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Listen To This Artist Create Music From Sonified Astrophysics Data

first_imgIn the past year, researchers have made strides in recording the sounds of distant physical phenomena, helping to shed some light on as-of-yet mysterious functions of the universe. Bodies from giant stars to subatomic particles have been captured as whistles, chirps, and mystical swells. Lightning over the surface of Jupiter manifests as descending tones — like a cartoon character falling off a cliff. The sound of two black holes colliding deep in space was heard on Earth — like a drop of water in a bucket.However, as Ryan Mandelbaum explained in a recent Popular Science article, these thing can only be heard as sounds once they are “sonified.” Sonification is the representation of information as sound–information which may or may not actually relate to sound in any way. The technique is used to make complicated data sets more accessible to the masses. But since even sonified data is still just scattered sounds, Popular Science asked musician and biomedical scholar Simmone Jones to take these sounds and turn them into music, which she did to powerful effect with her new song, “Alchemy”. You can listen to the song below:The song fuses together some of the important sonifications created this year. That includes the chirp of colliding black holes’ gravitational waves, and the ethereal tones created by converting live data from the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest atom smasher, into sound. Sound is just a disturbance that travels through a medium, usually the air. When someone plays a song on a speaker, the speaker creates vibrations in the air molecules, which move wildly and crash into each other. The dance of these air molecules presses forward until the molecules hit your eardrum. Your brain recognizes the vibrations as beats and notes and translates them into noise. By “sonifying” readings of any kind of wave, observers can examine the makeup and details of the given wave by listening, and can often discern things that they missed by simply observing a visual chart or measurement. Not all sonification is derived from waves. Says Mandelbaum, “You can map any data into noise as long as you can tell a sound synthesizer what note to play and how loud it should be. As I can tell a computer ‘play a C when blue cars pass by, a D for black cars, and an E for red cars,’ and play ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ by sending the right combinations of cars at the right times.’“Alchemy’s” title comes from science’s magical perception in the Middle Ages, which often still holds true today. “Essentially we’re still trying to take these mystical ideas and turn them into an understanding of the world,” Jones told Popular Science. Scientists, like alchemists, are doing “a spooky thing that could be easily confused with witchcraft or something taboo.” Jones hopes that songs like “Alchemy” will put science in front of the masses to make folks more comfortable with the ideas.To learn more about the processes of sonification, check out the original PopSci article. [h/t/ – Popular Science]last_img

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