Fine autotuning the Universe

By Phil Plait | September 25, 2009 10:00 am

This is surprisingly cool and pleasant to listen to.

I wonder what Sagan would’ve thought of this?

Tip o’ the elbow-patched corduroy jacket to the dozens of people who tweeted and emailed this, though BABloggee Ryan Romo was first.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: autotune, hawking, music, rap, sagan

Comments (59)

  1. TBRP

    I don’t know what Sagan would have thought, but I think this is made of win.

  2. Christina Viering
  3. Cindy

    That’s cool. I think he would have liked it.

    I wish he lived long enough to see all the cool results coming from Galileo, Cassini, all the Mars explorers, and the recent results about water on the Moon.

  4. Procyan

    Like a dream when an old friend shows up for a few moments. Damn I miss him. Thanks

  5. wright

    Lovely. I think Sagan would have been amused and flattered.

  6. BigBadSis

    Does anyone else hear Kermit the Frog in there too? Ingenious audio.

  7. Now -THAT- is a proper use for Auto-Tune!
    Very nice! He’d love it.

  8. Isn’t it a little dangerous remixing the universe with so much autotune? Any minute now, I’m expecting Kanye West to jump up onstage and start ranting about how the Andromeda Galaxy has the best globular cluster of all time.

  9. Jardmonkey

    Man. I teared up a little. Of course he would have loved it.

  10. DrFlimmer

    Some passages remind me of the song about the universe from Monty Python’s “The meaning of life”:

  11. Rob G.

    Sorry, but I’m going to have to go against the grain on this one…

    Carl Sagan may have indeed enjoyed this. I, on the other hand, feel a need to go put a kitty in a blender to get this completely awful “song” out of my head.

  12. Brian

    Wow…I wonder if it’s possible to get this as an mp3. I thought it was great!

  13. that was awesome. very cool. i sent it to a bunch of people. Sagan would have embraced that and then gotten Feynman for a follow-up duet ūüėČ

  14. tacitus

    It does an excellent job of demonstrating the poetry of Sagan’s words, that’s for sure.

  15. BGC

    I like this.
    Tho, I must admit that the change in pitch makes Sagan sound very much like a cross of Jim Henson’s voicings for Kermit the Frog and Ernie from Sesame Street.
    “Bert! Bert! Look at this Bert!”

  16. llewelly

    I wonder what Sagan would’ve thought of this?

    He would’ve thought: “I hope I didn’t come across that confused and scattered.”

    It sounds cool, but the lyrics make no sense whatever unless you remember Cosmos.

  17. Dan

    Wow, that was a lot better than it had to be… the creator put some work into it.

    You can get the mp3 here.

    EDIT: The video, that is, not the universe.

  18. @Brian, check out the “More details” link on the side of the YouTube page. There’s a link to download both the mp3 and the video.

    That is my new favorite song!

  19. Ausgezeichnet !!! (in my best voice impression of Mr. Burns)

  20. “No – No words. No words to describe it. […] So beautiful, So beautiful… I had no idea.”
    That song brings tears to my eyes!

  21. thatchereffect

    Absolutely beautiful

  22. I love the beatboxing whale sounds.

  23. That is utterly beautiful. I wonder if he’d have liked it?

    I respect, perhaps even revere Dr. Sagan. His early death was a great loss to all of us; we are much poorer without him.

    However, I did notice one thing I did notice I’d forgotten: At times, when you don’t see his face, he sounds a bit like Kermit the Frog.

  24. mariana

    Half the time I mistake Sagan for Dawkins and vice-versa. I need to pay more attention to faces. Voices I can do; faces require work.

  25. Thanks to you, Phil, I joined Carolyn Porco’s Twitter a few days ago and she had linked to this as well. I think it’s a wonderful, trippy tribute to a true science hero. Great stuff.

  26. Kudos to the author too, to be able to find a beat, verse, and the right sequences. Not to mention the Piano part, an amazing work in and of itself.

    I would have thought that Carl would have loved it.

  27. Stan9FOS

    Carl Sagan thru a vocoder? My capacity for awesomeness just expanded exponentially!

  28. Wayne


  29. That’s actually a vocoder, not autotune. They are different technologies, which can be used to similar effect but are quite different, especially to people who work with both.

  30. mymatedave

    Entirely awesome and made of win. thanks Phil!

  31. cameron

    Carl Sagan is the Rod Serling of science.

  32. Sili

    Won’t our merger with Andromeda not actually look all the amazing? I seem to recall from the Astronomycast, that the density of stars is such that we’ll never see the galaxy as a galaxy when it gets near?

    That said, I loved this and I hope somebody will remix Feynmann and Dawkins in the same manner. (Are there any recordings of Dirac?)

  33. claschx

    Ay Caramba!, that was totally awesome

  34. 32. fluffy Says: “That‚Äôs actually a vocoder, not autotune. They are different technologies, which can be used to similar effect but are quite different, especially to people who work with both.”

    Could you (or someone else familiar) perhaps give us a little tutorial on how it’s done?

    – Jack

  35. fred edison

    It’s been immensely enjoyable to read the comments on YouTube, as it is here. Anything that gets people excited and appreciative of science gets huge kudos and applause from me. Next to always awesome Phil, Carl and Stephen are two super cool cats who have immensely contributed to our learning and knowledge of the universe. I sincerely hope Stephen Hawking and Ann Druyan love the honorable tribute as much as everyone else has.

  36. Fluffy & Jack H.:
    This Vocoder/Auto-Tune debate sounds like a job for Slau! I’ll suggest he tackle it on an upcoming podcast.

  37. NelC

    Kermit? Strange, I hear someone else entirely.

  38. I have it on my iPod Touch now. So cool.
    The sky calls to us.
    I put the bug in Slau’s ear about the Vocoder -vs- Auto-Tune issue. Keep an ear on his “Sessions With Slau” podcast to hear the results!

  39. Keith

    I think Dr. Sagan would have fallen back on that old expression, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” :)

  40. Nemo

    MC Hawking in the hizzouse y’all!

  41. Keith (the first one)

    I thought Sagan sounded like Kermit too! Hawking’s got a good singing voice though. They should add the ability to change voice pitch to his voice computer thing.

  42. Pieter Kok

    “Sagan would have embraced that and then gotten Feynman for a follow-up duet”

    Feynman would have gone Beastie Boys style (no sleep ’til Brooklyn!).

  43. This came in from Slau as I slept:
    “SlauBeSharp@RichardDrumm Not enough to fill an episode: it’s a vocoder :D”
    Oh well.

  44. On a related note Cosmos is currently available on Hulu and Netflix’s streaming service.

  45. Wrye


    I’m not sure if this is what you meant, but Sagan isn’t talking (in Cosmos) about our merger with Andromeda. He’s imagining what the sky would look like from a hypothetical planet in one of the globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way.

    I believe that at the time of Cosmos, science hadn’t yet predicted the merger with Andromeda, or the unlikelihood of planets around the old metal-poor population I and II stars that mainly comprise the globular clusters.

    Damn, I wish Carl was still around. I’d love to hear what he would have made of the new theories and advances in cosmology, planetary systems, and so on. He’s sorely missed.

  46. Sili

    Thanks, Wrye. It shows that I have never seen Cosmos (that I recall).

    Should do as Blake Stacey said and get it from Itunes.

  47. skylyre

    Yeah I just read through the comments and don’t have much else more to add… other than I love to fall asleep listening to Cosmos. This is just made of awesome.

    @tacitus #15 – very nicely said! He spoke so eloquently and with compassion.

    I could just ramble on right now but I won’t :)

  48. SkepDoc
  49. calx

    fluffy, no it is clearly autotuned.

  50. Mike

    Thanks to this video, my weekend was spent watching Cosmos and Contact. =)
    Through efforts like this, Carl Sagan lives on.

  51. Markle

    Full of whoa. Fantastic job.


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