You are here

The Sounds of Science

28 September 2015

It’s like music to the ears, or is it science to the ears? TRIUMF’s Ewan Hill – a PhD graduate student from University of Victoria working with ATLAS – recently presented a collaborative music project, disCERN, with Juliana Cherston of MIT and Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University at Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival. The disCERN project had dozens of patrons dancing in their seats as they experienced physics in an entirely new way.   

“DisCERN is a platform that allows composers to generate audio using real time data,” explains Cherston, this data comes from ATLAS experiment. CERN uses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to make high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before colliding them. When the particles collide, some of the data collected from the particle interactions are used by the disCERN platform to create musical notes. The particle collisions are unique and offer the user complete customization when creating a music track. Users can create everything from jazz to electronic music using the collision data. “You could essentially play a whole orchestra if you have the computing power,” says Hill.

Combined with his penchant for physics outreach, Hill’s involvement in this project stemmed from his love of music and physics and his interest in merging the two in a way that hasn’t been done before. DisCERN was created around the idea of communicating science to the public and in doing so creating beautiful music. Hill hopes disCERN will provide the public an opportunity to be creative and “learn about the underlying physics without having to sit down and mess around with an equation.”

Hill’s supervisor, Isabel Trigger recalls when colleagues at CERN were looking for someone interested in converting data into music. “He was the first one with his hand in the air,” says Trigger.  “He really propelled the project forward and got very involved.”

The disCERN website will launch later this year. To view a sample of a track created from disCERN click the link below. 

Photo: Al Blatter, a pianist, playing along with the ATLAS data at the Montreux Jazz Festival

 –by Nic Zdunich, Communication Assistant