Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Mark our Existence

Leave a long-lasting message about us off-planet
  [vote for,

One day humans may no longer exist. Alternately, we may still exist but our societies may have fallen back into a new dark ages. I propose we make a non-corroding simple metal plate (or series of plates) about us and leave them somewhere off-planet.

The Voyager disks (see link) are pretty and have audio info about us, but they don't really say a whole hell of a lot about us. Using techniques of anti-cryptography (that is, encoding something that is designed to be as **easy** as possible to decode) we could create long-lasting messages that could be decoded, assuming they could be found.

A beautiful example of such a message design was created a few years ago (see link) that starts with basic mathematics, and eventually winds up describing our star (and how to pick it out of a crowd), our planet, our biology, our physics, etc...even an index of topics in case they missed a few pages. Go download the images if you enjoy puzzles (or messages to aliens ;-) - it's worth the experience to see how this can be done. The icons/hieroglyphs are also designed to be fault tolerant (you can damage them slightly and still know what symbol it is supposed to be, unlike "P" and "R" for example).

Anyway, now that you know the background of this idea, my thought is that we should make some of these messages on long-lasting substances and deposit them on the moon. If i recall correctly, it would take about 1-3 million years before our footprints there will disappear - if we make a small monument, we can probably extend that to a thousand million or so. There are also more active things we can do to mark the spot, such as mirrors (they'll get cosmic-dust covered eventually) or make them radioactive (bad if they're handled too soon).

It is important to get these OFF-PLANET, preferably to the moon. The Earth is geologically unstable, and any monument we make will be gone quickly. It would either be torn apart by post-society-fall scavenging humans looking for something of value (ie. metal). If our species was totally wiped out, it would be millions of years (if ever) before the monument would be found again...which would put it under a few hundred metres of rock/soil/water, or even recycled underneath shifting continental plates. The moon is close, geologically stable, and has no atmosphere to mess with our monument.

If our society falls and some day humans eventually make it back to the moon, hopefully they will find the message from their ancestors - in a clear and no-interpretation-necessary way.

Perhaps humans won't be the ones to find them - maybe it would be the descendents of the rats or cockroaches. Perhaps it *might* actually be sentients from another planet.

If society doesn't fall and we eventually wind up going and hanging out on the moon a lot, we can either leave them there or move them to some other place where we don't currently run around too much. Mars is probably the next geologically sound stepping stone outward, but it has dust storms that would erode/bury the monument.

Putting this stuff in orbit or flinging it out of the solar system is almost totally useless, and the chances of it being found again are slim to none. (or at least, much worse than leaving them on a geologically stable vaccuum atmosphere gravity well) The point is to leave a monument for either our descendents, new life arising on earth, or maybe wandering aliens - not to fling it into the void.

Wouldn't it be cool to find a message from those intelligent Dinosaurs from before their Iridium reactors blew? ;-)

In the end, what do we really have to lose by doing this? Not a damned thing.

cameron, Feb 06 2003

Anti-crytographic messages http://www.matessa....ke/dutil-dumas.html
Messages about us, our knowledge, and our environment that are *designed* to be decoded. [cameron, Oct 04 2004]

A Message from Earth http://antwrp.gsfc..../apod/ap000123.html
A message we send to the globular star cluster M13 [cameron, Oct 04 2004]

Disks on Voyager http://antwrp.gsfc..../apod/ap020831.html
A picture of a disk sent out with the Voyager crafts [cameron, Oct 04 2004]

Anitcryptography article http://www.oreilly....news/seti_0201.html
I just found this and haven't had a chance to read it, but it sure looks interesting. [cameron, Oct 04 2004]

Apollo 11 Lunar Module Plaque http://www.nasm.si....mages/S69-38749.jpg
[waugsqueke, Oct 04 2004]

Put this on the moon http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Far_20Away
by blahginger. [my face your, Oct 04 2004]

Another lunar monument idea http://www.halfbake...unar_20Zen_20Garden
particularly with a smiley face [lurch, Oct 04 2004]


       I think we left a flag up there.
bristolz, Feb 06 2003

       we left tons of stuff up there (literally :), but it doesn't really say anything about us in any concrete way. For instance, what does a flag say? Do the future finders of it see stars and stripes on it (which will fade eventually), or do they see a unicolour piece of cloth because they see in a different light spectrum? Do they think it represents a country, a person, a world...or do they think it's there so we can find the spot we left stuff? It doesn't say we're bipedal or that we understand biology and what our star is made of. etc etc etc   

       For what it's worth, i hope the stuff we have left up there lasts a looooong time, but it doesn't say anything useful about us.
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       A book I highly recommend is *Fingerprints of the Gods*. It covers this to the extent of *predicting* when each age ends/begins. The pyramids of Egypt serve as mathematical pointers to the past, present and future, and purposely are built to survive catastrophe / epoch in that effort. Quite an interesting read, and should be read within the next few years, before we pass each other at extraordinary speeds while unexpectedly relocating after cataclismic change to the planet's geo/topa/graphy. I won't give away the exact ending, as I don't want to be a spoiler - but it's a beaut.
thumbwax, Feb 06 2003

       Maybe we could make this in the form of a huge, featureless black monolith, in orbit around Jupiter ?   

       We could store specimens of all of Earth's cutural achievements, from the highest (Mozart, Rembrandt) to the lowest (Kylie Minogue).(I for one would be very much in favour of putting Kylie Minogue in a parking orbit around Jupiter).   

       (+) for the idea.
8th of 7, Feb 06 2003

       <drools> I luuuuuv cryptography. (+) Let’s write it in HBGC too… Nah, nothing would ever figure that out.   

       As for this being a ‘doomsday record’ type device. I like the idea of including as much knowledge as possible.
Shz, Feb 06 2003

       Wasn't that huge featureless black monolith full of stars or something [8th of 7]?
RoboBust, Feb 06 2003

       Great! Black-box recorders for planets!
oneoffdave, Feb 06 2003

       <Dave Bowman> "My God ! It's full of ..... Australians ! " </Dave Bowman>
8th of 7, Feb 06 2003

       Being off earth doesn't make it safer. Have you seen the surface of the moon, which isn't protected by atmosphere?
lumpy, Feb 06 2003

       You're assuming future generations would be interested in us. Might be they curse us for leaving a scratched-up obelisk in the best landing spot.   

       Beyond the coolness factor and the self-centeredness, what do you think we'd have to pass on? After all, if we're not around we were doing something wrong.
phoenix, Feb 06 2003

       phoenix - // if we're not around we were doing something wrong //   

       If a huge meteor travelling at half the speed of light (relative to us) comes and hits our planet, were we doing something wrong?   

       The animals in the dinosaur era were hugely successful (doing something right in terms of survival)...it took a huge meteor to open up some ecological niches for the rest of us.
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       // were we doing something wrong? //   

       Yes. We weren't devoting enough money to an orbital or extra-orbital defence system.   

       An ironic spinoff of Mr Reagan's "Star Wars" initiative and the recent Missile Defence system ideas are that some (and I stress some) parts of this technology might - eventually - yield the sort of components (the ability to detect, track and intercept fast moving objects at exteme ranges) that would be needed by such a system.   

       While (historically) humans tend to be their own worst enemies, the number of Earth-orbit-crossing objects has been established to be such that the problem of preemptive interception merits serious consideration.   

       Sitting here, fat, dumb and happy and saying "Well, we've been Ok so far" is a bit unstaisfactory. The odds are against us (Ask a dinosaur).
8th of 7, Feb 06 2003

       Why do we need to do this? Our mark is already permanently on the planet, and would be impossible to erase short of a global meltdown.
pluterday, Feb 06 2003

       Don't the plaques and recordings on board Pioneer and Voyager accomplish what the author wants?
waugsqueke, Feb 06 2003

       pluterday - uh...actually no, our mark is not permanently on the planet. however, the point is to leave a *message* that will have the *best chance* of being found. NOTHING you can leave on earth (with the intention of beings in the future finding it) has a really good chance of being found in 1,000,000 years.
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       waugsqueke - did you actually read everything i wrote? Pioneer and Voyager do not accomplish what i suggest. Read it again. Flinging stuff out into the void is useless for this purpose. Do you expect our descendants to be scooting around the depths of space looking for an object approximately 2-3 metres in size, especially when they don't even know it's out there?
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       Yes, I read it. I don't see the difference between flinging it into the void and leaving it on the moon. How does one better accomplish your objectives?   

       By your own logic, there will be no sign of humanity left on the earth, so there will be no particular reason for the human hunters, whom I do not expect will necessarily come from earth, to look on the moon.   

       It seems much more likely to me that the visitors would be from other planets, and they're more apt to find the messages on the probes than some plaque on a grey rock.
waugsqueke, Feb 06 2003

       As has been noted, leaving stuff on the moon is not a guarantee that it will be around indefinitely (due to meteorite impacts and whatnot).
Pharaoh Mobius, Feb 06 2003

       The simple mental exercise of deciding what we would want to tell others about ourselves, and expressing it outside the context of our own preconceptions, would be worthwhile regardless of whether any other being ever reads it.
lurch, Feb 06 2003

       waugsqueke - // I don't see the difference between flinging it into the void and leaving it on the moon. How does one better accomplish your objectives? //   

       answer: the latter can be found again. (especially by beings from earth)   

       // By your own logic, there will be no sign of humanity left on the earth, //   

       -i'm pretty sure i never said this , even in the annotations   

       // It seems much more likely to me that the visitors would be from other planets, and they're more apt to find the messages on the probes than some plaque on a grey rock. //   

       -i'm pretty sure that isn't correct. (the bit about relative chances of finding it)
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       Pharaoh - you're 100% correct. the moon is just the best place we can currently put it (reliably) that has the best chance of long-term survival. it is probably also cheaper to put it there than any other off-earth location.
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       Dimandja - i agree that our mark is made here, just not permanently. Eventually our continental plates will slide under others again (well, unless the process stops). It's like the difference between "immortal" and "relatively long-lived". [and the pendants will point out that even the moon will be consumed when Sol goes nova]   

       If you dug straight down from wherever you are right now, i bet you *would* find signs of life from between now and 2 thousand million years ago. (where i live there is limestone from an ancient lake only a few hundred metres down...fossils galore!)   

       The trick is to try and find any _specific_ item from 1,000,000 years ago. ;-)
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       so should we be creating a new planet out of our waste products for when earth reaches the end of its shelf life? we could start the project in Australia, they have plenty of room.
po, Feb 06 2003

       // i'm pretty sure i never said this , even in the annotations //   

       "Perhaps humans won't be the ones to find them - maybe it would be the descendents of the rats or cockroaches. Perhaps it *might* actually be sentients from another planet"   

       Sounds like humanity is gone to me.
waugsqueke, Feb 06 2003

       oh i get what you're trying to say now, waugsqueke. humans not existing in the future is a possibility, but isn't something upon which my idea depends - it wasn't even really the point of my idea (the idea merely has an extra advantage if we *do* disappear), so, it's not "by my logic" as i saw it.   

       That being said, if i were an alien looking for an artifact of a past techological civilization and came across Earth/Luna, i would look to the moon with the inactive geology and vaccuum atmosphere for an obvious monument rather than into an ecosystem that would have long since buried/consumed any remains.
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       Why would you look for a monument at all, though, when there is no sign there ever was a civilization to leave it?
waugsqueke, Feb 06 2003

       [Dimandja] - I think you over-estimate the meteoric resurfacing on the moon. The stuff we already put up there stands a pretty good chance of being largely unchanged several million years hence.   

       Here on earth, if unbroken, your toilet would take about 8 billion years to substantially degrade.
lurch, Feb 06 2003

       The messages we put out there for other beings to find are suitably impressive to humans, but isn't it just a little conceited to be so sure a different species would appreciate them any more than we appreciate a dog's urine on a tree trunk?
beauxeault, Feb 06 2003

       RodsTiger - LOL!   

       beauxeault - yah, you might be right. but hey, ya gotta go with what ya know. ;-)   

       Dimandja - i don't think the moon is pummelled enough to ruin your monument after a few tens of millions of years, but yes there's always a chance. I guess the biggest difference is (as you said) on the earth it would be protected from meteorites, but would erode; on the moon it would be protected from the erosion/scavengers/lava/whatever, but a meteor strike would be catastrophic - it would be all gone, period.   

       Ok, i officially now state that we should make duplicated (as far as practical) monuments - one for the moon, one for antartica, and one to fling into space. Is everybody happy now? :-P hehehe
cameron, Feb 06 2003

       I'd go with Mars personally, but that's just me.
madradish, Feb 06 2003

       Yeah, I read somewhere recently that the Mily Way is about (4bn years or so) to collide with Andromeda, and then there'll be all hell to pay. To *really* make an indelible mark on the Universe, we need to set up a Quasar pumping out, say, Bon Jovi.
DrCurry, Feb 06 2003

       The Rolling Stones would be more appropriate. They've been around forever now, what’s a few more billion years.   

       // when there is no sign there ever was a civilization to leave it ? //   

       What about our modulated radio emissions ? They're going to propagate a fairly long way, even allowing for inverse square law. A ship passing within 5 light years of our system - and looking this way - is likely to be able to pick up some weak but interesting broadband E-M which should be discernable from the background mush.   

       A million years hence, visitors may pick up these trasnmissions, go and investigate, and report back, "Lights on, doors open, nobody home."
8th of 7, Feb 07 2003

       // finding signs of intelligence //   

       I didn't mention intelligence; only the capability to modulate a carrier. But at least any current visitors would have some Dolphins and Killer Whales to communicate with......
8th of 7, Feb 07 2003

       While they may not be able to discern individual signals (where the intelligence lies), distant watchers of the sun might get interested in why within a span of 50 years a planet around a star outshone its star in the radio band.
cameron, Feb 07 2003

       Which raises the intriguing thought that the Pulsars and Quasars that our astronomers so lovingly seek out and classify may just be someone else's idea of a well-designed navigation beacon.
8th of 7, Feb 07 2003

       Probably the best idea I've seen recently.
Almafeta, Nov 29 2003

       By leaving a monument we are making an explicit assumption that our solar system will be of interest to someone, be they decendants or alien. It is probably safe to further assume that these creatures will map and catalog major and minor bodies that make up the system. This will involve visits in person or (more likely) by machine to the significant bodies in the system. To improve the chances of our monument being found, it should be placed on or near such a body, because the explorer or cartographer is likely to be going there already. They are unlikely to look for artifacts of small size until after they have spent a lot of time on the large bodies. (Ask any alien, they'll tell you.) On or near the only satellite of one of the planets seems like as good a place as any, and better than most.
gardnertoo, Feb 05 2005


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