something we should anticipate. Certainly, their technological prowess far outstrips ours — they/it was able to pluck a probe from interstellar space, determine its basic meaning and send back a decipherable signal (not to mention the fact that they successfully TRAVERSED interstellar space, nbd). Meeting these aliens might be the best thing that ever happened to us as a thinking species, forcing us to reevaluate our significance in the world and bringing us millennia ahead in technological advancement. But there is more! “Scrambles” includes transmissions I could righteously describe as beautiful; transmissions that might signify the nature and intent of the extraterrestrials.
(On the other hand, ever seen War of the Worlds? They may as well not.)
Listening to a track towards the end of the CD — one barely over two minutes — I find this parenthetical outcome much more plausible. Composed of the most unearthly sounds possible, the transmission contains discordant, meteoritic, even threatening words. Threatening, I say. And meteoritic.
SETI-X’s discovery desperately needs to be heard, the message must be spread, awareness must be raised.
Who knows what might already be on its way?