Composer Makes Music From Positron Trails in Cloud Chambers
Music composer and network engineer Domenico Vicinanza has brought together his two loves by making music from the particle tracks of positrons passing through cloud chambers.
The sealed metallic vessels are filled with superheated liquids or vapors, which detect electrically charged particles passing through them, like the more modern silicon particle detectors used in the LHC at Cern. Positrons fired through the chambers — antiparticles of electrons, a trillionth of a meter in size — are subatomic and make no measurable sound by themselves, so Vicinanza had to work out a method to bring their music to life.
He took data stored on the International Science Grid that depicts the tracks, or routes, taken through the chambers by positrons, and draws those directly onto music staves. The elegant arcs and lines are then used as a path over which music notes are laid. Vicinanza composes the melodies himself and his customized software automatically harmonizes the tracks.
“My plan is to sonify some of the early tracks recorded with cloud chambers. I was thinking of a piano trio,” Vicinanza told iSGTW. The resulting music (.mp3) sounds a little like scales being played simultaneously — one ascending in notes and the other descending.
“Displays of these events are perfectly symmetric tracks spiraling in opposite directions. Their sonification will be two symmetric melodies, moving in opposite directions,” said Vicinanza, a network engineer at Dante (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe), Cambridge.
It’s not the first time the engineer has merged art with science. Previous works include music written using data from volcanic seismograms performed by the City Dance Ensemble, and 2,000-year-old Greek music re-created by his troupe, the Lost Sounds Orchestra.
2012 marks 101 years since the invention of Wilson cloud chambers by Charles Thomas Rees Wilson, a Scottish physicist. This year is also the 60th anniversary of the invention of the bubble chamber, by American physicist Donald Glaser, and the first observation of the positron.