Ad/Graph Thesis – Emails and Execution

Last week, I explained what my concept is, and showed a sketch for what I envisioned the execution to look like. Upon sharing that work with the class, I've since been given some suggestions and returned to the drawing board, in an attempt to refine what this project may become.

As far as other ideas go, I've been thinking about slight variations of my original execution:


Isolating the Elements
A few students have suggested that I place greater emphasis on the discovery and rediscovery of the various things on display. One idea is to place these items in separate containers, possibly marked in binary or pictorial graphics. This would entice visitors to examine each element in its own regard, be it a texture, smell, image, sound, or written message. They might also be able to add their own contributions, although this might be logistically challenging.

A Human Element
I could create a secondary display that compliments the original space probe idea. The display could be a suggestion of a human, either in the form of a poster or a sculpture. Regardless, visitors would be encouraged to choose elements from the probe and place them on the human, in a collaborative attempt to create what we believe to be defining aspects of our humanity.

Sending Out the Message
This area is still a little rough, but whatever people deem valuable could be photographed, collectively donated and installed somewhere in the school, sent up in a small model rocket, or some other outlet. It becomes difficult, however, if I end up literally sending things up into the sky, because I've severely limited by what I can afford to lose and possibly break (e.g., I would never send up a $400 iPad). I've also been toying with the idea of transmitting this image into the sky using a laser and binary/morse code. Additionally, I've thought about utilizing a project like Lone Signal, a crowdfunded group that sends images and text messages into space for very little money. 

This aspect of the project is certainly the most challenging, because I want visitors to really feel convinced that their ideas are valued.

Sending out a curated selection of items in a rocket would be pretty cool, but is it safe? Photo Credit: Robotroom.com.

Sending out a curated selection of items in a rocket would be pretty cool, but is it safe? Photo Credit: Robotroom.com.

Imagine if every element on display was encased in its own capsule, complete with pictorial markings on it? Photo Credit: Dahou.com.

Imagine if every element on display was encased in its own capsule, complete with pictorial markings on it? Photo Credit: Dahou.com.

For just $0.99, you can send an image and three text messages deep into space! Photo Credit: Lone Signal.

For just $0.99, you can send an image and three text messages deep into space!
Photo Credit: Lone Signal.

In other news, I received a couple of emails from professionals and experts, one of whom is the director of Earth Tapestry, the project I've mentioned in the past. We had a brief exchange through email, and I plan to conduct a Skype call with him in about a week's time. It will be great to hear from someone whose project is also about sourcing people's opinions on significant aspects of our world.

By next week, I need to make sure I'm set on what my execution will be; I have to create something in the end, after all. I also hope to continue sourcing answers for my "big question," because everyone has an opinion on what is worth representing us.

Ad/Graph Thesis – Proposal and Concepts

It's been a hectic last week. Directions is finished, the One Show entries have been sent out, and my illness has subsided. Now I'm shifting gears back to my thesis!

Last week, I explained that I'd have my proposal together. It's a rather lengthy document, so I'll sum up of the basics here:

The Concept
My concept poses the question, "If you could send anything into the depths of space, what would it be and why?" The responses, which could be messages, photos, drawings, videos, sounds, textures, smells, or small objects, will help determine what we value as a species. Are we generally humorous, or serious? Are we interested in the material, or the intangible? These are the kinds of questions I plan to answer through the feedback of others, and I hope for the show's visitors to ask the same questions.

The Research
Most of my research has been on the Voyager Golden Records, the Pioneer plaques, Earth Tapestry, and time capsules. Most of these topics have been mentioned in past blog posts, so I'll avoid repeating myself. In short, my research is what prompted me to expand my horizons as to what outlets/media/senses I can use. I'm also interested in keeping text to a minimum, instead using universal symbols like pictorial illustrations to get my ideas across; again, when reaching out into space, we can't rely solely on English and other languages.

Here's the Pioneer Plaque, illustrated by Carl Sagan's then-wife. Photo Credit: The Curious Astronomer.

Here's the Pioneer Plaque, illustrated by Carl Sagan's then-wife. Photo Credit: The Curious Astronomer.

The Execution
I envision a large exhibition that encourages visitors to navigate around it and experience sounds, textures, images, and smells, all in an attempt to describe what it means to be human. The exhibition could also be hollow on the inside to allow for visitors to enter and provide their own contributions. In a perfect scenario, the piece would look like a probe, but we'll see what happens. Here's my sketch:

Here's a quick sketch of what I first envisioned. Naturally, it's subject to change.

Here's a quick sketch of what I first envisioned. Naturally, it's subject to change.

The Logistical Challenges
Logistically, the biggest challenges are finding my mentor (although I have a couple of leads I've contacted) and some assistance in the executional phase of this project. I have a few ideas, however, and I plan to reach out to them soon.

The Technology Hurdles
Depending on how I choose to approach this, I might need to incorporate a certain level of programming or coding into this project, possibly through MaKey MaKey or Arduino (and I'm not too familiar with the latter). There's also the challenge of figuring out how to represent some of the more unusual sensory outputs, like smell, taste, and touch. I imagine there are some pretty low-tech solutions, like having blades of grass, crumbly cookies, or scented candles in closed containers.

Here's an Arduino board, just in case something like a MaKey MaKey kit doesn't work. Photo Credit: selfbuilt.net

Here's an Arduino board, just in case something like a MaKey MaKey kit doesn't work. Photo Credit: selfbuilt.net

Things like textures could be kind of low-tech. Photo Credit: Linens 'n Things.

Things like textures could be kind of low-tech. Photo Credit: Linens 'n Things.

I also visited COSI for the first time recently. This particular exhibit allows you to safely feel an electric current. There might be some value in this.

I also visited COSI for the first time recently. This particular exhibit allows you to safely feel an electric current. There might be some value in this.

Looking ahead, I'd love to continue searching for ideas for things to include, possibly in the form of video interviews. I'm also looking to have some conversations with a few experts in the field to help validate my concept or learn about some techniques that I haven't considered. In short, there's a lot to do, but I'm still incredibly excited with where this could go.

Ad/Graph Thesis – My Big Idea

Last week, I explained that I was very interested in research on the Voyager Golden Record. After some deliberation and discussion with others, I'm now convinced that I'd like to focus on the topic of "cosmic messages in a bottle." Like my last blog post mentioned, the copies of this record contain a sampling of humanity, from a Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" to photos of a Soviet athlete at the 1972 Olympic Games. But it's been almost 40 years since the probes were launched. What would the next generation have to say about our world?

If you could send anything into space—a photo, a drawing, a video, a song, a short message—what would it be? Would you introduce yourself? Would you share something of cultural significance? Would you show a piece of history?

I think posing this question would be a great way to get others involved in the creation of this project, especially since society is creating more and more content (selfies, original music, blogs, tweets, etc.). Plus, most people would enjoy seeing their contributions in the show, I'd imagine. 

Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd holds a copy of the Golden Record.  Photo Credit: NASA

I've also been pondering about what can be improved upon with regards to the record. Would it make sense to go digital? Could senses of smell, taste, and touch be represented, too? What other precautions could be taken to account for any unusual alien physiology? Some of these questions start to become very scientific, but it's helpful to bear these things in mind.

Could I capture the smell of freshly cut grass?  Photo Credit: Project Management Tips

Could I capture the smell of freshly cut grass?
Photo Credit: Project Management Tips

Would it be possible to simulate a human touch?  Photo Credit: ABC News Radio Online

Would it be possible to simulate a human touch?
Photo Credit: ABC News Radio Online

How could I share the taste of a cookie?  Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

How could I share the taste of a cookie?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

What about other senses that are foreign to us, like seeing in UV light?  Photo Credit: NASA

What about other senses that are foreign to us, like seeing in UV light?
Photo Credit: NASA

I also read an interesting article about the Voyager probes' power sources. Apparently Plutonium-238 is running in short supply in the United States. If future missions are to take place, the government might need to reauthorize the production of the powerful element. It certainly has me thinking about the logistics that would come with sending out another "message in a bottle" into interstellar space.

Going forward, I'd like to reach out to as many people as I can about the topic, both professional and unprofessional. I've already talked with a few friends and family members about the concept, but I need to start figuring out what people would contribute. I also intend to begin drafting my thesis proposal, which will help solidify my plans. There's a lot to do, but committing to an idea is certainly a big step forward.

And now for something completely different. Just recently, the Hubble Space Telescope just discovered a galaxy that looks like a smiley face:

Photo Credit: NASA and ESA

Ad/Graph Thesis – Conducting Research

Last week, I explained that I was more or less settled on the topic of space exploration. After explaining this to the class last week, everyone seemed pretty intrigued in one form or another. Here are some of the major takeaways and initial reactions since then:

• A large portion of the class doesn't consider themselves well-versed in all things space, but many would be willing to learn a few interesting facts.

• Some people are not fond of space, most often due to its vastness, emptiness, and mysterious nature.

• A select few people are very interested in space, and are quick to talk about it in-depth.

A discussion with the class proved to be a great litmus test, but I'm still not certain about what I should highlight within the topic of space exploration.

One thing that I've been especially intrigued by this week, however, is the Voyager Record. Two copies of this gold-plated copper disc have been sent out into space aboard Voyager 1 and 2, with the former having officially left our solar system a few years ago. Should any intelligent life stumble across the records, they will find a variety of sound clips, greetings, songs, diagrams, and images of what we believe to encapsulate humanity. It definitely has me thinking about what the people of today (myself included) would want to send out. It's a communication challenge in the truest sense, and that's what I find most interesting. Below is an image of the record, along with some the media stored inside.

I've also been fascinated by the space-related milestones that humanity have made, as well as what lies ahead. The Voyager probes are billions of miles away, Rosetta landed on a comet in the fall, and NASA has recently announced plans to explore the icy moon of Europa (which might have subsurface oceans). It could very well be that my thesis project finds ways to share interesting facts like these, in an attempt to provoke and celebrate human curiosity. If many of the people attending the show in April are fearful of space, a human element could certainly make things more accessible.

Europa, Jupiter's icy moon

As I've said, there are countless elements to space exploration, and it's hard narrowing things down. Perhaps it's worth conducting a survey by next week, so I can determine what people might find interesting.

I've also begun creating a short list of people that I'd like to try and contact for additional research, including Richard Bentham (an exhibition designer from the National Air & Space Museum), Edward C. Stone (the chief scientist of the Voyager missions), and maybe a public figure like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. Some of these people are long shots, but we'll see what happens. Within the next week, I'll hopefully begin talking with people on the subject.

As difficult as the initial stages can be, I'm excited about what will happen in the next couple of weeks.