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Summary:

Using an emerging analytic technique known as data sonification, European academic data network GÉANT has created a remarkable piece of music out of 37 years’ worth of data from the space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.

Voyager 1
photo: NASA

In 1977, NASA sent up two space probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to study and venture beyond our solar system. Now heading off in wildly different directions, they are still sending back data, and here’s what it sounds like:

That’s based on 37 years’ worth of cosmic ray sensor data. 320,000 measurements were selected from each probe, taken at one hour intervals, then converted into 320,000 notes at different sampling frequencies.

Then GÉANT, Europe’s high-speed academic data network, used its grid computing facilities to create the above duet live, at the NASA booth at November’s Super Computing 2013 conference. This was all down to Domenico Vicinanza, a trained musician with a physics PhD, who is both GÉANT’s network services product manager and its arts and humanities manager.

Vicinanza said in a statement:

“I wanted to compose a musical piece celebrating the Voyager 1 and 2 *together*, so used the same measurements (proton counts from the cosmic ray detector over the last 37 years) from both spacecrafts, at the exactly same point of time, but at several billions of Kms of distance one from the other. I used different groups of instruments and different sound textures to represent the two spacecrafts, synchronising the measurements taken at the same time.”

Interestingly, this “data sonification” technique is not just aesthetically pleasing. It can also be used to find long-range regularities and correlations in large amounts of data – as Vicinanza put it, “analysing the melody is exactly the same as looking at data in a spreadsheet, but using the ear.”

Last year Australian researchers announced they could use data sonification to analyse the brain wave signals of people with epilepsy, with seizures being easily detectable by a rapid increase in pitch.

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  1. This just proves that music is the voice of the universe. Very cool.

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