Sonification: transforming data into sounds

NPR reports on Lily Asquith’s attempts to analyze LHC data by converting them into sounds in “Particle Pings: Sounds of the Large Hadron Collider.”

[Asquith] thought about a heart monitor in a hospital; it turns the electrical data from your heart into sound.

“You don’t have to watch the monitor because you can hear it without making any effort,” she says. “Just a steady beep — you can quite easily detect if it starts going quicker or if it stops even for a second.”

She wondered what would happen if she used music composition software to turn data from the collider into sound….

What she got isn’t quite music, but sounds that are more out of this world — bells, beeps and clangs.

Right now, Asquith says, the sounds don’t tell scientists very much. But she hopes that in the future, it could help them understand the data in new ways.

She says that in certain situations, it’s much easier to use your ears than your eyes, particularly with something that’s changing over time. Collider data do that.

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