Turn science into music, or sonify scientific data, has become something more and more frequent. We know what everything from the decimal places of pi to a sunrise on Mars sounds like. However, we had never heard of the periodic table sound. Or at least not like now.
A recently graduated scientist named Walker Smith, has managed to transform the different elements of the periodic table into sound, taking into account the light they emit. He presents the results today at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Societyalthough this is only the beginning of his ambitious goal.
In reality, he wants to turn the periodic table into an instrument that can be played to interpret different melodies. This would be exhibited at the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology Bloomington, in Indiana. However, it could also be useful in the classroom to help visually impaired people study the periodic table. It is something very original that, without a doubt, could not come from the hand of another scientist, since it is not the first time that Smith has transformed chemistry into music.
Sonata in C major for periodic table
In previous studies, Smith had transformed molecules into musical notes, analyzing how they vibrate and transforming that into sound. However, what he has done now has been to focus on the light emitted by each element of the periodic table.
The spectra of each of them are commonly used to identify chemical compositions. For example, the spectra of the cloud resulting from the impact of DART on your asteroid were recently measured to better understand its composition.
This is so because, when light falls on a substance, the elements that compose it absorb and emit at different wavelengths, creating a unique spectrum. Knowing this, Smith wondered what would happen if he sonified that spectrum.
To do this, he had the help of two experts from Indiana University: david clemmerfrom the chemistry department, and Chi Wang, from the Jacobs School of Music. Each one gave her support in her area, so that she could arrive at an optimal data sonification. Thus, they saw that there are certain similarities in the vibration patterns of light and sound. For example, as explained in a statement“within the colors of visible lightviolet has almost twice the frequency of red, and in music, a doubling of the frequency corresponds to one eighth”.
For this reason, the entire spectrum of visible light could be considered as an octave of light. That is, a set of eight notes. For example, from one C to the next higher C. The only problem is that if the frequencies are equated, in the case of sound, the octave would be in a range that is not audible to humans. So Smith proceeded to reduce the frequencies of the sine waves by about 10 raised to -12.
very varied sounds
Despite covering what would be an octave, it cannot be said that each element of the periodic table would be a note. In fact, if so, there would be missing notes for all of them. In reality, what is created from the spectrum are harmonies composed of several notes, since it is absorbed and emitted in different colors of the spectrum.
The result is very varied. For example, in the statement they report that the simplest elements, such as hydrogen or helium, barely reach a simple chord. However, others like The calcium they sound like a group of bells, and zinc like an angelic choir. At least, that’s what Smith and his co-workers are reminded of.
It is also true that some notes sound out of tune. That is, if we tried to play the chords with the keys of a piano, there would be tones that would not correspond to any of them. It could have been adjusted so they did. However, Smith wanted to disturb the result as little as possible.
So when you create your instrument, it will be fully proportional to reality. In this way, the blind peopleas well as any other individual who wants to, will know what the periodic table sounds like.