Dear friends, we are really excited to publish our first “data sonification” episode ever! After many years of searching for the right person, subject and format, we are happy to publish this fantastic episode with Scott Hughes from MIT. Scott is an astrophysicist and a key figure at LIGO, the laser interferometer project that finally allowed scientists to “listen” to the sound of two colliding black holes.
Here Scott talks about how he decided to sonify his data and how sonification is being used by scientists to understand astrophysical phenomena.
Listen as we play a number of samples; Scott walks us through their meaning and the physics behind them. It’s really really cool. Warm up your ears!
You can also listen to some samples from Scott Hughes and his team here:
- Simulation of two black holes orbiting each other. They gradually spiral together. As they move closer, the waves sweep up in frequency and amplitude, producing the “chirp.”
- Simulation of a final collision of two massive black holes, what Scott calls “the ringing mode” of a black hole. All that is audible is the last “pop” of the system settling down to a single black hole.
- Two objects moving past each other in space. The gravitational waves in this case are loud when the small body moves close to the large body (its motion is fast during that part of the orbit), and they are quiet when the small body is far away (when its motion is slow).
- Also, take a look at the many links that we have added below. You can listen to the sounds yourself and discover a number of additional sonification projects.
Huge thanks to Scott for spending so much time with us preparing the sounds and recording the show. We loved it!
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- Scott’s website
- Scott’s group’s web archive of sound files and discussion
- The Atlantic on Scott’s work: What Gravitational Waves Sound Like
- Video of the LIGO Gravitational Wave Chirp
- The LIGO site (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory)
- The LIGO Scientific Collaboration
- Soundcloud of LIGO Gravitational Waves Announcement Chirp
- Catalog of example sonifications of gravitational wave signals
- Listen to Wikipedia project
- The New York Times’s Fractions of a Second: An Olympic Musical
- NPR’s U.S. Home Prices, Sung as Opera
- Medium on What Does Data Sound Like?
- Youtube video of what different sorting algorithms sound like