When the Voyager spacecraft was launched in 1977 to travel to the outer solar system and beyond, it carried a golden disc that contained 115 images and sounds that included natural sounds like that of the surf and birdsong along with musical selections from different cultures. The idea was if Voyager did bump into aliens, they would get a taste of what Earthlings like to hear. Some 30 years later, the aliens are up for a proper treat — that is, if there are aliens living in the vicinity of Polaris (Ursa Minor) a.k.a. Northern Star. Nasa has planned to beam a radio signal carrying the Beatles’ Across the Universe to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the space agency.
Recorded in 1968 and included in their final 1970 album, Let It Be, Across the Universe was a ‘John’ song, despite the Lennon-McCartney credit. Its chorus “Nothing’s gonna change my world” may not reflect much of the physical side of things, but the haunting tune, along with the line ‘Jai Guru Deva, Om’ hurtling through space — where silence is overwhelming — to reach Polaris is something that even Sgt Pepper would have been pleased about. Could there have been any other contender? Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds may have given aliens wrong ideas about human habits, and Strawberry Fields Forever, with its more quantum mechanics-friendly line, “Nothing is real” may be too complex for Nasa’s Newtonian physicists.
So Across... it is. Although the image of words flying out like “endless rain into a paper cup” may be difficult for aliens without paper cups to understand. But then, by 2439 A.D. — which is when the signal to be sent out today from Madrid, will reach Polaris — paper cups should become universal.