In September of 1977, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory began the Voyager 1 mission. Still returning data, Voyager 1 is nearly 15 billion miles from Earth, deep into interstellar space. On board Voyager 1 is a Golden Record, containing greetings in 55 languages, pictures of people and places on Earth, and 27 diverse musical selections including Beethoven, a Raga from India, and a blues by Chuck Berry. The Golden Record announces the presence of a musical species in the cosmos. The record’s inscription reads: “To the makers of music, all worlds / all times.” On 31 November 2020, NASA scientists received an unexpected radio transmission. The signal contained assembly instructions for what appears to be a musical instrument. Apparently an alien intelligence has received the Golden Record, interpreted it, and responded in kind. Help NASA scientists decipher what the aliens are trying to share about music!
Video Intro (1:30)
NASA programmers made the Chromawheel Play app based on the instructions received in the alien transmission. Tap a note name to hear it. Tap 'edit' to add or remove window pieces. Tap the play button to hear a pattern. Drag in the center to rotate
ACTION STEP: Read carefully!
ACTION STEPS ARE WRITTEN IN CAPS BECAUSE THEY ARE IMPORTANT. Reading and completing action steps with care will help you correctly answer the questions that follow
The first thing that scientists noticed when interacting with the new instrument is that it looks a bit like a clock. Instead of an indicator for each hour however, the Chromawheel has an indicator for each musical note. How many total notes are there?
Scientists observed that the aliens used simple letters to label 7 of the notes. The remaining 5 notes have additional symbols (# or b). Which 7 letters did the aliens use?
A, B and C.
A, B, C, D, E, F, and G
H, I, J, K, L, M and N
A - Z
Researchers have determined that moving clockwise around Chromawheel is ascending (going up) in pitch. Do you have a theory that could explain why the aliens chose to design the instrument this way? Why do you think they didn't choose to make counter-clockwise is ascending?
Congrats, you're up to date with the NASA team in their attempts to interpret the alien instrument Chromawheel! Like the scientists, you now have a basic understanding of the layout of the instrument. Please let the scientists know if you have questions or ideas!
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