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HomeImmutableXWhat happens when science puts the universe into music?

What happens when science puts the universe into music?

About six months ago, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) delivered its first images, captivating the world by revealing the universe in brilliant Technicolor. The first images sent in July showed a cluster of galaxies located in the southern hemisphere sky 5.12 billion light-years away from the words of United States President Joe Bidenrepresents “the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe” ever taken by mankind.

But NASA wasn’t content with just releasing these first JWST images visually.take advantage of a long love story music and astronomy, Scientists have mapped colors to different sound pitches.

Music and Astronomy: An Ancient Love Story

Music and space may not seem like natural partners. After all, without air there is no sound. But to our ancestors, the connection was clear. In ancient Greece, thinkers such as Aristotle believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. But this was no immutable ideal.For the ancients, the phenomena of the earth were constantly changing and reflected the imperfections of our planet. and was considered worthy of imitation.

Some stars have moved relative to others — the so-called “planet“In an etymological sense (because ‘planet’ means ‘wandering star’). The ancients knew seven planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun and Moon.The number consists of days of the week and days of the week musical scale.

Indeed, for the ancient Greeks, each planet hung on a sphere, and the sphere revolved around the Earth. Given that movement emits sound, it makes sense that a moving sphere in space should also produce sound. These were thought to be perfect, in contrast to what we heard on Earth, which led the ancients to use the stars as templates for earthly music. This is the reason why it was transformed. quadriviumwhich also included mathematics and geometry, laid the foundation for a liberal arts education.

The melody that Johannes Kepler assigned to the planets in Harmonics Mundi. Credit: University of Oklahoma/Wikipedia, CC BY

plot the stars to the scale

But how do you combine notes and planets? This is certainly the hardest part. Some scientists have linked the pitch of a sound to the distance of a planet, others to its speed. To add further complexity to the composition, the relative positions of the planets were different at the time. solar system.

German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) most notably used this ancient Greek concept of “sphere music” (also known as musica universalis), planetary system.

Kepler’s discovery propels us into the modern universe. He determined that not only was the sun not at the center of the solar system, as Nicolaus Copernicus had proposed in the last century, but that the planets revolved around it in ellipses rather than ellipses. circular motion. As a result, the distance and speed changed in the middle of the trajectory. It became impossible to associate a single note with a single planet, driving him to the conclusion that the planets sing the melody.

Data from the Kepler Space Telescope have revealed the pulsations of three red giant stars. Their bright vibrational frequencies are multiplied by three million to fall within the audible frequency range. Note that the big star corresponds to the lowest note.

Of course, all this had to be kept in harmony. For the planet to generate melodies, the highest notes had to harmonize well with the lowest. Ultimately, Kepler abandoned his tunes and focused on writing his own. third law About the planetary movements of 1619.

We have long left the idea of ​​planetary spheres behind, but Sphere Music has left its mark. Even today, songs and albums continue to bear that name. Latest workThe relationship between astronomy and music has developed further, with music being inspired by astronomical concepts, objects and people, or making use of actual astronomical data.

Successor to Kepler

Rather than mapping planetary systems, Kepler’s successor now maps the sky with sound, following a few chosen rules. Strong light in the image translates into strong volume. Bright objects produce louder sounds. Then the length of the sound corresponds to the appearance of the object. Stars (basically spots in the image) are short and clouds are long.

Web telescope data converted to audio

As for the pitch, it can either directly reflect the frequency of the light (higher frequencies have higher pitch) or it can be spatial coding (higher objects in the image have higher pitch). In that case, the image of the “mountain” of the nebula is echoing ups and downs. so photograph Two methods of our Galactic Center released for the Chandra Space Telescope are combined: the space of different optical frequencies represented by different instruments (bells for X-rays, strings for visible light, pianos for infrared). Coding.

In 1606, French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote “The Eternal Silence of These Infinite Spaces”. scared himBut for the modern scientist they are a playground of light, and especially a playground of music.

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This article is reprinted from conversation Under Creative Commons Original work.conversation

Quote: Hymn to the Stars: What Happens When Science Turns Space into Music? (January 26, 2023) Retrieved on 26 January 2023 from

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