Earlier this year the world seemed to have lost itself in the Higgs Boson discovery frenzy after scientists claimed to have uncovered evidence of the so-called God particle at CERN in Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider.
Optimists dreamed of a great scientific leap forward while opponents feared that a super massive black hole was about to appear in central Europe, swallowing up existence. The truth was rather more mundane to the layman as the results of the scientists’ experiments were difficult to describe in words or images.
However, researchers now say they have been able to ‘sonify’ the data from the Large Hadron Collider, making it possible to hear the Higgs Boson in music.
Latin Jazz fans will assure you that it comes as no surprise to them that the God particle dances to a habanera rhythm – a Cuban dance which rose to prominence in Spain in the early 19th century.
Domenico Vicinanza, product manager at Dante (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) told Discovery News:
“As soon as the announcement was made, we began working on the sonification of the experimental data. Sonification works by attaching a musical note to each data. So, when you hear the resulting melody you really are hearing the data.
“In this way any regularity in the scientific data can be naturally mapped to the melody: if the data are periodic (they are marked by a repeated cycle) the sonification will be a music melody which will have the same periodicity and regularity.”
Vicinanza led the Higgs sonification project with researchers mapping intervals between values in the original data to interval between notes in the melody. Numerical values were associated to musical notes of the same value increasing or decreasing pitch accordingly.
The bump in the data that identifies the presence of the Higgs-Boson is represented by three notes: an F note which is two octaves above the preceding F; a C which is also the highest note in the music, two octaves above the subsequent C note (which represents the peak of the Higgs); and a E note.
“The discovery of the Higgs-like particle is a major step forward in our knowledge of the world around us. By using sonification we are able to make this breakthrough easier to understand by the general public,” Vicinanza said.
“After hearing the piano solo version, I created another version, more in tone with the resulting melody. I added bass, percussion, marimba and xylophone!”
The sonification project was also a triumph for computer power.
Due to its usefulness when dealing with highly complex data, sonification requires immense amounts of processing and networking power.
To create the Higgs melody, researchers relied on high-speed research networks which operate at a speed of up to 40Gbp, including a system linking together multiple computers in different locations.
Vicinanza added: “neither the discovery of the particle or this sonification process would have been possible without the high speed research networks that connect scientists across the world, enabling them to collaborate, analyze data and share their results.”
Composer Ben McCormack has uploaded his own more musical and less scientific take on the sonifcation data to YouTube. Check it out below!
What other scientific discoveries would you like to be put to music? How would they sound?
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