Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reaching for the stars to create music of the universe

Date:
February 3, 2010
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Summary:
While a supernova can be seen, it can't be heard, as sound waves cannot travel through space. But what if the light waves emitted by the exploding star and other cosmological phenomena could be translated into sound? That's the idea behind a "Rhythms of the Universe," a musical project to "sonify" the universe by Grateful Dead percussionist and Grammy award-winning artist Mickey Hart that caught the attention of Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

This deep Chandra image shows Cassiopeia A (Cas A for short), the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way.
Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/UMass Amherst/M.D. Stage et al.

Scientists are quite familiar with what a supernova looks like -- when these stars are destroyed in the most massive explosions in the universe, they leave their mark as one of the brightest objects in space, at least for several weeks.

While the supernova can be seen, it can't be heard, as sound waves cannot travel through space. But what if the light waves emitted by the exploding star and other cosmological phenomena could be translated into sound? That's the idea behind a "Rhythms of the Universe," a musical project to "sonify" the universe by Grateful Dead percussionist and Grammy award-winning artist Mickey Hart that caught the attention of Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist George Smoot of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Hart presented his composition using supernova and other astrophysics data during the Cosmology at the Beach Conference held Jan. 11-15 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The conference is cosponsored by the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics (BCCP), established by Smoot after he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

When a star goes out with a bang as a supernova, scientists on earth gather the electromagnetic waves from these stellar explosions to learn more about the universe, from understanding its birth 13 billion years ago, to determining what the universe is of made of, to predicting how it may eventually end.

Keith Jackson, a Berkeley Lab computer scientist who is also a musician, lent his talents to the project, starting with gathering data from astrophysicists like those at the Berkeley Lab's Nearby Supernova Factory, which collects data from telescopes in space and on earth to quickly detect and analyze short-lived supernovas.

"If you think about it, it's all electromagnetic data -- but with a very high frequency," Jackson said of the raw data. "What we did is turn it into sound by slowing down the frequency and 'stretching' it into an audio form. Both light and sound are all wave forms -- just at different frequencies. Our goal was to turn the electromagnetic data into audio data while still preserving the science."

Playing the sound on his computer, Jackson produces a deep vibrational rumble, punctuated with deeper, louder sounds -- almost what one would think an earthquake sounds like.

Hart then took these sounds and further translated them to create music. The resulting composition was played on a state-of-the-art sound system and accompanied by a visual presentation of appropriate scientific images from NASA and other research institutions. Read the news release about the project.

Jackson put his experience as both a computer scientist and a performing musician to work as he helps set up the equipment for the presentation. He was also available to answer questions about the scientific side of the project, or "how we made the sounds that Mickey used to make the music."

One of BCCP's three focus areas is education, and the idea of translating astrophysical phenomena into sound and music grew out of discussions on how to use art to get people enthused about science.

Members of Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division were contacted to provide computing support, including data and conversion, for the project. Jackson was also interviewed at length as part of a documentary video being produced about the project. Other members of the Computational Research Division lending their expertise to the project were computer scientist Cecilia Aragon and scientific visualization expert Prabhat.

For Jackson, who usually applies his expertise to helping researchers around the world collaborate as they make use of leading-edge computing systems and experimental facilities, the project was a perfect match.

"It brings together my love of science, my love of music and my love of the Grateful Dead," he said. "What more could you ask for in life?"

Hear supernova sounds courtesy of Keith Jackson at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heLl1gBTNaY


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The original article was written by Jon Bashor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Reaching for the stars to create music of the universe." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129164526.htm>.
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2010, February 3). Reaching for the stars to create music of the universe. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129164526.htm
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "Reaching for the stars to create music of the universe." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129164526.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Japanese Scientists Unveil Floating 3D Projection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) Scientists in Tokyo have demonstrated what they say is the world's first 3D projection that floats in mid air. A laser that fires a pulse up to a thousand times a second superheats molecules in the air, creating a spark which can be guided to certain points in the air to shape what the human eye perceives as an image. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

Apple Enters Mobile Payment Business

AP (Oct. 20, 2014) Apple is making a strategic bet with the launch of Apple Pay, the mobile pay service aimed at turning your iPhone into your wallet. (Oct. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins