SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

Click to embiggen

Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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Old phones are listening.

7 July 2014 // 0 Comments

Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on how old smart phones are being used to listen for disrupted sleep patterns, illegal loggers, gunshots, breeding cicadas and a host of other sounds: App makers have long focused on detecting speech and music, but some upstarts are turning to a wider variety of sound-detection tasks. They are taking advantage of more sophisticated mobile hardware and software to recognize distinct audio patterns. In one of the quirkier ideas around sound detection, a company called Rainforest Connection wants to mount smartphones in trees to detect chainsaw noise and quickly notify local authorities about illegal logging. The company, founded last year, has launched a $100,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and partnered with the Zoological Society of London to kick off the project in Cameroon. … “It will be a trend in the near future,” said Tauhidur Rahman, co-creator of BodyBeat, a wearable smartphone project developed at Cornell University. A crude […]

Sound levitation. No magnets. Sound.

3 January 2014 // 0 Comments

The Telegraph marvels at physicists learning how to levitate and move solid objects using sound waves: They then levitate match heads, drops of water, screws and nuts. The researchers at the University of Tokyo say they hope to refine the technique so it can be used to manipulate delicate electronic components when assembling hardware. The Japanese video that attracted the columnist’s awe is this: Three-Dimensional Mid-Air Acoustic Manipulation is what they’re calling it. Somehow I doubt they’re doing all that with Strauss waltzes, but you never know. (Seems like it’d be more of a Suicide or Throbbing Gristle thing.)

Perfect pitch isn’t.

11 June 2013 // 0 Comments

Science Daily sticks it to the people with an innate ear for what’s a C and what isn’t. Apparently, “perfect pitch” can be fooled: Absolute pitch has been “idealized in popular culture as a rare and desirable musical endowment, partly because several well-known composers, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Handel, have been assumed to posses absolute pitch,” the researchers write in “Absolute Pitch May Not Be So Absolute,” in the current issue of Psychological Science. … One of the researchers, Stephen Hedger, a graduate student in psychology at UChicago, has absolute pitch, as determined by objective tests. Joining him in the study were postdoctoral scholar Shannon Heald and Howard Nusbaum, professor in psychology at UChicago. Hedger and Heald decided to pursue the study after a session in which Heald tricked Hedger by covertly adjusting pitch on an electronic keyboard. “Steve and I have talked about absolute pitch, and I thought it might be more […]

Lasers made of sound. Call them… phasers.

18 March 2013 // 0 Comments

Wired reveals the weird ways nanotechnologists are making sound behave like light… this time, by creating a Star Trek weapon in the lab: Because laser is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” these new contraptions – which exploit particles of sound called phonons – should properly be called phasers. Such devices could one day be used in ultrasound medical imaging, computer parts, high-precision measurements, and many other places. … “In our work, we got rid of this optical part,” said engineer Imran Mahboob of NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan, co-author of a paper describing the new sound lasers that appears Mar. 18 in Physical Review Letters. Because they need one less part, these new phasers “are much easier to integrate into other applications and devices.” In traditional lasers, a bunch of electrons in a gas or crystal are excited all at the same time. When they relax back to their […]

Why is dissonance noisy?

21 November 2012 // 0 Comments

Nature explores the strange mathematics of yuck – the neurological reason why we find dissonant music hard to listen to: Consonant chords are, roughly speaking, made up of notes that ‘sound good’ together, like middle C and the G above it (an interval called a fifth). Dissonant chords are combinations that sound jarring, like middle C and the C sharp above (a minor second). The reason why we should like one but not the other has long vexed both musicians and cognitive scientists. … Yet when [University of Montreal neuroscientist Marion] Cousineau and colleagues asked amusic [or “tone-deaf”] subjects to rate the pleasantness of a whole series of intervals, they showed no distinctions between any of the intervals. In contrast, normal-hearing people rated small intervals (minor seconds and major seconds, such as C–D) and large but sub-octave intervals (minor sevenths (C–B flat) and major sevenths (C–B)) as very unpleasant. … Those preferences seem to stem […]

‘The Bloop’ identified.

20 November 2012 // 0 Comments

I’m not sure when this happened, but NOAA thinks they’ve finally identified the mysterious underwater sound known as ‘The Bloop’: The broad spectrum sounds recorded in the summer of 1997 are consistent with icequakes generated by large icebergs as they crack and fracture. NOAA hydrophones deployed in the Scotia Sea detected numerous icequakes with spectrograms very similar to “Bloop”. You can hear the sound and view waveforms at the link. I still favor the giant sea monster explanation, myself. [via reddit]

The Neuroscience of Gotye.

17 July 2012 // 0 Comments

Fun to read Sound on Sound’s behind-the-mixing-board analysis of what made “Somebody That I Used To Know” so darn catchy – even though it breaks some Top-40 rules: The song’s mixer, François Tétaz, had a vision for it from the beginning. He also thought long and hard about aspects of the mix that are likely to have greatly contributed to its appeal, like the way in which the dynamics of the song are shaped, with the intensity increasing at several points, his refusal to engage with the loudness wars, the imperfections that he retained in the vocals, and the way he managed to make the track sound modern without losing the idiosyncratic character of the many lo-fi ingredients of Gotye’s arrangement. Tétaz was and is inspired by two books written by neuroscientists, This Is Your Brain On Music by Dr Daniel Levitin and Sweet Anticipation: Music And The Psychology Of Expectation by professor David Huron […]

The music of spider-silk strings.

7 March 2012 // 0 Comments

BBC reveals a Japanese project that combines biology, engineering and beauty – spinning violin strings out of spider silk: Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan’s Nara Medical University has been interested in the mechanical properties of spider silk for a number of years. In particular, he has studied the “dragline” silk that spiders dangle from, quantifying its strength in a 2007 paper in Polymer Journal. Dr Osaki has perfected methods of obtaining large quantities of this dragline silk from captive-bred spiders and has now turned his attention to the applications of the remarkable material. … Dr Osaki used 300 female Nephila maculata spiders – one of the species of “golden orb-weavers” renowned for their complex webs – to provide the dragline silk. For each string, Dr Osaki twisted between 3,000 and 5,000 individual strands of silk in one direction to form a bundle. The strings were then prepared from three of these bundles twisted together in the […]

Silence! You fools! You will LEARN silence!

2 March 2012 // 0 Comments

Technology Review cuts out all the chatter with their lowdown on an honest-to-God silence ray: Today, Kazutaka Kurihara at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tskuba and Koji Tsukada at Ochanomizu University, both in Japan, present a radical solution: a speech-jamming device that forces recalcitrant speakers into submission. The idea is simple. Psychologists have known for some years that it is almost impossible to speak when your words are replayed to you with a delay of a fraction of a second. Kurihara and Tsukada have simply built a handheld device consisting of a microphone and a speaker that does just that: it records a person’s voice and replays it to them with a delay of about 0.2 seconds. The microphone and speaker are directional so the device can be aimed at a speaker from a distance, like a gun. In tests, Kurihara and Tsukada say their speech jamming gun works well: […]

Bb below the lowest C.

20 December 2011 // 0 Comments

Not new research, but I just learned that the lowest note in the Universe: The black hole resides in the Perseus cluster of galaxies located 250 million light years from Earth. In 2002, astronomers obtained a deep Chandra observation that shows ripples in the gas filling the cluster. These ripples are evidence for sound waves that have traveled hundreds of thousands of light years away from the cluster’s central black hole. … In musical terms, the pitch of the sound generated by the black hole translates into the note of B flat. But, a human would have no chance of hearing this cosmic performance because the note is 57 octaves lower than middle-C. For comparison, a typical piano contains only about seven octaves. At a frequency over a million billion times deeper than the limits of human hearing, this is the deepest note ever detected from an object in the Universe. [via]

Scientists and Manchester band create world’s most relaxing song.

14 November 2011 // 0 Comments

That’s how The Telegraph puts it. “Boffins” (a lovely word) helped the band Marconi Union design a song so relaxing, you shouldn’t put it on your car stereo: Dr David Lewis-Hodgson, from Mindlab International, which conducted the research, said: “The results clearly show that the track induced the greatest relaxation – higher than any of the other music tested. “Brain imaging studies have shown that music works at a very deep level within the brain, stimulating not only those regions responsible for processing sound but also ones associated with emotions. “In fact, Weightless was so effective, many women became drowsy and I would advise against driving while listening to the song because it could be dangerous.” Richard Talbot, from Marconi Union, said: “It was fascinating working with a therapist to learn how and why certain sounds affect people’s mood. “I always knew the power of music but we have previously written using gut feeling.” Here’s […]

Noise hurts. Why?

7 November 2011 // 0 Comments

Science explores why the noise of nails on a chalkboard is so awful: As they will report next week at the Acoustical Society of America conference in San Diego, California, [Michael Oehler of the Macromedia University for Media and Communication in Cologne, Germany, and Christoph Reuter of the University of Vienna] found that a listener’s skin conductivity changed significantly when the person heard a sound he or she later reported as unpleasant, showing that disturbing sounds do cause a measurable physical reaction. More surprisingly, they found that the frequencies responsible for making a sound unpleasant were commonly found in human speech, which ranges from 150 to 7000 hertz (Hz). The offending frequencies were in the range of 2000 to 4000 Hz. Removing those made the sounds much easier to listen to. Deleting the tonal parts of the sound entirely also made listeners perceive the sound as more pleasant, whereas removing other frequencies or the noisy, […]

SONG: Evert 1 Pipkin (penitential Man or Astro-Man? cover)

15 August 2011 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Evert 1 Pipkin” [Download] . ARTIST: grant. Originally by Man or Astro-Man? SOURCE: This is a penitential cover. It’s not from any specific scientific study… although the original may have come from space. You can hear it here, or just buy the Made From Technetium album and be happy. ABSTRACT: This song is brilliant and deserves many more listeners, and I have done terrible, terrible things to it. It is an ode to musical equipment. “Microphone, take this sound.” For a band known for its instrumentals, they sure put together a great lyric for this one. A pipkin, by the way, is a clay pot used something like a crucible – stick it in the hottest part of the fire – but the cooking vessel also gave its name to a family. I kinda think the family gave its name to an electronic component (part of a speaker?) but I can find no evidence […]

Prescription pop.

16 September 2010 // 0 Comments

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University are using music (and audio engineering) to treat pain and depression – by mapping out emotional terrain in pop songs: Each volunteer listens to pieces of previously unheard contemporary popular music* and assigns each one a position on a graph. One axis measures the type of feeling (positivity or negativity) that the piece communicates; the other measures the intensity or activity level of the music. The research team then assess the audio characteristics that the pieces falling into each part of the graph have in common. “We look at parameters such as rhythm patterns, melodic range, musical intervals, length of phrases, musical pitch and so on,” says Dr [Don] Knox. “For example, music falling into a positive category might have a regular rhythm, bright timbre and a fairly steady pitch contour over time. If tempo and loudness increase, for instance, this would place the piece in a more ‘exuberant’ or […]

Song of the God Particle.

6 July 2010 // 0 Comments

The BBC has a simulation of the sound of the Higgs boson. That’s what the harmonics of the mass-bearing subatomic particle will sound like if one really does turn up at the Large Hadron Collider. That’s what matter sounded like when it was coming into being.

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