By Allison Kubo Hutchison
Graphics are the bread and butter of scientists. We love her. Line charts, bar charts, line charts. Visual representations of data are the standard setting in science. However, there has been a growing interest in sound reinforcement, the conversion of data into sound instead of images. One reason is that our ears actually have a better time resolution than our eyes. This means that over time we can hear more small changes than we can see. The eye only perceives a small frequency range – visible light – between 400 and 790 THz. However, hearing can capture our noises over three orders of magnitude in the frequency range between 20 and 20,000 Hz. We can use both visual and acoustic aspects of data in combined animations and sound reinforcement for work in science as well as for public relations and education.
An example of this is a paper recently published in Computer Music that sonicated and animated the eruptions of the Lone Star Geyser in Yellowstone National Park. The coupled music and graphics helped scientists hear structures that evolve over time in seismic signals, tilts, and infrared. Combined, these complex data sets were converted into sound using various post-processing techniques, so that each data type was distinguished by its acoustic properties. The sound system illustrated one of the interesting properties of the Lone Star Geyser, its incredible reliability. The overlap of two eruption soundings from 2010 and 2014 clearly shows the repeatable eruption cycle and structure. After all, sonicating data is a way of engaging art and science and reaching out to the emotions behind the data. Often there is a false belief that the two cannot live in harmony, although this can lead to one giving up one for the other. The rise of data reinforcement underscores the intense synthesis of two talents who can reveal amazing music and science.
APS Sonification PlayList: An investigation of geyser eruptions through animation and sound: https://vimeo.com/535319400
Sound of the collapse of the Soufrière Hills volcanic dome with violin accompaniment: https: //vimeo.com/230241695