28 July 2016

A roar on the other side of silence

You only have to imagine being in a desert to realise the variety of sounds a microphone on the surface of Mars could record – and how they can be interpreted. First of all, the wind, whistling across the planetary landscape – how fast is it travelling? How often does it vary in speed or direction? What does a dust devil sound like? Or a dust storm? What about the crack of thunder associated with a lightning bolt? Or the variation in pressure during an electric storm? Once the wind drops, the gentle sounds that break the silence can be heard: the settling of dust grains disturbed by the wind.
– from What does the solar system sound like? by Monica Grady.

I find the soundscapes (actually conversions of electromagnetic vibrations) in this NASA video both disturbing and beautiful. Among them, those of the rings of Uranus (the planet was named after the god of the sky) are the most serene; the upper atmosphere of the Earth the most wondrous.

In a review of Trevor Cox's delightful Sonic Wonderland, I invited meditation on: the sound from black holes (B flat 56 octaves below middle C); reverberations through loops in the Sun's outer atmosphere; and a wind shuffling rock grains through the Martian air.

Sound waves from the great storm that is the red spot on Jupiter may be the cause of heating in its upper atmosphere.

Added 30 July: The NASA recordings linked above are of 'sounds' caused by the interaction of the solar wind with the ionosphere and magnetosphere of planets and moons, but of course a much older idea is the 'music of the spheres.'  Among creative interpretations of this old idea, which I have come across thanks to Stephon Alexander's The Jazz of Physics is an interpretation of Johannes Kepler's The Harmony of the World by Willie Ruff and John Rogers.


Image via APOD


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