Sounds of Space

When we think of space, we typically think of beautiful images taken by powerful telescopes and interplanetary rovers. We think of the rings around Saturn; the giant red spot on Jupiter; or Martian rover selfies. But what does the surface of Mars sound like? What haunting melody should we expect from our Sun? And what do these sounds teach us about our cosmic neighborhood? On today’s episode, producer Miles Traer takes us on an audio tour of the solar system, with a rich library of sounds recorded and converted from satellite and rover data. So put on a pair of headphones and join us for a voyage of exploration and discovery as we explore the sounds of space.

THIS EPISODE WAS PRODUCED BY LESLIE CHANG, MIKE OSBORNE, AND MILES TRAER.

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The Soundtracker

Image adapted from Randy Storey

Listen up, because you never know when a sound will change your life.  Acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton tells us the story of how he became “The Soundtracker,” an unorthodox career choice that has led him around the planet three times in pursuit of the last pristine soundscapes. Journey along with Hempton from tropical jungles to the frozen North as he records the music from the solar-powered jukebox that is Earth.

This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin MacLeod (License available here)

The Urban Equation

As cities continue to grow, scientists are trying to define the “Urban Equation” – a mathematical expression that defines not just a group of buildings, but a complex network of physical and social interactions.  Why?  Because our cities control previously elusive aspects of human evolution.  To understand our cities is to understand us.  In this episode, Luis Bettencourt and Tyler Nordgren discuss various elements of the urban equation.  We see how complex networks give rise to creativity; how to break an urban metropolis down into a series of mathematical symbols; and how our cities are dramatically affecting a cultural connection reaching back nearly 400 years.


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This episode was produced by Leslie Chang, Mike Osborne, and Miles Traer.
Additional music by Kevin Macleod (Tracks used: Finding Movement and Perspectives.  License available here)

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The Naked Elements

A tale of two men and geology on the roof of the world

by Miles Traer

Still from John Noel’s 1924 film “The Epic of Everest” (copyright John Noel) showing the tiny figures of George Mallory and Andrew “Sandy” Irvine’s team as they prepared for the summit attempt.

Part I – Onto the Mountain

I’m sitting in a warm room wearing flannel pajamas with a hot meal in my belly when the title card on the movie fades and the 90-year-old film begins to flicker.  The circular aperture is neatly divided along a diagonal line: the top featureless white, the bottom textured rough and grey – both ghostly.  Darker striations run across the grey, further broken by white snow that looks like a child’s finger painting flecked with white and black dots.  It’s only after several seconds that I notice that a few flecks of black are moving along the border between the white and grey, moving higher along the diagonal.  Another title card appears and informs me that these tiny flecks are men, and the striated and speckled grey is Mount Everest as she appeared in 1924, on the eve of one of the most famous disappearances in mountaineering history. Continue reading