Hello, World! (2016) – Background

If you consider human history, all of human history, and start zooming out, you will have to be picky as to which events you still want marked on your timeline. Presidents are edited out, wars fade away. Zoom far enough out and you are left with the invention of fire, the wheel, language and writing. You can consider keeping the development of democracy, of money, the coming of computers, the moment that man left the Earth. These markers might remain on your timeline. And very soon, in a matter of years, there will be one more marker on your most-zoomed out timeline: The discovery of intelligent alien life. It’s about to happen, get ready. NASA and ESA are searching with more and more advanced satellites. We’ve already discovered that potentially habitable planets are common. Everywhere we look we see them. In a matter of years our sensors will be good enough to detect the life that is certainly upon them.

Hello, World! looks to this future, and others. The phrase itself comes from computer programming where traditionally a beginner’s first program merely prints the phrase. Which, of course, hints at the other great event that will mark our timeline–the advent of true thinking machines. Hello, World, indeed.

In the center of each image is one of the planets thought most likely to harbor life. The ring shape is simply the star pinpoint of light slightly defocused–with a mirror lens, the same basic design as many telescopes, the light path is folded and a second obstructing mirror causes the ring. The colors of the image are actually a sort of code which indicates where in the sky to find the star (think of a color wheel held up to the sky to see that you can associate a given color with a given direction). Other bits of data are encoded in the images as well.

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