noises: Music of the Heavens

Johny Radio johnyradio at gmail.com
Sat Jun 15 17:52:27 UTC 2013


Capturing music from the stars 
<http://feedproxy.google.com/%7Er/zmescience/%7E3/nxgjpYdvEKw/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email> 


Posted: 14 Jun 2013 08:01 AM PDT

/Musica Universalis/ or /Music of the Spheres/ is an philosophical 
concept which portrays the proportions in the movement of the celestial 
bodies -- the sun, planets, stars and so on -- as a form of music. These 
observable patterns aren't quite musical, since they lack harmony, but 
the idea itself has influenced a great of artists, namely musicians in 
this case. However, is it possible to take this concept literally? Can 
stars create music?

The short answer would be yes, and a fantastic project initiated 
by Gerhard Sonnert, a research associate at the Harvard-Smithsonian 
Center for Astrophysics <http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/>, allows users 
vising the website <http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/sed/projects/star_songs/> 
to literally hear the star chants. Sonnert worked closely with Wanda 
Diaz-Merced, a postdoctoral student at the University of Glasgow, who 
unfortunately lost her sight while she was still in her 20s. Diaz-Merced 
didn't let this stop her from continuing to study physics, using her 
other senses.

It all started when she heard the distinct bleeps and twitches of a 
signal from a radio telescope. This inspired her to work on a software 
called xSonify, which allows users to present numerical data as sound 
and use pitch, volume, or rhythm to distinguish between different data 
values. In 2011, Diaz-Merced worked with data from  NASA's Chandra X-ray 
Observatory and plugged in data into her software from an EX Hydrae --- 
a binary system consisting of a normal star and a white dwarf.  In this 
system, the X-ray brightness fluctuates as the white dwarf consumes gas 
from its companion.

A screenshot from X-Sonify, a sonification tool developed by NASA 
<http://cdn.zmescience.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/sonification.gif>

A screenshot from X-Sonify, a sonification tool developed by NASA

The resulting sounds were interesting, but far from melodic. A quick 
listen would be enough for almost anyone to label them as annoying. 
Luckily, Sonnert sensed some magic in these bland tunes and invited a 
musician friend of his, Volkmar Studtrucker, to play with their sonified 
star data. With the  EX Hydrae material, Volkmar created nine musical 
pieces, in a variety of musical styles (blues, jazz, and more), which 
they played and recorded in a trio (Volkmar Studtrucker, piano; Gerhard 
Sonnert, bass; and Hans-Peter Albrecht, drums).

Check out the sidebar on this page 
<http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/sed/projects/star_songs/pages/soundtomusic.html> 
to sample the songs. Each song has the original sound data from the star 
system. Once again, science and art intertwine. They also have and 
always will, but this is a more explicit example that hopefully will 
enlighten some.

Capturing music from the stars 
<http://www.zmescience.com/space/capturing-music-from-the-stars-423423/> 
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-- 

Johny Radio


Stick It In Your Ear!


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