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Former Grateful Dead Drummer Mickey Hart Composes Music from the Sounds of the Universe

Hart teams up with a Nobel Prize-winning cosmologist to translate light and electromagnetic waves into octaves humans can hear.

By Natasha Geiling
October 1, 2013
This article was originally published by Smithsonian Magazine. The full article can be read here.

crab_nebula_nasa.jpg
The Crab Pulsar, located in the Crab Nebula, is one of the celestial bodies Mickey Hart has translated into music.
Image via NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.

What does the universe sound like? Contemplating the sky on a dark, clear night, a casual observer might balk at the question: without the hum of human life, how could the universe sound like anything? But the universe is, in fact, a noisy place. From collisions to pulsar starts, it emits an abundance of sounds. The only problem is that these sounds are in frequencies too low for the human ear—we are literally deaf to the symphony of cosmic music around us.

We won’t stay deaf much longer though, if any unlikely duo has its way. Mickey Hart, leader of the Mickey Hart band and former drummer for the Grateful Dead, has teamed up with Nobel Prize-winning cosmologist George Smoot to turn the frequencies of the universe into music for human ears. Hart and Smoot “sonify” light and electromagnetic waves collected through various telescopes by shifting them up to octaves that humans can hear.

Continuing reading on the Smithsonian Magazine website...