SOUNDS IN THE DARKNESS

How learning changes when you change your perception

Does the universe make music?

Dr. Janna Levin says yes, and even has examples of the theoretical drum beat of a black hole. How does it sound? Like a heartbeat.

Dr. Levin shared this amazing music during a TED Talk recorded in 2011. I found this talk by clicking the “fascinating” button under the “Surprise Me” link on the TED Talk website. When I saw the talk with the title “The Sound the Universe Makes” my nerd self could not resist.

At first I was a little confused because the science fiction geek in me has accumulated just enough physics knowledge to know that sound vibrations as we hear them do not travel in a vacuum.

Dr. Levin doesn’t really explain about how they think they will hear the sound, so I did a little research and came across an explanation on the NASA webpage. What scientists “hear” are radio waves that they convert into sound waves.

How creative is that?

Here is what Jupiter and Earth sound like.

And Voyager has recorded sounds in interstellar space that sound remarkably like those used as background at Disneyland in Tomorrowland.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Dr. Levin’s discussion about how most phenomena in the universe are discovered through light – the light of stars, of galaxies etc. Black holes are discovered by their impact on their surroundings. 

The first thing I thought when I heard the talk was about how scientists and physicists through the centuries relied first on sight to discover the universe.

Seeing the light from stars, seeing the Doppler shift to realize they were moving, seeing their colors to determine what they are made of, seeing where and when they moved to plot the existence of their neighbors. All using one tool: vision.

Then the scientists tried something different and converted radio emissions into sound, coming at their observations from a different perspective.

They took what they saw and filtered it through a different sensory lens.

When the Navigator was little, before his autism diagnosis, the training and education he received was based on what had been done before with other children, and then trying to force him into the mold when those strategies didn’t work right away.

After his diagnosis, we learned to come at the Navigator’s needs from a different perspective.

Like meeting him where he was, rather than requiring he come to us by engaging him through his interests, such as through his love of dinosaurs.

Like teaching him visually because that is the way he learned.

Like basing what we did through recognition of his strengths, not just his challenges.

Like making sure we don’t fall into patterns and engage in “business as usual” rather than continually stepping back and making sure we are continuing to meet his developing needs.

Growing and moving forward means looking at things from new perspectives, hypothesizing about new ways of doing things, like instead of asking what a black hole looks like, instead asking what a black hole sounds like.

Sounds in the Darkness