Mad Scientists

Ship-to-Ship (2002)

In 2002, the Ship-to-Ship project gave Burning Man participants a chance to record a message and sent it to the stars. Messages were recorded at kiosks at our location in center camp, where the participant also chose an appropriate destination star system.

Recorded messages were submitted to the community at large for approval, before they were sent into space. Only those messages that were deemed worthy of being sent into space were actually transmitted. (After all, we wouldn't want aliens to think we were dicks now, would we?)

Accepted messages were transferred to our transmitter, located out on the open playa. The transmitter was a 2400 Watt (100 million candlepower) searchlight designed originally for tanks. The light beam was amplitude modulated with the audio signal from the user's message. Receiving the message required only a solar panel plugged directly into a speaker.

Project Stickers


Teaser video

Playing music

STS explained

Optical networking

Over the course of the week, participants recorded 687 messages, and the community approved exactly 420 of them. (And yes, those numbers weren't fudged.)

In 2004, STS came back and made an appearance underneath the Man in the Cylinder of Science. Not as many messages were recorded, but the project was still a success. But next time someone asks you to instal 600 pounds of gear directly beneath the man, just say no. Getting the light out (without knocking down the Man) proved to be a bit of a challenge.

The sticker artwork I designed for STS in 2004 was later appropriated by the Burning Man organization for their laminates that year. Should have brought the artwork back for 2016's Da Vinci Man theme.