Today in questions you never knew you wanted answered: What does a black hole sound like? Turns out the depths of oblivion’s darkest realms “sound” like a video game, according to a sonification of NASA data.
“Ton” is in quotation marks there because a sonification is not a literal audio recording sent hundreds of millions of light years straight into YouTube’s compression algorithm. Rather, it is the result of a technological process in which NASA takes their set of space data and then converts it into a form that the human brain can actually understand. Previous data sonifications have taken the form of soothing, atmospheric soundscapes. some like that of the Bullet Cluster– an extrasolar discovery that first proved the existence of dark matter – sound remarkably like a bonus track from one of Thom Yorke’s 71 side projects.
But a black hole – more specifically, the black hole at the center of the constant enigmatic Perseus galaxy cluster, a collection of galaxies some 240 million light-years away – is less suited to being pressed onto an LP. Acoustically, if anything, it’s almost nothing, a sustained low hum that conveys uneasiness and ominous emptiness.
Pinning down the sound of Perseus has long been a goal of NASA’s interest.
“Since 2003, the black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster has been associated with noise,” NASA said wrote in a press release. “That’s because astronomers discovered that pressure waves emitted by the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could be translated into a note. … The common misconception that there is no sound in space stems from the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, offering no medium for the propagation of sound waves. A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, contains abundant gas that envelops the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within and provides a medium for the propagation of sound waves.”
To create the sonification, NASA took these sound waves and scaled them by nearly 60 octaves. The initial note is so incredibly quiet that we “hear” it “tuned” at least 144 quadrillion times its actual pitch. (At the high end, NASA estimates that number could be closer to 288 trillion; either way, there’s no way a human brain could register even an unmanipulated version of it.) This particular data sonification was first indexed in May , but the agency just recently reposted it on social media over the weekend. His recent appearance on the internet quickly gained viral supernova status. As of this writing, the clip has been played more than 8.9 million times.
people immediately started calling it Things like “terrifying,” “disturbing,” “an eldritch horror,” and “here’s a video of my dog barking after hearing it.” But others made the comparison to video games. (Three cheers for the gaming angle!) The obvious consequence is Mobius Digital’s tour de force, Outer Wildsa challenging space exploration game and an integral part of kotaku‘s pantheon of “best games”. Here the tune “Uncertainty Principle” is off Outer Wilds composer Andreas Prahlow:
Good thing our own universe survived longer than 22 minutes!
Others pointed out how it sounds exactly like the beginning of the gloriole topic, and then actually put the topic over the NASA clip, an eerie game. (I personally think it sounds a bit like the soundscapes of monitoringNo Code’s psychological mindfuck puzzle game from 2019.) And of course some people compared the sound to the reapers mass effect.
If you remember, BioWare’s totemic trilogy is from extraterrestrial banging RPGs were set against the backdrop of an impending invasion of apocalypse death machines. These machines, called Reapers, lived on the edges of space between galaxies. Every 50,000 years they suckp through the Milky Way and purify sentient life. Reapers look like giant purple, unfried squid, but are more marked by the menacing, foreboding sound they make when they arrive — which sounds a lot like sonification of NASA data of the Perseus Cluster black hole.
This brings us to the Fermi Paradox, a dilemma notably posed by the 20th-century Italian physicist Enrico Fermi: If space is so vast and so full of near-infinite possibilities, there is no way that Earth is the only instance of sentience Life in Space Milky Way, right? But also, where the hell is everyone?
There are countless theories as to why both sides of the argument might be correct. (wait but why ran down all the leading ones almost a decade ago, a thorough synopsis that still stands today.) A popular theory reads exactly like a mass effect Pitchline: The rest of the galaxy is quiet because there’s a species of predator out there. All other advanced species are aware of these predators and are therefore silent; But people who are characteristically clueless continue to make as much noise as possible through efforts spearheaded by research organizations such as the SETI Institutewhich sends out radio signals into space in case someone everyone, otherwise they might hear them and contact you. Basically, according to one theory, we are making a kind of apocalyptic death machine aware of our presence. And now NASA has put together data sonification that bears an uncanny resemblance to the sound emanating from some (fictional) species of apocalypse death machines.
The connection is fun to make, though admittedly far-fetched. The true inspiration for the Reaper’s distinctive horn? Actually garbage.
https://kotaku.com/nasa-black-hole-perseus-cluster-outer-wilds-mass-effect-1849441782 A real black hole sounds like a Mass Effect Reaper