THERE is something about us that does not want to die. We erect statues in a public park; endow foundations administered by equally moral lawyers; write our names in wet cement. We do not like to think that our friends, our buildings, our speech and way of life will become one with Ninevah and Tyre.
So we build "Time Capsules" and inside them we put a part of ourselves and our times and we send them on their long, long journey, a thousand, two thousand, five thousand dreaming years from now.
I don't know how many there are. There is one under the White House steps. There is another - a special room stocked with the unnecessary and frightening bric-a-brac of our times - at Oglethorpe University. There is one, buried just this spring, in Pershing Square garage, Los Angeles. It has a jar of marmalade in it. There's one the masons buried up in Shasta County last year, in connection with the celebration for the centennial of California Masonry. I don't know what's in that one. Masons, probably.
But there is one Time Capsule I do know about and perhaps it is the most famous one of all, not only because it was so elaborately prepared (and expertly ballyhooed) but because the directions for finding it - five thousand years from now - were most carefully planned.
Because that's the big problem - finding it.
It is buried in Flushing Meadows, New York at the site of the New York World's Fair of 1939. It was buried at the moment of the autumnal equinox of the year 1938 when not one person in a thousand had ever heard of Pearl Harbor and Munich was a place one drank beer and listened to a German band. It has been a long 14 years. It will be a longer 5000 years.
In the specially preserved books, hidden in libraries and book vaults all over the world, that tell of the Time Capsule, there is a way of telling when it is 5000 years from now.
WHEN THE TIME HAS COME TO DIG FOR THE TIME CAPSULE, LOOK FOR IT IN THE AREA KNOWN AS THE FLUSHING MEADOWS, BOROUGH OF QUEENS, NEW YORK CITY . . .
THE APPOINTED YEAR WILL BE, ACCORDING TO OUR COMMON WAY OF RECKONING TIME, THE 6,939TH YEAR SINCE THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. ACCORDING TO THE JEWISH CALENDAR IT WILL BE THE YEAR 10699; ACCORDING TO THE MOHAMMEDAN, THE 6,469TH YEAR SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE PROPHET; ACCORDING TO THE BUDDHIST, THE 7,502ND YEAR SINCE THE BIRTH OF BUDDHA; ACCORDING TO THE SHINTO, THE 7,599TH YEARS SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE FIRST EMPEROR, JIMMO TENNO
But we do not know which, if any of these ways of reckoning time will still be known in 6,939 AD. We do not know if any of the religious systems themselves will be preserved, even in the books of scholars . . .
IF NONE OF THESE WAYS OF RECKONING THE YEARS HAS SURVIVED, IT MAY STILL BE RECOGNIZED BY CALCULATION FROM ASTRONOMICAL DATA. IN THE YEAR 1939 THERE WILL BE TWO ECLIPSES OF THE MOON, FALLING RESPECTIVELY ON MAY 3 AND OCTOBER 28. THERE WILL BE TWO ECLIPSES OF THE SUN, AN ANNULAR ECLIPSE ON APRIL 19, THE PATH OF THE ECLIPSE GRAZING THE NORTH POLE OF THE EARTH, AND A TOTAL ECLIPSE ON OCTOBER 12, THE TOTAL PATH CROSSING NEAR THE SOUTH POLE.
THE HELIOCENTRIC LONGITUDES OF THE PLANETS OF THE PLANETS ON JANUARY 1 AT ZERO-HOURS GREENWICH (MIDNIGHT) WILL BE:
MERCURY 175° 55' 42" VENUS 124° 43' 32" EARTH 99° 40' 29" MARS 192° 4' 2" JUPITER 339° 12' 22" SATURN 17° 30' 45" URANUS 46° 23' 31" NEPTUNE 171° 32' 3" PLUTO 120° 17' 0"
THE MEAN POSITION OF THE NORTH STAR (POLARIS OR ALPHA URSAE MINORIS) ON JANUARY 1 WILL BE RIGHT ASCENSION 1 HOUR 41 MINUTES, 59 SECONDS. NORTH POLAR DISTANCE 1° 1' 33.8"
IN THE OPINION OF OUR ASTRONOMERS, SUCH A COMBINATION OF ASTRONOMICAL EVENTS IS UNLIKELY TO OCCUR FOR MANY THOUSANDS OF YEARS.
If it should happen, however, that somebody digs up the Time Capsule ahead of time, possibly constructing a new city on the ruins of Manhattan, there is an adjuration to them, die-stamped into the outside of the Capsule:
TIME CAPSULE OF CUPALOY, DEPOSITED ON THE SITE OF THE NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR ON SEPTEMBER 23, 1938 BY THE WESTINGHOUSE ELECTRIC AND MANUFACTURING COMPANY. IF ANYONE SHOULD COME UPON THIS CAPSULE BEFORE THE YEAR AD 6939 LET HIM NOT WANTONLY DISTURB IT, FOR TO DO SO WOULD BE TO DEPRIVE THE PEOPLE OF THAT ERA OF THE LEGACY HERE LEFT THEM. CHERISH IT THEREFORE IN A SAFE PLACE.
Assuming that the people of 6939 AD know what time it is in relation to our time, how are they going to go about locating the Time Capsule? Directions for locating it have been printed in a very special book (a copy is in the rare book archives at the University of California library) and copies of the book were entrusted to various institutions for safekeeping throughout the world. It is the hope of the people who buried the Capsule that at least a few of these books may still be available in 6939 AD. The book gives directions for finding the Capsule.
THE TIME CAPSULE LIES BURIED AT EXACTLY THE POINT WHERE THE CENTER-LINE OF THE WESTINGHOUSE PLOT INTERSECTS THE CENTER-LINE OF THE GREAT HALL OF THE WORLD'S FAIR BUILDING. BY AD 6939, IT IS PROBABLE PRESENT-DAY LANDMARKS, CITY SURVEYS, AND OTHER SUCH AIDS FOR LOCATING SUCH AN OBJECT WILL HAVE DISAPPEARED. THE SPOT MAY STILL BE DISCOVERED, HOWEVER, BY DETERMINATION OF THE LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE. THE EXACT GEODETIC COORDINATES (NORTH AMERICAN DATUM 1927) ARE:
LATITUDE 40° 44' 34" 0.089 NORTH OF EQUATOR
LONGITUDE 73° 50' 43" 0.842 WEST OF GREENWICH
THESE COORDINATES, SURVEYED BY THE UNITED STATES COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY AND GIVEN TO THE THOUSANDTH PART OF A SECOND OF ARC, ARE ACCURATE ENOUGH TO LOCATE AN OBJECT ONE-TENTH OF A FOOT IN DIAMETER AT A PARTICULAR POSITION ON THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH.
IF ELECTRICAL INSTRUMENTS SIMILAR TO THOSE OF OUR TIMES ARE USED TO LOCATE THE CAPSULE, IT SHOULD BE INDICATED BY THE DISTORTION OF A MAGNETIC FIELD, THE INCREASED CONDUCTIVITY OF THE SOIL, OR OTHER SUCH INDICATION.
Of course, it is quite possible that in the faroff time, the people of that day will no longer have mine detectors or will have forgotten how to build them. So the book of the Time Capsule includes complete directions on how to build a device for "seeking metalic substances beneath the ground." It starts out,"Construct a loop some ten feet in diameter, composed of several turns of well-insulated wire. While the loop stands vertically, pass through it an alternating current of 1000 to 6000 cycles, using a power source of 200 watts . . .
The Book also gives more explicit directions for locating the spot to use the coil of wire. It includes "a sketch of the first order stations in the Unites States Coast and Geodetic Survey used in making the triangulations." Then it proceeds to give the geodetic and astronomic latitude, longitude and azimuth to the closest thousandth of a second.
Archeologists consider that there is a possibility that of the stations named, Forest Park Station may still be recovered by archeological methods in the year AD 6939. To make sure there is something to be recovered, the station is marked by a black granite post 0.15 meters square and 0.6 meters long embedded in a mass of concrete.
One can imagine some 6939 scholar, probing about in the ruins of some bank vault of our time, unearthing the book, or what is left of it, and then the technicians getting together, agreeing that it is the right year, and performing the calculations that finally lead them to the black granite post. At long last, they will pass their coils of wire about and find the deflection that tells them - there it is!
How will they go about recovering it? In our day, it is buried fifty feet below the surface of the ground. It may be deeper by that time, sinking gradually through the centuries of its own weight. Certainly it may have shifted position some. The meadow may even have flooded over and become a lake; or it may have been filled in completely by subsequent buildings. Directions for recovery are also given in the remarkable Book of the Time Capsule:
THE CAPSULE MAY BE RAISED BY SINKING A CAISSON OF SUCH TYPE AS TO HOLD BACK THE MUD AND WATER DURING EXCAVATION. SHOULD THIS PROVE INEXPEDIENT, IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO FREEZE THE SOIL BY COLD BRINE CIRCULATING IN PIPES DRIVEN INTO THE EARTH AROUND THE SITE. WHEN THE SOIL IS FROZEN, IT MAY THEN BE DUG IN THE SAME MANNER AS HARD EARTH.
THE CAPSULE IS PROVIDED WITH AN EYE TO WHICH LIFTING APARATUS MAY BE ATTACHED. IT IS LIKELY, HOWEVER, THAT THIS RING MAY HAVE DISAPPEARED THROUGH EROSION. IN THIS CASE, THE CAPSULE SHOULD BE LIFTED GENTLY WITH A SLING.
LET THE CAPSULE BE TRANSPORTED WITH THE UTMOST CARE, AT ONCE, TO A WARM, DRY PLACE. CLEANSE THE OUTSIDE OF MUD, SLIME, OR CORROSION. THEN CUT OFF THE TOP CAREFULLY AT THE DEEPLY SCORED GROOVE WHICH HAS BEEN LEFT OUTSIDE TO GUIDE THE SAW.
Having gotten it up, the people of 6939 may find they have quite a piece of work on their hands. For the Capsule is made of Cupaloy - 99.4% copper, 0.5% chromium and 0.1% silver. This alloy has the hardness of hard steel and resistence to corrosion equal to pure copper. In electrolytic reactions with ferrous metals in the soil, it becomes the anode, and therefore will receive deposits rather than sulfur corrosion. Who knows how that dreaming thing may have grown by accretion over the thousands of years? Once our friends of the future have chipped or cut all this away, what will they have?
IT IS 7 FT, 6 IN. IN LENGTH; 8-3/4 IN. IN DIAMETER. THE CUPALOY SHELL CONSISTS OF SEVEN CAST SEGMENTS, ALL SEGMENTS EXCEPT THE LAST SOLIDLY SCREWED TOGETHER, SEALED WITH MOLTEN ASPHALT AND BURNISHED. THE LAST SECTION, CLOSED AFTER PLACING THE CONTENTS IN THE CAPSULE, IS SHRUNK-FITTED ON TAPERING THREADS . . .
THE INNER CRYPT OF THE CAPSULE IS A SPACE 6 -1/2 IN. IN DIAMETER AND APPROXIMATELY 6 FT. 9 IN. IN LENGTH. THE OBJECTS TO BE PRESERVED ARE ENCLOSED IN THE GLASS, FROM WHICH ALL AIR HAS BEEN EXHAUSTED. THE SPACES LEFT BETWEEN THE OBJECTS IN THE CRYPT HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH NITROGEN. . .METAL PARTS WHICH MIGHT BE SUBJECT TO ATTACK BU MOISTURE HAVE BEEN COATED WITH A THIN LAYER OF WAX. . .
Providing the futurians have found the mark to begin sawing and have found a saw capable of cutting through hard steel alloy, they will finally pry off the end segment - and we should imagine with considerable curiosity and awe - begin to examine the contents. (It is quite likely that archeologists of the time, puzzling over the inscription die-cut in the outside, will have interpreted it as a curse against anyone defiling the "tomb" of the ancients, and that the hiss of the escaping nitrogen will be interpreted as a deadly gas to make the curse come true. This will furnish endless articles in the 6939 equivalent of The American Weekly). What, indeed, is inside?
Books and pictures of how we live; architecture, arts, entertainment, painting, sculpture, music, the theater, a motion picture, radio, newspapers, magazines, a novel "the most widely read of our time," cartoon and comic books, a descriotion of the world wide religions, the Holy Bible, a copy of the Constitution, a history of the United States and a chronological history of the world, accounts of medicine and technology, samples of currency, eye glasses, razor blades and
BELIEVING, AS HAVE THE PEOPLE OF EACH AGE, THAT OUR WOMEN ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, MOST INTELLIGENT AND BEST GROOMED OF ALL THE AGES, WE HAVE ENCLOSED IN THE TIME CAPSULE SPECIMENS OF MODERN COSMETICS AND !!! ONE OF THE MOST SINGULAR CLOTHING CREATIONS OF OUR TIME - A WOMAN'S HAT.
All of the written material (except a copy of The Book of the Time Capsule itself) is on microfilm and a magnifying instrument is included for reading it. In order that the people of that day may have some idea of how our spoken language sounded and how we looked and dressed, two reels of sound movies are included.
The greatest difficulty, of course, is that it is quite possible that none of the written material will have any meaning at all to the people who open the Capsule. Perhaps not a single written language of our times will be decipherable five thousand years from now, and even the basic linguistic stocks may have disappeared altogether. (It is equally possible that the main stream of our technology will be so smooth and uninterrupted that all of our linguistic patterns will be perfectly preserved in vaults or museums and that the opening of the Capsule will be a complete anti-climax. Possible, but, looking at today's headlines, improbable).
To assist whoever opens the Capsule to an understanding of the contents, there is enclosed "A Key to English", a dictionary defining more than 140,000 common words and phrases, a dictionary of slang and colloquial expressions; a book in which the Lord's Prayer is translated into 300 different languages and a fable, "The Story of the Northwind and the Sun", translated into 25 languages. For the people of 6939, it will be like finding a Rosetta Stone in acetate.
A further aid to an understanding and translation of our language is provided by Dr. John P. Harrington, Ethnologist, of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian:
THE DELIBERATE SCIENTIFIC DEPICTION OF THE ENGLISH OF TODAY FOR THE PEOPLE 5000 YEARS FROM NOW WILL GIVE ADEQUATE CLUES ENTIRELY INDEPENDENT OF ANY FURNISHING OF TRANSLATION. IT SHOWS BY A PICTURE OF THE HUMAN MOUTH WHERE EACH OF THE VARIOUS SOUNDS OF SPEECH ORIGINATE. IT SHOWS BY CARTOON-LIKE DIAGRAMS THE PUTTING TOGETHER OF WORDS . . .
In this section of the Capsule - the one that is to me the most fascinating of them all, there appear little stick figures demonstration the action referred to in the phonetic English spelling each part of which can be traced back to the "Mauth Maep." In the phonetic English text, the letter "J" has been used for the inverted letter "e" as in the following example.
SINGGULAR AEND PLUCRAL
BJRD AND BJRDZ
YING OCLD SHAORT TAOL BLAEK HWAIT
AI LAI AI SIT AI STAEND AI WAOK
AI RJN AI KIK AI DZHJMP AI KRAOL
AI KLIMB AI DJSEND
This is called, in the Book of the Time Capsule, "neo-phonetic English" and there is a similarly illustrated and self explanatory glossary of 1000 most frequently used words and expressions from which the people of 6939 can amuse themselves by trying to speak our language. To give them an excercise in how we put these sounds together, the Book prints a fable (the same one that is translated into 25 other languages.
THE NORTHWIND AND THE SUN WERE DISPUTING WHICH WAS THE STRONGER, WHEN A TRAVELER CAME ALONG WRAPPED IN A WARM CLOAK. THEY AGREED THAT THE ONE WHO FIRST MADE THE TRAVELER TAKE OFF HIS CLOAK SHOULD BE CONSIDERED STRONGER THAN THE OTHER. THEN THE NORTHWIND BLEW WITH ALL HIS MIGHT, BUT THE MORE HE BLEW, THE MORE CLOSELY DID THE TRAVELER FOLD HIS CLOAK ABOUT HIM; AND AT LAST THE NORTHWIND GAVE UP THE ATTEMPT. THEN THE SUN SHONE OUT WARMLY, AND IMMEDIATELY THE TRAVELER TOOK OFF HIS CLOAK; AND SO THE NORTHWIND WAS OBLIGED TO CONFESS THAT THE SUN WAS THE STRONGER OF THE TWO.
Immediately beside it is the translation into neo-phonetic English:
DHJ NORTHWIND AEND DHJ SJN WJR DISPYUCTING WHITSH WAZ DHJ STRNGGHR, HWEN J TRAEVILJR KECM J LONG RAEPD IN J WORM KLOCK. DHEC JHRICD DHEAT DHJ WHN HUC FJRST MECD DHJ TRAEVJLJR TEK OF HIZ KLOCK SHUD BI KONSIDJRD STRONGGJR DHAEN DHJ JDHJR. DHEN DHJ NORTHWIND BLUC WIDH AOL HIZ MAIT. BJT DHJ MOCR HIC BLUD, DHJ MOCR KLOCKI DID DHJ TRAEVJLJR FOCLD HIZ KLOCK JROUND HIM, AEND AET LAEST DHJ NORTHWIND GECV JP DHJ JTEMPT. DHEN DHJ SJN SHOEN OUT WORMLI, AEND IMICDIJTLI DHJ TRAEVJLJR TUK OF HIS KLOK; AEND SOC DHJ NORTHWIND WAS JBLAIDZHD TJ KONFES DHAET DHJ SJN WOZ DHJ STRONGGJR JV DHJ TUC.
The Book of the Time Capsule concludes with "Messages For the Future from Noted Men of Our Time." And who were the noted men of 1938? Robert A. Millikan, Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. It is a neat commentary on our values and civilization that two of the men are physicists (practical and theoretical) and mathematicians and that only one represented the humanities and religions. All three were preoccupied with the world war that was, shortly, to break out in a great storm over Europe and to destroy much of the pattern of life so carefully delineated in the Capsule.
Although they had, of course, no way of knowing what they were doing, it is interesting that the committees of scientists who prepared the Capsule and its contents, had picked a major fracture point in our own short history, and that, already, the Capsule would seem "old" to us.
It marked the end of the pre-atomic age; in its neat glass-lined crypt, impregnated with nitrogen and enclosed in the sleek coppery sheath that is its home for 5000 years, the Time Capsule is a message from a time that we even now have difficulty remembering.
Data entry and page scans provided by Judy Bemis
Data entry by Judy Bemis
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