Geek Pop pt.2

After originally dabbling in parody science songs at the University of Bristol, I decided to take the show on the road. After a strange turn of events I was offered the chance to do a science talk at the Natural Environment Research Council’s big outreach event Into the blue in Manchester in October 2016. I didn’t really fancy giving a lecture on my own research and decided to instead focus on something that had really caught my attention in the past few years and stuck in my memory. Scientific sound recordings…

My interest was first perked when I heard the sound of a whale and an earthquake recorded thousands of metres down in the Marianas Trench. So deep in fact, that this is the sound of an earthquake from below, which is pretty unique (albeit similar to the sound of an earthquake from above). Turn it up: the sound of the ocean has a mysterious rumble, then there is the haunting call of a lonely baleen whale before an almighty rumble, followed by an eerie quiet as if the whale is afraid to call again.

When I first heard that recording I was stunned. That led me to think of more applications of sound in science, a field that is so often dominated by lots of writing, figures and graphs and maybe an animation if you’re lucky. Sounds can have ecological applications, such as recording bird, bat or fish species. Sounds can be totally unexplained with a source unknown to science, that challenges what we think we know. They can transport us to other worlds, or transform waves or signals that are not usually audible (e.g. radio waves or climatic trends) into something we can perceive in a different way. We can even summarise our identity as the human race through sounds and share them with the universe. And of course, we can make music for some light entertainment.

I incorporated many of these sound effects into my short talk, before giving this song as my ‘summary slide’. After all, it wouldn’t have been right to use a Powerpoint presentation in a talk that was aiming to get us to think outside of our usual visual realm. This is the Sound of Science…

Thank you to NERC for having me speak. The sounds used are copyright of the respective agencies, e.g. NOAA, NASA etc. who recorded them, details of which can be found via the links.


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