Science Art: Pluto as seen by New Horizons

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A photo of that icy, cold, faraway, beautiful neighbor, just snapped by NASA.

Found in the New Horizons Image Gallery.

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Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Anderson & Reed make dog music.

31 May 2010 // 0 Comments

Fixing the BBC’s headline here (and wife??) while celebrating a new, high frequency project by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, dog musicians: US rock star Lou Reed and his artist wife Laurie Anderson are to stage a “high-frequency concert” for canines in Australia. Music for Dogs, to be held outside the Sydney Opera House, is billed as “an inter-species social gathering on a scale never seen before in Australia”. The bizarre recital in June will be largely inaudible to the human ear. The couple said they have experience making music for at least one dog – their rat terrier, Lollabelle. “She likes things with a lot of smoothness but with beats in them,” Ms Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Music Evolution: Science wants YOUR ears!

15 December 2009 // 0 Comments

Chasing the links for that Levitin interview yesterday, I found this call for volunteers in a musical experiment: MacCullum’s computer program creates a randomly generated pair of “Adam and Eve” “songs”–brief loops of sound. They mutate, recombine and reproduce to form a base population of 100 descendants. Participants act as the force of natural selection by listening to the songs and rating them, from “I love it!” through “It’s OK…” to “I can’t stand it”. For every 20 songs, the 10 worst rated die off, while the 10 best rated go on to reproduce at random, with each “mating” producing two new songs. Each daughter song inherits a mixture of the parents’ computer codes, just as a biological organism inherits a mixture of its parents’ genetic codes. “The ‘chromosomes’ in DarwinTunes are actually tree structures of code,” the researchers explain. “There is only one tree structure per song, that is, they are ‘haploid’. During recombination […]

The Brain in the Studio

14 December 2009 // 0 Comments

Unlike all of the other selections cut-n-pasted here, this one I typed in by hand; that’s how much I wanted to share it. It’s from Tape Op, the free audio recordists’ magazine that you should already be reading. The Nov/Dec issue features a great interview with Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neurological researcher, musician and audio engineer who works with the likes of Blue Oyster Cult, Lenny Kaye (of Patti Smith’s band), Gary Lucas (of Captain Beefheart’s band), Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan when not authoring books or conducting experiments. He’s got 14 gold or platinum records to his credit… so when he talks about music, he’s not just talking about a neurological phenomenon or some kind of laboratory stimulus. He’s talking about music. The whole interview is really worth seeking out, but the following (long) passage is the part that stood out the most. It’s about the two kinds of brain functions that one needs […]

Listen to the lituus.

10 July 2009 // 0 Comments

About two months ago, the BBC tells us, Scottish researchers used computer models to bring a lost medieval instrument back to life: Bach’s motet (a choral musical composition) “O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht” was one of the last pieces of music written for the Lituus. Now, for the first time, this 18th Century composition has been played as it might have been heard. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh carried out the study, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Performed by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) the Lituus produced a piercing trumpet-like sound interleaving with the vocals. Until now, no one had a clear idea of what this instrument looked or sounded like. But there are several depictions of similar instruments being played throughout Europe for centuries. The team at Edinburgh University developed a system that enabled them to design the Lituus from the best guesses of its […]

Autotune explained.

3 July 2009 // 0 Comments

Normally I wouldn’t encourage this sort of thing, but NOVA has an interesting feature explaining how Autotune works. On July 6, they’ll be posting answers to viewers’ questions emailed to Harold “Dr. Andy” Hildebrand, the man who invented the software. Which is, I’ll admit, an awesome technical feat. Despite what his creation has become.

I see sounds.

2 July 2009 // 0 Comments has a story that I’d suspect was an April Fools if this wasn’t the middle of summer. Supposedly, like our intelligent cousins to the seas, humans are capable of using echolocation to “see” sounds: In order to learn how to emit, receive and interpret sounds, the scientists are developing a method that uses a series of protocols. This first step is for the individual to know how to make and identify his or her own sounds (they are different for each person), and later to know how to use them to distinguish between objects according to their geometrical properties “as is done by ships’ sonar.” Some blind people had previously taught themselves how to use echolocation by trial and error. The best-known cases of these are the Americans Daniel Kish, the only blind person to have been awarded a certificate to act as a guide for other blind people, and Ben Underwood, who was […]

SONG: This is the Sound.

28 June 2009 // 1 Comment

SONG: “This is the Sound” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: “Acoustic Black Hole Created in Bose-Einstein Condensate”, Technology Review, 10 June 2009, as used in the post “A SONIC BLACK HOLE!” ABSTRACT: So, first off, the chorus to this was written intentionally – this song is not the sound of a sonic black hole, since a sonic black hole would be absolutely silent – no phonons (particles of sound) would escape. So this song is the sound of the sound of silence. I mean, I also like the simple repetition, but I thought it was important to point out that it was actually on purpose. Of course, reading about researchers creating a black hole made of sound… there was no way not to do a song about that. Two weekends ago, I went to go see the physics-savvy Squeaky play (what might be) one of their last shows, and […]


12 June 2009 // 1 Comment

That sounds so totally metal, doesn’t it? Technology Review explains how to make a sound so heavy, no light can escape: One of the many curious properties of Bose-Einstein Condensates (BECs) is that the flow of sound through them is governed by the same equations that describe how light is bent by a gravitational field. That sets up the possibility of all kinds of fun and games: in theory, physicists can reproduce with sound and BECs whatever wicked way gravity has with light. Today, Ori Lahav and his mates at the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, say that they’ve created the sonic equivalent of a black hole in a BEC. … Any sound waves (or phonons) created inside the event horizon can never escape because the flow there is supersonic. That’s the black hole. Lahav and co set up a supersonic flow by creating a deep potential well in the middle of a BEC […]

Love is… mosquitoes buzzing in harmony.

13 January 2009 // 0 Comments

The BBC has video up of romancing mosquitoes creating their high, keening love songs: Males and females each have their own characteristic flight tone – which they create by beating their wings. But when scientists from Cornell University listened in on a male Aedes aegypti pursuing his mate, they were surprised to hear a new kind of “music” playing. … The amorous couple began to beat their wings together at a matching frequency – 1,200 hertz. This love song is a “harmonic”, or multiple, of their individual frequencies – 400 Hz for the female and 600 Hz for the male. What’s more, the high pitch hum exceeds the previously known upper limit for hearing in mosquitoes. It was thought that females may even be deaf. But the Cornell scientists were able to show that their hearing range extends to 2,000 Hz. Break out the synthesizers! I’m in the mood for love!

The Beatles Knew All The Chords… Plus One.

3 November 2008 // 2 Comments

Musical mystery solved after 40 years! It took an obsessive mathematician to discover what the heck the Beatles were playing for the opening chord of “Hard Day’s Night”: ScientificBlogging: Four years ago, inspired by reading news coverage about the song’s 40th anniversary, Jason Brown of Dalhousie’s Department of Mathematics decided to try and see if he could apply a mathematical calculation known as Fourier transform to solve the Beatles’ riddle. The process allowed him to decompose the sound into its original frequencies using computer software and parse out which notes were on the record. It worked, to a point: the frequencies he found didn’t match the known instrumentation on the song. “George played a 12-string Rickenbacker, Lennon had his six string, Paul had his bass…none of them quite fit what I found,” he explains. “Then the solution hit me: it wasn’t just those instruments. There was a piano in there as well, and that accounted […]

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