In a Black Hole They Can Hear You Scream

So, I have this recurring nightmare where the spaceship's crew pushes me out of the airlock and, screaming, I am inexorably pulled into a black hole where I am transported into a new dimension where space and time cease to exist.

My therapist and I agree that I am making good progress. After 43 years of counseling, I am beginning to understand that life as a transcendental being could be very fulfilling. My therapist also says that getting pulled into a black hole isn't necessarily a bad thing. For starters, the sound of a black hole, if not exactly foot-tapping or rousing, can be quite pleasant to listen to.

At least that's what she tells me. I'm not so sure. To me, the sound of a black hole is one of the creepiest things I have ever heard. You've never had that dream? You've never heard what a black hole sounds like? Let me enlighten you. Listen to the video on this NASA webpage.

Much like my therapist, you are probably thinking – this is bat crazy! Well, let me quote from the NASA page: “Since 2003, the black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster has been associated with sound. This is because astronomers discovered that pressure waves sent out by the black hole caused ripples in the cluster’s hot gas that could be translated into a note – one that humans cannot hear some 57 octaves below middle C.”

Now, while you are understandably proud of your subwoofer setup, its response might not extend down 57 octaves. So, the sonification of this astronomical data has been transposed up to an audible range. This is exactly the sound in my dream.

NASA continues: “In some ways, this sonification is unlike any other done before because it revisits the actual sound waves discovered in data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The popular misconception that there is no sound in space originates with the fact that most of space is essentially a vacuum, providing no medium for sound waves to propagate through. A galaxy cluster, on the other hand, has copious amounts of gas that envelop the hundreds or even thousands of galaxies within it, providing a medium for the sound waves to travel."

Furthermore: "In this new sonification of Perseus, the sound waves astronomers previously identified were extracted and made audible for the first time. The sound waves were extracted in radial directions, that is, outwards from the center. The signals were then resynthesized into the range of human hearing by scaling them upward by 57 and 58 octaves above their true pitch. Another way to put this is that they are being heard 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than their original frequency. (A quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000.) The radar-like scan around the image allows you to hear waves emitted in different directions. In the visual image of these data, blue and purple both show X-ray data captured by Chandra.”

And there you have it: the sound you'll hear (transposed up) as you are pulled into a black hole. My very high-pitched screaming, on the other hand, would probably have to be transposed down many octaves.

Postscript: Okay, okay. You don't have to push me. I know how to operate the airlock.

dommyluc's picture

...and you can dance to it!

(Besides, it sure is better than listening to Kid Rock. LOL!)

Duncan Jones's picture

A strategic game, Tower Defense puts you up against many waves of enemies as you place and upgrade towers in key strategic areas to defend your base.

utopianemo's picture

Sorry if I’m getting lost in the celestial weeds here, but how does a note that’s 57 octaves below middle C work? That would have to be below 0 hertz, but what is below 0 hertz?

trynberg's picture

??? It's not below 0 Hz (which is impossible, Hz is cycles per second), it's a very small fraction of a Hz.

jixekiw944's picture

It's intriguing how our perception of such events can vary, and it's great that you're finding meaning and comfort in exploring this unique dream experience with your therapist. |

sarahjames2005's picture

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