One billion years is a span of time that's almost impossible for humans to conceive of: our civilization is only a few thousand years old, and we'll be lucky if we see another few thousand into the future. With that in mind, a team of artists is sending a special time capsule into space, where it should last until the sun eats it.
The Last Pictures project consists of a set of gold-encased silicon discs that will be placed in an excessively stable orbit around the Earth aboard the EchoStar XVI satellite within a month or two. The satellite is being leased to Dish Network, which likely won't be around in five billion years (since we'll have transitioned into beings of pure thought by then), but the satellite will probably still be there. It won't be working (its lifespan is about 15 years) but the discs will still be readable, and will remain so until the sun expands and swallows the Earth about five billion years from now. Or at least, that's the hope.
You're probably familiar with the idea of mounting golden discs with records of our civilization on spacecraft, since we did it with both Voyagers back in 1977. However, the copper from which the Voyager records are made will eventually liquefy as the atoms clump together, rendering them unreadable, The Last Pictures discs, on the other hand, are made of gold-plated crystalline silicon, which should remain stable approximately forever. It's entirely possible that these discs may become the last bit of evidence that humans ever even existed.
On the discs themselves are a sequence of a hundred greyscale pictures in bitmap format. The images were chosen by artists, scientists, and philosophers, but if you were hoping for some highbrow and comprehensive chronicle of our civilization, you'll probably be disappointed: this is more of an art piece than an effort at preserving humanity forever.
You can see a selection of pictures in the gallery below, but we've already identified some gaps and have come up with a short list of pictures it might be a good idea to include, primarily of things that aren't likely to be around in a thousand years, much less five billion:
- Bacon and chocolate as separate entities
- The color green
- People named Kevin
- People who aren't actually robots