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Is There an Edge to the Heavens?

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A montage of images of the Saturnian system prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft during its Saturn encounter in November 1980. A montage of images of the Saturnian system prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft during its Saturn encounter in November 1980. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/NASA)

Edward Dolnick tells an escape story involving God, humanity, and a huge rewrite of cosmic laws. It began in 1665. A plague hit Cambridge University. All of the students were sent home. One of them is a twenty-something Isaac Newton, who spent his forced summer vacation solving "the problem of the moon" and explaining why that heavenly rock will never be free. 

Sucks for the moon. But Newton's mental leap ultimately lead to humanity leaving the confines of planet Earth. And as producer Lynn Levy explains, we're about to reach yet another new frontier. The Voyager probe (which we talked about in our Space episode) is about to become the first human-made object to leave the solar system. And the information it's been sending us along the way has upended what we thought we knew about our little corner of the universe. Merav Opher is an astronomy professor at BU and a Voyager guest investigator. Ann Druyan is one of the creators of the 1977 Golden Album traveling on the Voyager probe. Together they describe how Voyager continues to surprise us.

READ MORE:

Edward Dolnick, The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World

Slideshow of Voyager Images

Image of Voyager 1.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Image of Voyager 1.
Portion of Jupiter and moons.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Portion of Jupiter and moons.
Closeup of Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Closeup of Jupiter's Great Red Spot.
Saturn by Voyager 2.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Saturn by Voyager 2.
Farewell shot of crescent Uranus as Voyager 2 departs. January 25, 1986. Range 600,000 miles.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Farewell shot of crescent Uranus as Voyager 2 departs. January 25, 1986. Range 600,000 miles.
Voyager image of Neptune.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech./NASA
Voyager image of Neptune.
The 'Pale Blue Dot', a photograph of Earth taken by Voyager 1
Courtesy NASA JP./NASA
The 'Pale Blue Dot', a photograph of Earth taken by Voyager 1

Guests:

Edward Dolnick, Ann Druyan and Merav Opher

Produced by:

Lynn Levy

Comments [26]

Yayoi Neko from Arizona

I wish I knew what the music was played during the Newton story. Anyone know?

Aug. 19 2014 09:42 AM
BLong from Aspen, CO

Is there a follow-up planned for this episode now that Voyager has left the Solar System? Escape is one of my favorite episodes, and I would love to see it live on as the story continues.

Sep. 13 2013 09:44 PM
bobby

Goddamned? Pissed? Fricking?

Aug. 01 2013 08:55 AM
Katy from NY, NY

Voyager's getting close!

Check out this Nat Geo article from four days ago: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/12/06/voyager-at-the-edge-cosmic-roadtrip-hits-milestone/

Dec. 10 2012 05:27 PM
KC

Is there a way to read. not listen, to the whole story. I got most of it when I needed to leave my car.

Nov. 13 2012 08:31 AM
Aaron CT from CT

Great, great story. Question about the google alert, mentioned in the piece. I found the custom search function, but it requests specific web sites? Is there a specific site, or sites I should put in there, or am I going down the wrong path? Thanks for the help.

Jun. 15 2012 01:38 PM
Walter K from NJ

Yet another request for identification of the closing vocal music, starting at around the 21.11 mark!

Jun. 12 2012 07:40 AM
Mark

Have Voyager left the Solar system?
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/Voyager+approaches+where+spacecraft+gone+before+edge+solar+system/6740524/story.html

Jun. 06 2012 08:41 PM
deb joy from Grass Valley, CA

re:"a melody in the throes of death." I was listening to the show in which "music was falling onto the floor" (off of the reel-to-reel) - "Loops." Although I knew I was currently in an altered state, I felt the music in all it's strangeness and beauty. The image of the musical notes breaking up and falling off was astounding. The music artist (not sure what to call him) said the oldest ones seemed to be dying off first - as if they were "disintegrating backwards." The image reminded me, a lot, of the final breaths my father had taken just hours before. I had not cried, but as I listened to the strange beauty of this vintage tape - slowly fade away - so many feelings came up and was able to process a little bit more, the death of my father. It was especially nice when you allowed the music to speak for itself, and die it's own beautiful death. I appreciate the uniqueness of the story, the bizarreness of the sound the tape was making, the unusual hobby of the "loop-maker. This was an amazing experience for me. Thank you.

May. 26 2012 04:30 PM
Vulpes

Please credit your audio tracks. I am also curious about the music featured in this segment.

Apr. 09 2012 11:20 AM
Liz

I also came to find out about the music. It's also featured in a Wolphin short - http://youtu.be/z_rFoD1oE6U - and is beautiful. I would love for the music to be credited on the website somewhere, although commenters do make up an everhelpful hivemind.

Mar. 19 2012 02:50 PM
Zoetta

Neptune is beautiful!

Mar. 06 2012 04:57 PM
Nit Picki

As usual, this was a great segment. Thanks. But I have to add that Voyager spacecraft did not turn the camera around to take just one photo, rather, it took a mosaic of 60 separate photos, showing not only the Earth but a portrait of the entire solar system family. You can see the actual photo here: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=52386

Mar. 06 2012 02:21 PM
fantastic

This was a fantastic story thank you.

Mar. 03 2012 12:03 AM
Andrew Omosh from Houston TX

This segment has changed my life and how i view a lot of things and at the same time has left me a little confused. I don't want to sweat the small stuff considering how insignificant they might be in the grand scheme of things sitting on this giant rock which actually is just a speck of dust. I guess i have to read "Horton Hears a Who!" to put things into perspective.

Thanks for the great episode.

Feb. 28 2012 01:55 PM
Andrew Omosh from Houston TX

This segment has changed my life and how i view a lot of things and at the same time has left me a little confused. I don't want to sweat the small stuff considering how insignificant they might be in the grand scheme of things sitting on this giant rock which actually is just a speck of dust. I guess i have to read "Horton Hears a Who!" to put things into perspective.

Thanks for the great episode.

Feb. 28 2012 01:54 PM
Lynn Levy

Hi Buo Buo. A full listing of everything on the Golden Record can be found on NASA's Voyager site, and you can listen to most of the stuff there. Here are all the Sounds from Earth to get you started: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/sounds.html Click the links on the right side of the page if you want to hear other sections of the record or get more info about Voyager.

Another option is http://goldenrecord.org/ That site can be a little difficult to navigate but, also, great.

Happy listening!

Feb. 28 2012 12:06 PM
JO from Minnesota

One of the best segments yet, sent me running to my computer to look at the voyager images. I am not on the edge of my seat to see when it crosses out of the solar system (sounds like I might be sitting here a bit longer...)

Feb. 27 2012 10:10 AM
Buo Buo from MA

Great segment. Thanks, guys. Does anyone know where I can find the record online for download? I've looked around and I couldn't find it.

Feb. 24 2012 11:05 PM
The Dude

I'll Read You a Story by Colleen is the song that plays after that segment. source: shazam app for iPhone

Feb. 23 2012 03:59 AM
Brian

Bump for credits to that final music. Simply wonderful!

Feb. 23 2012 12:17 AM
HMDM from Princeton, NJ

Also really interested in the name of the beautiful theme at the end of this segment! Thanks!

Feb. 22 2012 10:18 PM
Dean

Can you guys just start posting music credits on your site or podcast descriptions? I've noticed that music requests make up almost all of the comments, and this would save people time and frustration.

Feb. 22 2012 04:22 PM
Tony

I agree with requests for the crediting of music. That particular piece reminds me of the Akira Rabelais album Spellewauerynsherde; particularly the tracks "1390 Gower Conf. II. 20 I Can Noght Thanne Unethes Spelle That I Wende Altherbest Have Rad." http://youtu.be/GqEwnFLdJC8 and "(Gorgeous Curves Lovely Fragments Labyrinthed On Occasions Entwined Charms, A Few Stories At Any Longer Sworn To Gathered From A Guileless Angel And The Hilt Edges Of Old Hearts, If They Do In The Guilt Of Deep Despondency.)" http://youtu.be/VO1l1DI_5n4

Feb. 22 2012 03:19 PM
Jessi Hance

I second Sarah's request for the music credits. The same piece caught my attention. Please tell us!

In fact, why aren't there music credits for all the music in every episode?

Feb. 22 2012 10:54 AM
Sarah MD from Boston

The music during the "Edge of Heaven" segment was truly ethereal; well-done! Can you share the title of the piece with the two female voices singing in a duet towards the end?

Feb. 21 2012 09:14 PM

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