A Play Too Much Original Podcast

The Golden Record | Signal Cannon

by Billy Donahoe

I’ve been fascinated by space since I was a little kid. I remember going to the library and bringing home every book about the planets I could get my hands on. Many of the pictures in those books of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune were taken by the Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 and were the definitive images of the outer Solar System for decades. 

The Golden Record signal cannon

The Golden Record

Not only was the Voyager responsible for those photos but it also carried a very special piece of cargo: a phonograph record containing the sights and sounds of Earth. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “why?”. Well, in the hopes that an alien civilization might one day find it and learn about humanity, of course! The fact that we had the audacity to attach a phonograph record to a spacecraft and hope an alien civilization might one day spin it and learn about our music, is about as hopeful and funny a thing that I can imagine.

Speeding away at 38,600 mph, The Golden Record is the most distant man-made object in the galaxy. It’s a mixtape…in interstellar space.

Signal Cannon is a deep-dive into the history and science of music and sound. Forgotten stories, little-known facts. Humanity over the air. Listen now!

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  • Signal Cannon is produced Billy Donahoe, in collaboration with Play Too Much.
  • Eric Donahoe wrote our theme music. Show art by Julianne Waber.
  • The Golden Record image source
  • The Pale Blue Dot is an excerpt of Carl Sagan’s Book The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, published in 1994 and read aloud by Carl Sagan.
  • Bill Nye excerpts courtesy of BigThink.com in an interview published in April 2017.
  • “Symphony No.5”, was written by Ludwig van Beethoven, and performed by The Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer conducting. Recorded in December 1955 for EMI.
  • Azerbaijan bagpipes, recorded by Radio Moscow. Peruvian wedding song, recorded by John Cohen.
  • “Johnny B. Goode” was written and recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958 and released on Chess Records.
  • You can see and hear the entire Golden Record and learn more about the Voyager missions at jpl.nasa.gov.

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