Mapping the sound of the search for Higgs boson

Published: 1 June 2015 at 16:08

Anglia Ruskin scientist uses Large Hadron Collider data to compose music for film

Ever wondered what it sounds like inside the Large Hadron Collider? Well, Dr Domenico Vicinanza of Anglia Ruskin University has attempted to find out by producing a piece of music based on data obtained during the search for the Higgs boson.

The music, commissioned by ATLAS Experiment at CERN in Switzerland to accompany a new film, uses a process called data sonification, which involves transforming scientific information into sound.

The film shows the last two years of preparations as ATLAS – one of the experiments being conducted at the Large Hadron Collider facility near Geneva – attempt to record data from proton collisions at unprecedented energy levels.

Dr Vicinanza, Director of the Electronics and Sound Engineering Research Group at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Data sonification involves representing data by means of sound signals.  
“To compose the music for the film, I went back to the data the ATLAS researchers used in 2012 to announce the discovery of the Higgs boson.”

As his starting point, Dr Vicinanza used these three graphs showing data from the paper “Observation of a New Particle in the Search for the Standard Model Higgs Boson with the ATLAS Detector at the LHC”, published in the journal Physics Letters B.

He mapped the vertical position of the points to a D minor and then F Major scale, and then cut the melodies into fragments of 4 to 8 notes that he used to build the piece.

Dr Vicinanza added:

“The project was created as an accessible way to celebrate a major scientific achievement. Mapping scientific measurements to sounds is not too different from looking at data in a spreadsheet, but using the ear instead of the eye.

“The information content is exactly the same: represented by regularities, patterns, changes, trends and peaks. In fact there are advantages, as data sonification makes it easier to get information about long-range correlations that are hard to spot just by visual inspection.”