The Higgs boson symphony

Composer and particle physicist Domenico Vicinanza has converted Higgs particle data to music.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Composer and particle physicist Domenico Vicinanza has converted Higgs particle data to music.

There are songs about the Higgs boson, and then there's the song of the Higgs boson. Vicinanza, who works at Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe (DANTE), has sonified research data from the Large Hadron Collider.

He told Public Radio International's (PRI) The World:

In order to take a subatomic particle, like the Higgs boson, and convert it into a melody, to notes, what we do is basically take the data and associate with each one of the numeric values a single note on a score. Melody is following, basically, exactly the same behaviour the scientific data is showing. So when the piano starts playing, you can hear some really, really high pitched notes. They are the signature of the Higgs boson melody, and they are corresponding to a peak in the scientific draft research has shown at CERN [European Organization for Nuclear Research]. The actual data points are only the ones played by the piano at the beginning, and then played by piano and marimba in the second repetition. So the marimba was playing the lower notes and the piano was playing the higher notes. So it sounds like a Cuban Habanera, but this is classical incidence.

Scientific data makes surprisingly beautiful music. Biologist Peter Larsen, from the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, sonified microbial data collected from the English Channel, to create Microbial Bebop, and as far back as the 1960's, composer Charles Dodge sonified the changes in the Kp indices of the Earth's solar winds.

Hear the original version of the Higgs boson music:

And a cleaned-up version by Ben McCormack:


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