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Higgs Boson Data Becomes Musical Masterpiece

Oct 01, 2014 02:25 PM EDT
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Large Hadron Collider
Scientists at CERN have literally created the sound of science after they converted data from the Higgs boson, the particle thought to explain how other particles get their mass, into a musical masterpiece.
(Photo : Flickr/CERN)

Scientists at CERN have literally created the sound of science after they converted data from the Higgs boson, the particle thought to explain how other particles get their mass, into a musical masterpiece.

Based on measurements from inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - specifically from its ALICE, ATLAS CMS and LHCb detectors - at CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, scientists have shown the world what the Higgs boson would sound like.

Entitled "LHChamber Music," this musical score features harps, violins and other various instruments played via a process known as sonification, in which a musical note is assigned to each measurement created by experiments, so that the same data is presented as sound.

A video of the composition was released to mark the 60th anniversary of the Swiss institute.

"We believe this musical interpretation of the LHC data will help people understand or at least 'feel' the complexity and beauty of the finding," the music's creators wrote in the LHC Open Symphony blog.

CERN scientists finally discovered evidence of the Higgs boson, a particle whose existence was first hypothesized by British physicist Peter Higgs in the 1960s. The discovery, first made in 2012, marked a milestone in the world of physics.

Now, to find out what the Higgs boson "sounds" like, a group of researchers used the biggest grid of computers in Europe, called EGI, running on a data network called GéANT, to map the values in the data to musical notes. The data was expressed as numbers of particle collision events per unit mass. So, for example, the number 25 might map to a "C" note, 26 to a "D" note, 27 to an "E" note and so on.

The scientists played the resulting musical masterpiece first on a Bösendorfer piano alone, then on a piano, marimba, xylophone, flute and double bass, with percussion.

"When I wrote this piece, I hoped it would be a metaphor for scientific collaboration; to demonstrate the vast and incredible effort these projects represent - often between hundreds of people across many different continents," Domenico Vicinanza, the music's composer and physicist, said in a statement.

A video of the Higgs boson being "played" can be viewed below.


[Credit: LHChamber Music]

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