Here is the imaginary scenario.  The earth is going to be destroyed by a giant meteorite.  We will all die and everything will be lost.  However, because we know the meteorite is coming, we have an opportunity to place an object, or objects, into a capsule the size of a telephone box and launch it into space.  The hope is that at some point, aliens will find the capsule and so at least there will have been some record of our existence.

What would you put in the capsule?


  1. Cats. I’d fill it with cats. After all, the internet is made of cats and therefore the more cats you fit in the more information and knowledge from the ‘net we can save.

  2. everything, because it’s a telephone box, and evryone knows that a police telephone box is bigger on the inside

  3. Firstly I’d use a TARDIS, they can simply hold a bit more than an ordinary phone box. Secondly I’d… well, actually I don’t know what I’d take with me in there. Some one nice, and smart, maybe? Yes, a companion! The Doctor would need a companion. I simply can’t go without one. I’d bee boring, and dull, and lonely, and…

    1. Yeah, I’d go with “me” as well. Also, a large bottle of whisky, a pot noodle and 1970s era Jenny Agutter. It would be close. but in a good way.

    2. Me, a laptop with a power supply, headphones, and a terabyte (or larger) external hard drive stuffed with music, e-books (including all of Prof. Wiseman’s), hypnosis audio, as many movies as possible, and every Doctor Who episode (or at least 2005-present, since I’m a “NuWho” gal). Suppose I should bring a little food, too – unless I’ll be in suspended animation.

    3. The problem with the “me” answer is that you wouldn’t be able to fit much food/oxygen/water inside, and there isn’t much of that in space. Launching yourself, dying a horrible death, and leaving a skeleton to find isn’t a great solution.

      Assuming aliens are smart enough to figure out our tech, send row upon row of external hard drives (or blu-ray discs, depending which one can fit the most data in the least volume). Should be able to fit a significant portion of all human knowledge in a space that size.

    4. Agreed, I would also send myself. I do not care that I would die anyway, I just want to pretend to be the space core from Portal 2, yelling “I’m in space” and “SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!” in the short time I have until I die. A skeleton would at least give the aliens the chance to find out more about our anatomy, and possibly even make a clone out of the DNA they found, making the human race survive.
      So yes, sending myself could mean the survival of the human race, but mostly I’ll just do it to pretend to be the space core…

    5. reply to spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace! ur bones might be crushed into space dust because of the pressure…soooo yeah… there is no hope 😦

  4. I would put my frozen brain inside. Hmmm… may actually have to get someone else to do the freezing and placing, but you get the picture.

    It would be amazing to be ressurected by an alien race on the other side of the galaxy. Especially if their females are hot.

  5. the smartest thing to do would be to fill it with 2 computers, and a LOT of SSD’s filled with photo’s, video’s blueprints or other non moving memory, (including a digital “rosetta stone”)
    and some DNA…

    personally i wouldn’t care less if we would be forgotten…

  6. A DNA genome repository of all life on earth stored in a digital representative format. The majority of major human works of literature, music, and art, also in digital formats. A symbolic description of how to access these digital formats based on mathematical axioms.

    Note: You don’t say WHEN this will happen. Frankly, this will probably happen, but the question is whether our Sun has swelled and destroyed us first.

  7. I’d fill it with increasingly small replicas of a phone box, and right at the centre a duck sellotaped to a twix. Stuff ’em.

    1. Very kind. There’s more of that sort of silly shenanigans at @davebakedpotato. I need the followers 🙂

  8. Easy option is some kind of supercomputer/massive hard drive so we can store a HUGE amount of information on it, perhaps encoded onto it in a similar way to Carl Sagan’s pioneer plaque so it could be understood without the need of our language. That way we could communicate as much as possible about our history, different cultures, biology, planet Earth and our own scientific knowledge.

  9. If you can put a telephone box in space, that in and of itself should be enough to communicate that there once existed a technologically advanced race (but not advanced enough, or we would have had a way to deflect the meteorite).

  10. A pool of urine, graffiti and a torn up phone book. Then at least we would know the ‘truth’ was out there.

  11. The human genome? No. Any alien race smart enough to find the phone box would consider our genome equivalent to any other life form on Earth. Information about our species? Why, they have clearly intercepted all our RF broadcasts already. We need something that says something about ourselves, as a unique species. Something that cannot be deciphered from a radio or TV broadcast.

    I vote for a bomb that would destroy anyone who found the phone box, because that is the one thing we humans do that no other species on our planet does: we kill intelligent beings for absolutely no rational reason. I bet we would never be forgotten.

    Ok, not really. But it would make a great Dr. Who, would it not?

  12. off the top of my head. (in properly sealed ulp or no power container ) dna (for each life form if possible), on paper sealed airtight instructions for power source (such as wind solar or lunar. The following data compressed on hds stored in an atleast 6x 12 bay tower (1/4 the booth) along with ultra thin monitor (love multi -terabyte storage)Art in smallest digital form music in sheet music form (as it saves space maybe Beethoven’s 5th in midi stored digitally(takes up least amount of room in sheet music form done on text pad midi is the next smallest ) all scientific discoveries text except for any related to those already used for war or violent means ( the worst pictures from wars /atrocities (as warnings) .The software installed to create music (includes digital instruments) software for drawing and scientific calculations One solar panel to cover each window . Seeds (for as many plants and trees as possible food variety and medicinal as priority ) keyboard mouse headphones(with instructions) (maybe a person or two if there is room but doubtful)

  13. I’d save Dr Christian from “Embarrassing Bodies” – at least he’d still have the pleasure of looking at himself.

  14. I would surely hope that by that time, mankind has unified and built a self-sustainable spacecraft to voyage the stars for eternity – look how individuals have changed the face of our plant – 7 billion minds in this rapidly expanding universe can create a masterpiece like never before. Hopefully good overcomes evil and this universe is ours.

  15. For those suggesting a ‘Tardis’ one or two slight drawbacks with that plan; 1. Dr Who is not real and 2. There is no such thing as a ‘Tardis’. Sorry.

    For me personally it has to be a representative selection of items that best sum up the pinnacles of human achievement, ie the Hula Hoop, a paper clip, pot noodle, the clip-on bow tie, glow in the dark condoms… I’m sure I missed a couple of things..

    1. That meteorite isn’t real either, and if it were, we wouldn’t be the ones choosing stuff to be shot into space anyway. Since it’s all a thought experiment, why not have a little fun with it?

    2. It wasn’t a criticism of the Tardis people, I just felt that as a solution to the question posed, using a fictional technology seemed somewhat redundant. If the parameters of the thought experiment include ‘anything from the world of fiction’ then presumably there would be no risk to Earth from a giant meteor since Superman or the starship Enterprise could save us.. 🙂

  16. I would download whole internet on the disk and place in the phonebooth:) Additionaly I would write in mathematical language regards for whoever find this;)

    1. Downloading the internet would be a bad idea. The aliens would come to the conclusion that humanity’s main aim was the production of poor quality porn.

  17. Although scientific studies have noticed major blackouts that will hit part of the world as it did before, and most of power stations will be forced to shut down to avoid such explosions indeed, which you might like to reference the below link

    “i” have seen a lot of movies regarding the world’s invasion that will or might happen not just by asteroids but also by aliens them selves and they have seemed so upset indeed against human from the way they have destructed and killed almost all lol, so “i” think “i” will just save a message of peace to put it inside that capsule and make sure they’ll be able to translate it correctly lol, and wait for a response lol

  18. The “Dallas”, “Denver”, “Casablanca”, “90375”, “The Nanny”, “Big Brohter”, “american idol” , “Jackass”, “Southpark”, “Friends”, “The Bold and the Beautiful” “other TV trasch” DVD / blue ray Series .. and a short information that the planet has been “creamed” by an asteroid, and we had not more to do than to watch this just to show these danm Aliens that we deserved our extinction for wasting to much time and brain watching such as crap….

  19. first thing that came into my mind – a representative collection of music – no translation needed!
    in addition, collection of good movies.
    Regarding science and mathematics, well, I guess a summary of all we know (textbooks at least, in digital format) may easily fit inside this box as well.
    samples of DNA from different species sounds like a good idea too.

  20. Rather than putting in samples that would deteriorate or artifacts that would take up too much space, I’d go for packing as much information in there as possible, so the key question is, just how much could we realistically pack in there? I’d stay away from technology like hard drives – this thing has to be robust for the rigors of space travel, and you don’t want data wiped thanks to a solar flare. You also want it to last as long as possible – thousands, possibly millions of years.

    I’d go for packing it full of something like very small metallic cubes that have data encoded on their surfaces at around the nanoscale. If you make each cube a millimetre across, with bits encoded at 1 nm intervals, you get 125Gb per face, 750 Gb for each cube, and you can pack 2 billion cubes into a 2m x 1m x 1m interior, giving 1.5 Zettabytes to play with (give or take a bit of space for housekeeping – e.g. an index number for each cube so the aliens aren’t left with the universe’s hardest jigsaw puzzle).

    So, plenty of space for representations of our current state of scientific knowledge, works of art, episodes of Glee – whatever we feel appropriate. But, we also have the interior & exterior surfaces of the capsule left giving us another 10 square metres to use. Rather than try to pack more information in at the nanoscale, I’d use these as backups for our most important knowledge, engraving the information deep into the surface to last as long as possible – hopefully some of this would remain long after our datacubes have deteriorated. I’d include images very similar to the Voyager plaque here. This would also be the place for the all-important instructions on how to decode the contents of the booth, and maybe a suggestion that the aliens invest in better meteorite defences than we did.

    1. joke first! Hey, we could always put those who choose to blow things up in there. Think they would be all alone with other violent war mongers and nothing to blow up. There is an interesting punishment!!! On subject… Interesting idea on cubes crystals was tried before in the 90’s and dropped due to not enough experimentation noise issues and it turned out stackability ωas not what it was thought to be a current issue would be the effects of climate change on carbon, so that does rule out certain methods . As for hard drives .There are the paper drives those pack fairly nicely as well as other more efficient methods ,(a hd today doesn’t have to be what it once was ) currently projects are underway due to the (lhc) collider alice or brookhaven requiring massive data storage so there may be quite a few options considering wu and zeng projects requires multi (10-30pb)last i read)pb storage/yr also to be kept long term there are currently several projects outputting such data yearly both for physics and biology sections (so requiring eb/zb (alice requires zb). )I am not aware of any solutions though as of yet and they have been running over a decade although, I am aware there are projects on the go just none viable yet. A cross between ribbon technology and paper drive idea may have merit.. ouch glee.. Formulae or art work etched into the door?

  21. Who’s to say that the aliens who find the phone box will be smarter than us?

    I’d fill it with van Gogh’s ‘Church of Auvers’ for sight,
    a violin for sound,
    a bottle of good red wine for taste,
    coffee for smell,
    a basketball for touch

    and a whole lot of knowledge in digital format, just in case.

  22. I’d put a bucket of water just gently resting on top of the half open door.
    Humanity’s last practical joke on the universe.

  23. Nothing.

    A meteorite will be incapable of destroying the Earth since it’s something already on the ground. Please get your astronomy straightened up, Dr. Wiseman.

    1. @navneeth Last time I read about that, I read specifically a meteorite survives impact with the earth or the earth’s atmosphere(although maybe in pieces or some ash due to entry), that does not mean people or the earth survive .Depending on size and composition (they are composed of many things and are sometimes actually on fire) it can cause many things , fire, flood, earth to go off it’s axis and include immediate extinction or extinction level events . (he stated giant so most likely knock off axis and cause extinction level if the earth does not shatter it is plunged into instant frozen darkness and knocked off axis,depending on composition of the meteorite .(especially lead iron content or other dense materials)

  24. Nice one Navneeth; however, when the event occurs the rock will reach the surface, become a meteorite and then destroy the earth.

  25. 1. A book to learn english and how to use the computer
    2. A laptop containing human genome and other genome sequences. (Seal in a vacuum bag then sealed in amber or something which can protect everything inside.
    3. More HDD containing wikis and everything about science and technology.
    4. A fuel+solar based generator to power the laptop.
    5. Human DNA in vacuum
    6. Seal everything in a special containment which informs user how to use the things inside the containment.
    7. Seal that containment in another containment which requires decoding, decoding it should then grant you basic english and numbers, to understand the instructions to the next containment.

    Probably missed something but something along that line.

    1. I’ll assume the capsule is safe from radiation and all sorts of destruction cosmic energy and and withstand tremendous heat and pressure.

  26. I’d place the annotated copy of

    “On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. ”

    in the box. Just to prove we got one thing right.

    If said aliens were blighted by religion (I somehow doubt that) then it might, at least, help to put them straight too.

    Dammit I’ve depressed myself now, I’m off to get some chocolate. Those frickin aliens aren’t getting their tentacles on my chocolate caramels.

  27. Why not fill the phone box with explosives and a driller and fire it at the meteorite (you can send it up with Bruce Willis if you’re afraid it’ll miss the target)? 😉

    Or puts the Doomsday disc in it (remember the BBC project that captured life in the 80’s and was saved in an obsolete format…)

    How about a printout of instructions to build a DVD reader, and read all the formats on it, and a stack of all the literature, films, etc. mentioned above.

  28. A copy of Wikipedia.
    A copy of Wikisource.
    A copy of the Internet Archive.
    A photo of us on holiday in Italy.
    A small kitten.
    99 bottles of beer.
    The smallpox virus.

  29. A giant coiled spring with a plastic covering that vaguely resembles the skin of a snake. The joke’s on you, ET!

  30. The Internet. Encoded in a way that will withstand interstellar travel and something that does not require any energy. Nuclear power to last millennium. A transmitter that will make it the brightest radio wave in the sky. A tablet that will help the aliens to decipher and use the internet. And a message saying

    “Here be the last collection of information from our entire civilization. It will contain many good things and bad things; Opinions and facts; Violence and Peace. This is our world.

    PS: Enjoy the countless hours of human mating habits.”

  31. My collection of antique books. They’ll probably be destroyed anyway, as the aliens won’t have a clue as to what they are, but at least they’ll be safe for a bit longer. My beautiful taxidermied animals, so that the aliens can get an impression of life on earth. And one of my porcelain dolls, to represent humanity.

  32. 500 portions of fish and chips, I’d set the controls to keep them in prime condition, throw in a bit of salt and vinegar and send the aliens a treat!

  33. The key to the padlock keeping the phonebooth door closed. Also a cryogenically frozen female cat and a male dog to confuse the aliens into assuming that’s what the creatures who made the booth were.

  34. I would put some DNA of all the flora and fauna possible, books of different religions and a picture of art from each country

  35. Some coins, a phone book and the following instructions:

    Insert coins.
    Dial number.
    When call answered, press button A to speak.
    If call not answered, press button B for return of coins.

  36. A watermelon, a baby pygmy hippopotamus, a cardboard box, a photograph od Skandar Keynes, a photograph of Alex Pettyfer, copies of the Harry Potter books, my hand-drawn map of the results of the 1983 general election, a CD of Robert Johnson songs, a pine-cone, a large lump of smelly blue cheese, and Peter Hitchens.

  37. My macbook with dozens of external hard drives with all the random information that I can download. Some of my favourite books, some seeds and blood samples from me and from some animals too. And my camera, aliens would love to take pictures! Ah, and a penny so they can call home and tell what they found!

  38. I’d put pictures of people, say my friends and family to show what we look like. Some of my books including one that teaches The Alphabet. A computer. Honey (food that doesn’t expire, right?). A Telephone/cellphone. Clothes. Water. Some DNA – hair, spit whatever. Yeah, that’s it I guess. Existence established

  39. Supposing I can’t put myself and my kids in, I’m going with nothing. I don’t feel any need to have anything else of me ‘go on after”. The world will keep turning, and we probably do more good by having a minimal impact on it than we would by trying to somehow last beyond our own lives.

    I guess if I had to choose something I’d go with print material- history and philosophy texts, and maybe some literature. If there’s any chance we’ve done anything that could improve another species’ existence- either as a good or a bad example- it’ll be in there.

  40. Aliens?

    Sigh… No chance.

    Ah well, we might as well place an SOS call, with a request for a time machine and a meteorite destroying device…

  41. It doesn’t have to end this way! Place our wills in the telephone box just incase, strap the phone box to a nuclear warhead and launch it into the meteorite!

  42. I will put Clark Kent so he can become Superman and destroy meteorite or avoi collision in other way.:)

  43. It is said that every book ever written could fit in 50 terabytes, which would take up no space at all, Sheet music to every song ever made, and every film and tv program, fictional and non fictional including all news programs from the BBC since they started, a computer to play everything above, and a Twinkie.

  44. A digram of where out planet was. Some water bears in a carefully sealed container. Some other DNA, particularly that of chloroplasts.

    A book whose leaves are thin gold sheets, microscopically inscribed with some art and some history rendered as pictures. Some music, done as gramophone grooves.

    The history must include the holocaust, with care taken to explain how such a thing could take root in a modern, developed culture. The political background to it. If we could give one thing to another culture, it should be that warning. Time magazine was wring, you know: the most influential man of the 20th century was Hitler.

    The rest of the phone box packed with lead or something to protect the items from radiation (heavy ions travelling at near-lightspeed with destroy anything).

  45. 1) A vault containing clearly labelled samples of DNA from a variety of creatures (so they can examine other species likely to be wiped out as well as us)

    A copy of Wikipedia plus the means of accessing it (so they can learn about humanity… even if it means their knowledge of Star Trek: The Original Series will be greater than their knowledge of human biology!)

    A Beginner’s Guide to the English Language (so they can learn how to read the above).

    A pictorial representation of the domesday event, coupled with pictorial representations of the earth’s location within the known universe and the estimated time of destruction.

    Hopefully if the aliens can access items (1), (2) and (3) then decide we were a pretty intelligent bunch, then they can use (4) to cause a temporal paradox by diverting the meteor before it hits Earth; therefore saving humanity and negating the point of collating the information for the telephone box in the first place.

  46. A takle may be helpful, if the finder don’t know it (or even the wheel) yet. A lighter, a Laser, a counter of the seconds since the start in binary digits. A frozen mouse.
    Of all findings of mankind the atome model, theory of evolution and relativity, democracy and computers had the greatest impact in the last centuries and may help aliens as well.

    This Problem is similar to the voyager missions.
    They did a good job back then by describing us, our Planet and fundamental scientific knowledge.
    They used a gramophone to store additional data like sounds and pictures.
    More important as what to store is how. Aliens may be able to see light. They wouldn’t see colors as we do (whether on paper or an screen). A computer wouldn’t work above 150 degrees celsius or beneath -50. Any display is highly fragile, if it is broken, only a species with similar or of corse higher technical knowledge will be able to fix it.
    After all the voyager solution was not that bad.

    It is quite unlikely that the box will be found by aliens. But it is almost sure that they wouldn’t be like us. I.E. a society of (socially) super-smart dolphinish aliens or a sort of protozoa cluster…

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