Tea Talk Tuesday: Collaborating with the Universe
Recently, TEDxSantaCruz took place. I didn’t get to go, but I loved the theme: Radical Collaboration. It made me think of those videos that feature unlikely friendships between, say, a tiger and a monkey. But really, it was about innovative approaches to problems and ideas across disciplines and boundaries.
This Tea Talk featured the wonder that arises when music meets astronomy. Nathaniel Ober, a student in the Digital Arts and New Media department, presented his work on sonification of astronomical observations and concepts. In other words, he turns information into sound. As he described, it is “collaborating with the universe.”
One of the ways he has done so is by constructing an array of binoculars which collect the light from the moon. It can follow a moon rise and produce certain sounds depending on how much light has been gathered.
Another project he described is the Orrery Harp (pictured above, right). Nathan was inspired by his time in Sri Lanka and wanted to combine local instruments and sounds with astronomy. In this case, the orbital motions of the planets in our Solar System are playing the instruments. Handcrafted by Nathan, the Orrery Harp has nine strings, each representing a planet (or dwarf planet, in the case of Pluto). Whenever a planet has gone around once, its string is plucked, and the corresponding instrument is played. However, waiting around 12 years to hear from Jupiter is not the way to go. Nathan scaled the periods such that one Earth year is 36.52 seconds for the harp, thus creating an immersive experience of anticipation for an illusive sound from the outer Solar System planets.