Paul Lunn: Sonification Techniques for Astronomical Data Exploration

Report
Paul Lunn BSc(Hons) MSc PCPD FHEA MIET
Supervised by Dr A Hunt (Department of Electronics, The University of York)
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“The transformation of data relations into
perceived relations in an acoustic signal for
the purposes of facilitating communication or
interpretation” (Kramer et al, 1999).
Everyday Examples
“Ping” of microwave
oven
 Play video games
without sound
 Geiger counter
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Scientific applications
Seismology
ECG analysis
DNA Sequencing
Geographical
Information Systems
 Helicopter engine
telemetry analysis
 Higgs Boson
simulation
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The ear is better at detecting rapid or transient
changes than the eye.
 We perceive several sounds simultaneously
 An “eyes free” interface
 We don’t have ear-lids
 Back grounding

 But also…
 Sound can be irritating!
 Hearing impediments/amusia
 (Kramer 1994)
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Can sonification can speed up the
analysis/exploration of very large scale data
sets?

Labour intensive with visualization methods

The “Data deluge” caused by modern
astronomical observations
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An ideal candidate is The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence - SETI
N = R fp n e fl fi f c L
N = number of advanced technological civilisations
R = number of new stars formed each year
fp = fraction of stars with planets
ne = Number of planets that can support life
fl = fraction of planets which have life
fi = fraction of planets where life is intelligent
fc = fraction of planets where life has developed ability to communicate over stellar distances
L = average lifetime of technological civilisation
(SETI League, 2003)
It is estimated that there could be 100,000,000
intelligent civilisations within the Milky Way
reproduced from NASA (n.d)

Cooper (2010)
Noise + sine
Squiggle + noise
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Applying sonification techniques to SETI
radio astronomy data can be an efficient tool
for identifying intelligence patterns

Cooper, P., (2010) “ SETI: the Water Hole” available online at
<http://www.astronomynow.com/news/n1004/26seti5/ > [Accessed 10/06/2012]

Kramer, G. (1994) An Introduction to Auditory Display, in Kramer G. (ed.)
"Auditory Display: Sonification, Audification, and Auditory Interface", AddisonWesley, Reading, MA

Kramer, G., Walker, B., Bonebright, T., Cook, P., Flowers, J., Miner, N., and
Neuhoff, J., (1999 ) “Sonification report: Status of the field and research agenda,”
Tech. Rep., International Community for Auditory Display

NASA, (n.d.), Atmospheric Opacity, image online at <
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Atmospheric_electromagnetic_opacity.
svg> [Accessed 21/12/10]

SETI League, (2003) “What is the Drake Equation?” available on line at
<http://www.setileague.org/general/drake.htm> [Accessed 10/06/2012]

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