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Perseus Cluster's Sad Note
March 3, 2014 11:10 PM   Subscribe

Supermassive black hole in the Perseus cluster sings only B-flat. [via science.nasa.gov]
"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."
Listen to the audio story here.
posted by simulacra (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
What does the expression "sound wave" even mean in this context? They're just waves of compression and rarefication, right?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:51 PM on March 3


Well, that's what sound is. Differences in pressure in gas. Right?

I have to say, though. Bb is exactly the tone I'd imagined coming from any kind of black hole.
posted by cmoj at 11:54 PM on March 3


57 octaves below middle c is an oscillation with a period of about 15 million years. Referring to such an oscillation in terms of sound seems odd.
posted by iotic at 12:09 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


More appropriate sound for those caught in a black hole.
posted by JHarris at 1:14 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I guess tectonic plates could probably hear this sound...
posted by Pyrogenesis at 1:54 AM on March 4


B flat being, appropriately enough, the Vuvuzela Note. Seems spot-on for what it would sound like inside an unsurvivable hellscape.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:55 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


You got the drone, and you got the beat. Everything else is just how you wear it.
posted by colie at 3:10 AM on March 4


Bb is exactly the tone I'd imagined coming from any kind of black hole

I know, right?

And I bet my spectacles resonate in "C-sharp"-!

And the sound of my organic yoghurt is "A natural"-!

And the noise that comes out of your mouth is "SHUT UP QUIDNUNC YOU TIRESOME IDIOT".

And the--oh wait, OK, sorry everyone - shutting up now. Sorry.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:13 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


A black hole so powerful, it's warped space-time back to September of 2003.
posted by Optamystic at 3:39 AM on March 4


YOU GUYS I JUST WROTE THIS AWFUL JOKE

Q: What was the middle-school music teacher arrested for after he played Bb instead of B?
A: Corruption of A-minor.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:06 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


More appropriate sound for those caught in a black hole.
posted by JHarris


I always thought it would sound more like this.
posted by pjern at 4:51 AM on March 4


More appropriate sound for those caught in a black hole.

I would have thought brown note, myself.
posted by sonascope at 5:27 AM on March 4


Q: What was the middle-school music teacher arrested for after he played Bb instead of B?
A: Corruption of A-minor.


he was a substitute, it's OK
posted by thelonius at 5:29 AM on March 4


Q: What was the middle-school music teacher arrested for after he played Bb instead of B?
A: Corruption of A-minor.


Far from being a corrupting factor, in the key of A minor, Bb is quite commonly used to prepare, and, in fact, strengthen a subsequent V-I cadence. Indeed almost any altered scale degree can, by its resolution, serve to strengthen the sense of tonality, which is why something like the extremely chromatic introduction to K465 can still work so effectively in a classical context.

I'm not sure your joke has taken that into account.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:10 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


But otherwise it was very funny.
posted by Wolfdog at 6:10 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Sick drop, bro.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:35 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Well, that's what sound is. Differences in pressure in gas. Right?

If this were all sound were, lots of things that we don't consider sound would also be sound.

Sound is something that happens somewhere between an ear taking in the right kind of stimulus and a brain connected to it processing that stimulus. The rest is a description of all the other stuff that sound relates to in the world.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:41 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Isn't B-flat also the note traditionally used for chanting the OM syllable in meditation? Seems a bit on-the-nose...
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 AM on March 4


NPR's Robert Krulwich expounds about the scientific weirdnesses of the pitch B flat, complete with a mention of the black hole that sings B flat, as well as an adorable song.
posted by gillyflower at 7:57 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Far from being a corrupting factor, in the key of A minor, Bb is quite commonly used to prepare, and, in fact, strengthen a subsequent V-I cadence.

Beatles fans can hear a distinctive Bb chord in the key of A minor as Paul sings 'wishing you weren't so FAR AWAY' in Things We Said Today. Because Paul is from another planet, he also uses Bb in the bridge of the same song, even though the song has now modulated to A major, and in fact uses it as a direct substitute for V and a witty chromatic pivot back to A minor.
posted by colie at 9:40 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


wuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.... (and on and on for 15 million years..... uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuubbbbb
posted by symbioid at 11:28 AM on March 4


57 octaves below middle c is an oscillation with a period of about 15 million years. Referring to such an oscillation in terms of sound seems odd.

Definitely an LFO
posted by bongo_x at 11:54 AM on March 4


This bit from Gillyflower's NPR link sounds like something out of Kafka:
Mr. Fripp, a piano tuner by trade, was humming in B flat while climbing the stairs at his dad's office building, when he noticed that his hum had somehow escaped him and was hanging, resonating without him, on the staircase landing. He couldn't quite explain what was happening; only that his hum (and it was definitely his hum, no one else's) had gone off without him.
In Kafka's version the hum (wearing an overcoat and fedora even at his desk) would eventually get a job in that same office building. Fripp and the hum would occasionally meet each other in the elevator, but they would be too embarrassed to speak.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:59 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Sound is something that happens somewhere between an ear taking in the right kind of stimulus and a brain connected to it processing that stimulus. The rest is a description of all the other stuff that sound relates to in the world.

That's one definition of sound. With the proviso that you actually feel bass in your body, rather than hear it through your ears - and that's "perceptive" sound too.

Calling it a Bb note tends to suggest this definition. In fact it's more of a ripple as far as I can tell - I guess one that takes a very long time to repeat. "Rhythm" might be a better sonic analogy - much like a drum pulse is a ripple that comes round and round again.
posted by iotic at 3:07 PM on March 4


Low bass, that is. Sound perception isn't just in the ear (and brain)
posted by iotic at 3:36 PM on March 4


Good points, iotic.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:14 PM on March 4


Neat.
posted by homunculus at 1:34 AM on March 5


Scientists May Get Best View Yet of a Black Hole in Action
posted by homunculus at 5:47 PM on March 16


That isn’t a porn link, is it?
posted by bongo_x at 5:52 PM on March 16


Maybe.
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on March 16


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