Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sounds of the Universe

I am in awe. This is a moment of extreme sound Geekdom... and I love it!

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known also as CERN) have been working on the Higgs boson, often called "the God particle" because its existence, it has been said, will shed light on our ability to grasp the beginnings of the Universe. Now the scientists are using sonification (converting energy waves into sound) to help researchers "listen to the data". You can hear some samples HERE in the BBC News article.

Transforming the smashing of atoms into actual sound recalls for me what Franz Joseph Haydn was trying to achieve with his musical masterpiece "The Creation". Haydn's music begins with a murmuring of discordant cacophony of instruments to represent the formless void before God says, "Let there be Light!" and the voices and the instruments burst into a cohesive musical note that can give the listener goosebumps. If Haydn were alive to hear what noises are coming from this accelerated smasher called the Large Hadron Collider, I wonder how it would have influenced his composition?

And then there is the idea that scientists may be getting to hear the sound of creation:

Although the project's aim is to provide particle physicists with a new analysis tool, Archer Endrich believes that it may also enable us to eavesdrop on the harmonious background sound of the Universe.

He said he hoped the particle collisions at Cern would "reveal something new and something important about the nature of the Universe".

And Mr Endrich says that those who have been involved in the project have felt something akin to a religious experience while listening to the sounds.

"You feel closer to the mystery of Nature which I think a lot of scientists do when they get deep into these matters," he said. (BBC News)

Closer to the mystery. Indeed, but not close enough to "have all the answers". But what that must be like to tap into this energy smashing about in tubes and creating the sounds that may have been echoing at the time of the Big Bang, the moment of "Let there be Light!" Perhaps what they're hearing is the indescribable voice in these "God particles". How cool for them, and for us, to have these sounds which are part of the make up of everything around us.

It's awesome!


Anonymous said...

How do you find these sounds?


SCG said...

Peggins: If you click on the bold and highlighted word in the above text where it says "HERE" it will take you to a BBC article which has the sounds embedded in the story.