The Soundtrack of the Universe

We think of space as a silent movie, some­thing we see but nev­er hear. Yet space cre­ates a sound­track of sorts (even if sound waves can’t real­ly trav­el through the cos­mos), and now sci­en­tists and musi­cians want to play that sound­track for you.

Ear­li­er this year, Jan­na Levin, Pro­fes­sor of Physics and Astron­o­my at Barnard College/Columbia Uni­ver­si­ty, described how we can math­e­mat­i­cal­ly mod­el the sounds made by black holes. Fast for­ward to the 10:27 mark of her TED Talk above, and you will hear what it sounds like when a lighter black hole falls into a heav­ier black hole. The lit­tle guy bangs against space, kind of like a drumb play­ing faster and faster … which brings us to Mick­ey Hart, a for­mer drum­mer for The Grate­ful Dead.

In 2010, Hart teamed up with George Smoot, a Nobel Prize-win­ning physi­cist at the Lawrence Berke­ley Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry, to repro­duce the sound of The Big Bang and super­novas. (Berke­ley Labs post­ed this super­no­va clip above.) You can read more about the unlike­ly pair­ing and the “Rhythms of the Uni­verse” project here, then expe­ri­ence more celes­tial sounds recre­at­ed by Hart here.


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.