The secret life of time capsules

A time capsule representing 2014 might feature a recording of Pharrell Williams’s song Happy on repeat.
A time capsule representing 2014 might feature a recording of Pharrell Williams’s song Happy on repeat. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

IF I was to create a time capsule representing life in 2014, with two young children it would include an iPad programmed to Minecraft, a recording of Pharrell Williams's Happy on repeat and as many multi-coloured plastic loom-band bracelets as it could hold.

The process would be trickier if you were curating a capsule that represented all life on Earth to be opened (if ever it was found) by extra-terrestrials.

This was exactly what NASA scientists did in 1977 with the launch of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. They wanted to send a "greeting from Earth", with the late astronomer Carl Sagan tasked with creating the "Golden Record" - a phonograph record containing 115 images of life as it was in 1977, recordings of natural sounds, music from different cultures and greetings spoken in 55 languages. It initially included a photograph of a nude couple (it was the '70s after all), however that was deemed too risque.

It will be about 40,000 years before the Voyagers get close to any other planetary system, and who knows what may be left of Earth by then, but, as Sagan said: "The launching of this bottle into the cosmic ocean says something very hopeful about life on this planet."

Did you know there is a society established to promote the study of time capsules? Yes, this is an actual thing, called the International Time Capsule Society.

It estimates there could be as many as 15,000 time capsules out there and is dedicated to maintaining a registry of them. It offers these handy tips for DIY time capsules: select a container, a secure location and a retrieval date; choose an "archivist" or director; and, most importantly, don't forget where your time capsule is buried.

Megan Kinninment blogs on the offbeat at

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