Airdate: Feb 19, 2010
Scientist: Frank Drake
Kids' Science Challenge: SETI - Sounds into Space
Without companion images,Earth sounds can be ambiguous, especially to an alien!
FD: There's always a problem of what we call ambiguity, that a similar sound may come from different sources.
[sfx running water]
JM: If you wanted to inform alien worlds about the world in which we live, you could try sending sounds. But sometimes sounds be hard to decipher. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Suppose extraterrestrials were listening to this sound. What is it? Static? A river? A shower?
FD: It would be better if with the sound you send a picture of what's related to that sound. And I wish we could have done that, but that's not the case.
JM: Frank Drake is a legendary astronomer who had a hand in creating two records of earth sounds that were launched into space on NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the late 1970s. He met recently with Kamau Hamilton, one of the winners of the Kids' Science Challenge, our free nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders. Kamau had come up with a similar idea to record everyday sounds to be sent into space making an audio portrait of our world. Frank Drake speaks to Kamau about the sounds which were on Voyager's record.
[Voyager sounds of human greetings, thunderstorm, tractor, heartbeat, baby]
FD: There are actually three sets of sounds on the record. One is greetings in 55 human languages. There's a second set: folk music, classical music, even some jazz music, things like that. The third set is typical sounds that occur on Earth, very much your idea, reinvented. The sound of lightening, the surf at the beach, the pitter patter of rain, and then much of it is things to do with human activity. There are human voices, there are the sounds of our machinery, a human heart beating, and it ends with the sound of a human baby and the sound of a kiss.
JM: Pulse of the Planet's Kids' Science Challenge is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.