The Big Hum
October 5, 2006 5:39 PM   Subscribe

The sound of the Universe being born. University of Washington professor calculates the frequencies of sound waves propagating through the Universe during its first 760,000 years by analyzing small differences in sky temperature. More information here and here.
posted by zaebiz (26 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
soon to be remixed into mefi music electronica tracks.

It's actually pretty cool to listen to on it's own.
posted by delmoi at 5:45 PM on October 5, 2006

Reminds me of Terry Pratchett's Listening Monks, who devoted their lives to listening for the echos of the Word that began all Creation. (They concluded that the universe started with "one, two, one, two, three, four...")
posted by XMLicious at 6:05 PM on October 5, 2006

hmmm...neat, but kinda uninspiring...he coulda jazzed it up a little, no? a little highhat...maybe some cowbell? the big airplane drone?
posted by es_de_bah at 6:16 PM on October 5, 2006

I gotta say, that Cramer is no Elvis Presley.

Reverse that and put some breaks behind that, it might take over from the Amen!
posted by Twang at 6:24 PM on October 5, 2006

For those musically attuned members of Mefi: can you tell me what key the universe is in these days? We're in a minor, aren't we?

Welcome to the new astrology.
posted by dreamsign at 6:28 PM on October 5, 2006

Crap. This was gonna be my magnum opus.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:29 PM on October 5, 2006

This part of his website is also interesting:
The idea of synthesizing the Big Bang sound fascinated me. It ran around in my head for a day or so, and I had a growing desire to hear just what the Big Bang sounded like. So one Saturday morning, when I should have been doing something else, I sat down and wrote a 16-line Mathematica program that produced the sound and saved it as .wav files. I downloaded the frequency spectrum measured by WMAP and used it as input data for the program. My PC has a good sound card and a substantial sub-woofer, so it reproduced the .wav file well. When I ran the program for the first time and the sound started in my office, our two male Shetland Sheepdogs, Alex and Lance, came running into the room, barking with agitation. After they had looked around and determined that nothing terrible was happening, they lay down on the floor and listened attentively, giving the Sheltie Stare to my sub-woofer.

My Mathematica program (or notebook) combines the WMAP measured frequencies, appropriately scaled for the human ear, assuming that all the sinusoids start at a maximum at t=0 (the start of the Big Bang), and frequency-shifts them downward as time2/3 as the universe expands and becomes more of a "bass instrument". The simulation lasts 100 seconds representing the first 760 thousand years of evolution of the universe, and varies the sound intensity to match the cosmic microwave which, according to WMAP, peaked at 379 thousand years and dropped to 60% intensity in 110 thousand years before and after the peak time. The sound frequencies used in the simulation must be boosted upward by a huge factor (about 10 to the 26 power) to match the response of the human ear, because the actual Big Bang frequencies, which had wavelengths on the order of a fraction of the size of the universe, were far too low to be heard by humans (even had any been around).
posted by aubin at 6:55 PM on October 5, 2006

Did God put any hidden messages in it? Anyone try to play it backwards?
(No I'm not hinting at anything, no I havnt played it backwards)
posted by BillsR100 at 6:57 PM on October 5, 2006

thanks, zaebiz
Lots of good reading to be had on Cramer's site. Here's an interesting column he wrote on exploring the center of the earth using a self-propagating crack.
posted by derangedlarid at 7:10 PM on October 5, 2006

BillsR100, a paper exploring that idea was submitted to the arxiv last year.

I saw a talk last year on Big Bang Sound at an astrophysical visualization conference, given by Mark Whittle. Afterward, I played around with the idea of doing exactly the reverse -- taking finite samples of music, turning them into power spectra, and then using HEALPix to make that into an all-sky projection, and feeding it into an XMMS/iTunes visualizer. I even wrote some code to that effect, but ultimately it didn't go anywhere.
posted by headlessagnew at 7:23 PM on October 5, 2006

Next up: what the universe smelled like when it was born.
posted by stbalbach at 7:48 PM on October 5, 2006

"This one goes to 11!"
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:06 PM on October 5, 2006

It sounds like an electric motor winding down.
We need a track of this mixed with that sound of the earth ripping apart from that tsunami/earthquake.
posted by shnoz-gobblin at 8:25 PM on October 5, 2006

I just find it fascinating stbalbach that space actually has a smell at all...

As for the sound, it does seem like the perfect background for some metamusic mixes...not by me mind you, I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket...with a closed lid...glued to my hand...
posted by rfbjames at 9:18 PM on October 5, 2006

They have a 6,000 year old recording? Can they hear Eve being tempted by the Snake?
posted by orthogonality at 9:20 PM on October 5, 2006

was that the sound of symmetry breaking?
posted by owhydididoit at 10:00 PM on October 5, 2006

nice sound. it'll probably sound different on any speakers you play it on 'cuz of the huge-ass DC offset, and I'm a little afraid to play it on a club soundsystem... might do so anyway.
posted by runehog at 10:00 PM on October 5, 2006

The end of those really need to be adjusted so there's no hard clip. Ouch!
posted by Sukiari at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2006

Twang: "I gotta say, that Cramer is no Elvis Presley.

Reverse that and put some breaks behind that, it might take over from the Amen!

Damn, what a great way to end a synchronic day. Last night I saw the film Borat, and he was singing "Amen, amen..." Today on WSUM, she played that song on my way to work... Looking up wiki for breakcore, they discussed amen breaks, and i learned the history of that today, and now, my final post on mefi i read before retiring??? This.

Amen, Brother!
posted by symbioid at 11:53 PM on October 5, 2006

Isn't this just the doppler/red shift of the universe in audio form? Not saying it isn't cool, especially reading how he went about it, but basicaly, that's what this is, right?
posted by symbioid at 11:56 PM on October 5, 2006

I think so, symbioid. Redshift is why I asked what the key is lately. It should be progressing down the scale, as it were.

Is this not the same as the "background microwave radiation" all the kids are talking about?
posted by dreamsign at 1:23 AM on October 6, 2006

In space, no one can hear you being born.
posted by ewagoner at 6:05 AM on October 6, 2006

...agog at the idea of this...

When I click the file,'s a real bringdown for me -- the best analogy I can think of is really low-budget cheesy SFX in '50s sci-fi movies, the ones you'd see on MST3K.
posted by pax digita at 7:14 AM on October 6, 2006

pax digita - it's a real bringdown for me

Imagine how much the universe must feel?
posted by symbioid at 8:43 AM on October 6, 2006

If a Universe is formed, and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?
posted by tadellin at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2006

Hard to tell what noise is the universe and what is just my crappy laptop speakers. Does it matter?
Nah. It's just good to know that someone spent a Saturday morning synthesizing the Big Bang.
posted by bobobox at 12:38 PM on October 6, 2006

« Older If they'd had this website there'd have only been...   |   No Boobs, Twats, Dicks or Butts Allowed Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments