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.