The Golden Record: Background information when reading Mr. Splitfoot

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Mr. Splitfoot

by Samantha Hunt

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt X
Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

The Golden Record

This article relates to Mr. Splitfoot

Print Review

In Mr. Splitfoot, Samantha Hunt's new novel of ghosts, cults and motherhood, two characters fall in love while listening to the Golden Record.

Voyager spacecrafts 1 and 2 launched from Earth in 1977 and continue to travel further away from our planet, transmitting information back through the Deep Space Network. Theirs is an interstellar mission, extending NASA's space exploration of our solar system to the outer limits of the sun's influence and possibly beyond. On board, is the ultimate message in a bottle: a phonographic 12-inch record made of gold-plated copper known as The Golden Record, compiled by a team of people led by the American scientist, astronomer and author Carl Sagan. The outside of the record is transcribed with a key to figuring out how to play the record.

The Golden Record Sagan knew the likelihood of any other life form ever hearing the record was remote. NASA has estimated that after the spacecraft passed Pluto – which happened more than twenty-five years ago – it would be another forty thousand years before it approached another planet. But the idea that the record might one day be discovered is tantalizing, and what would then be heard and seen is arranged in four parts as follows:

Scenes from Earth

The phonograph carries a wide range of images, including photographs of other planets from Earth, diagrams of human anatomy and reproduction, family groupings, photographs of plants and animals, houses, buildings, books and musical instruments.

Greetings to the Universe

Fifty-five different languages are represented in the section of the disc where people were asked to record a brief greeting to potential extraterrestrial beings. Their words were recorded and translated into English. Contributions range from "Many greetings and wishes," spoken in Italian, to "Greetings from a human being of the Earth. Please contact." in Gujarati. Even Latin is included.

Music from Earth

The global representation of the Golden Record is continued in the music section, whose twenty-seven pieces include Solomon Island panpipes, to Beethoven's Fifth symphony, and "Johnny B. Goode" performed by Chuck Berry.

Sounds from Earth

The final segment includes random sounds from the earth, such as earthquakes, volcanoes and mud pots. Weather is represented by wind, rain and thunder. Selected animal, insect and bird noises or calls are part of the selection and human sounds range from the sounds of tractors, Morse code, sawing and a blacksmith working, to trains and cars and that of a mother and a crying child.

You can listen to snippets from The Golden Record on Voyager's website.

Picture of The Golden Record cover by Mattes

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Kate Braithwaite

This "beyond the book article" relates to Mr. Splitfoot. It originally ran in January 2016 and has been updated for the January 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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