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