I Swear: Subatomic Particles Are Singing to Me!

By Joseph Calamia | May 20, 2010 12:02 pm

particlesLarge Hadron Collider physicists have heard the voice of the “god particle,” the Higgs boson, and it sounds a bit like a child’s music box.

Lily Asquith, a physicist searching for the Higgs boson–the elementary particle believed to give everything in the universe mass–is using more than her eyes. With artists and other physicists, she started the LHCsound project to hear subatomic particles.

New Scientist reports that the idea arose from a conversation between Asquith and percussionist Eddie Real:

“I was actually doing impersonations of different particles and trying to get him to develop them on his electronic drum kit.”

They decided to use real data about particles (and theoretical data for the yet unseen Higgs) to make some noise. In the process that Asquith calls “sonification,” the researchers match, for example, the particle’s momentum and energy to pitch and volume.

The project’s various simulations demonstrate that Higgs won’t be auditioning for Glee anytime soon. Still, Asquith believes that physicists might use her particle music as an analysis tool, since human ears can detect small differences in a sound’s direction (within around three degrees) and frequency (around 0.3 percent).

The aim of the project is to combine each particle’s data from the LHC’s ATLAS detector into an medley of different sounds, but Asquith also sees other applications. One hope is to use sonification to convert other abstract physics (like Feynman diagrams and mini black holes) into music.

In the meantime, as physicists wait for the particle’s discovery, Asquith can already hear the Higgs coming.

Related content:
80Beats: Physicists Get Another Clue in the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Particle
Cosmic Variance: Closing in on the Higgs Boson
Bad Astronomy: Get your mass handed to you

Image: flickr / Image Editor

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