Erosion on the Earth
Because of erosion on the Earth, our monuments and artifacts will not, in the natural course of things, survive to the distant future. But the spaceships Voyager launched in the XX Century carry human records on their way out of the Solar system.
Indeed, brains and genes and books encode information differently and persist through time at different rates. But the persistence of the memory of the human species will be far longer in the impressed metal grooves on the Voyager interstellar record. It happens because the erosion in interstellar space – chiefly impacting dust grains and cosmic rays – is so slow that the information on these recordings will last a billion years.
But the Voyager message is traveling with agonizing slowness. The fastest object ever launched by the human species, this probe will still take tens of thousands of years to go the distance to the nearest star.
Any television program will traverse in hours the distance that Voyager has covered in years. A television transmission that has just finished being aired will, in only a few hours, overtake the Voyager spacecraft in the region of Saturn and beyond and speed outward to the stars. If it is headed that way, the signal will reach Alpha Centauri in a little more than four years. If, some decades or centuries hence, anyone out there in space hears our television broadcasts, I hope they will think well of us, a product of fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution, the local transmogrification of matter into consciousness.
Our intelligence is providing us with awesome powers, but it is not yet clear yet if we have the wisdom to avoid our own self-destruction.
However, many of us are trying very hard. We hope that very soon in the perspective of our cosmic time we will have unified our planet peacefully into an organisation cherishing the life of every living creature on it and will be ready to take that next great step, to become part of a galactic society of communicating civilizations.
Will we ever become part of a galactic society? Image : © Megan Jorgensen