Music of the Spheres? Stand by for the Boson Sonata

Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:01am EDT
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters Life!) - Do you enjoy Mike Oldfield's "Music of the Spheres?" Are you uplifted by Gustav Holst's "The Planets" suite?

Well soon you can fall in love with the Higgs Boson Sonata, the Dark Matter Cantata and perhaps eventually the Black Hole Symphony -- or something like them.

Such compositions could emerge in the coming months from the unlikeliest of sources -- the LHC Large Hadron Collider at the CERN particle physics research center on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

Scientists there are converting the cosmic phenomena they are chasing through the huge underground machine into musical sound in their state-of-the-art computers.

To do it, they use a sonification technique that converts pure data gathered from the LHC experiments into sound, says physicist Lily Asquith.

The detectors in the machine, which is probing the origins of the universe, can reconstruct the pathway of the particles after they are smashed together at near light-speed and calculate how much energy each leaves along its path.

"If you use the right software, you can get really nice music out of the particle tracks," explains Asquith, who works on the LHC's Atlas, one of its six detectors, and was one of the originators of what is called the LHCsound project.

A key aim of the project is to help promote awareness among people outside of the work of CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, and especially the high-cost LHC experiment.   Continued...