Adam Hadhazy at Scientific American has a great piece on how the sonification of data from space can speed up and deepen our understanding of its patterns.
…But hearing data, it turns out, also can open new scientific frontiers. That’s thanks to the remarkable human ability to parse sound for patterns and meaning. “The auditory system is the best pattern-recognition device that we know of,” says Bruce Walker, a professor of psychology and director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sonification Lab. “If you’re looking through a data set and trying to understand what’s going on, it’s often easier and more efficient to listen to the sound of it rather than looking at a screen or a printed version.”
A paper published in The Astrophysical Journal in 2012 relied on such an approach. The finding—that varying forms of charged carbon atoms spewed by the sun can reveal differences in solar atmospheric temperatures—sprung from tuning in to audibilized data. “I was listening to some raw solar data and I heard this underlying hum,” says paper co-author Robert Alexander, a sonification specialist with the Solar and Heliospheric Research Group at the University of Michigan…
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