Sonified Higgs data show a surprising result

By analyzing data from collisions in the LHC experiments then using music to translate what they see, scientists have been able to make out faint patterns that sound like well-known tunes. (Image: Daniel Dominguez/ CERN)


Did you enjoy our April Fool? If you want to know what CERN scientists are actually doing with sonification, you can find out more in our video, here


Scientists at CERN have been using new techniques to try and learn more about the tiniest particles in our universe. One unusual method they’ve utilised is to turn data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) into sounds – using music as a language to translate what they find.

Physics data and music share many similar connections, from resonances and vibrations, to patterns and frequency. By sonifying the data, comparing it to a musical score and then applying what we know about music theory it can give researchers a different perspective on the data, and throw up unusual insights.

This is exactly what happened this week when physicists at CERN sonified the Higgs boson data. They were shocked when, after listening to random notes as the data played its random tune, a bump in the graph translated into a well-known pattern of recognisable notes.

“It’s surprising that such an awful piece of music would be found in such important data,” said Wilhelm Richard Wagner, a CERN physicist who works on the Valkyries theory. “I’d have expected the universe to sound even more dramatic, more like a film score…’ 

The team are now working on sonifying as much data as possible to see if further musical patterns can be recognised. The next step is to see if other physics theories, not just the Standard Model, have music in their background noise.

You can listen to the sonified Higgs boson in the video below. 

Scientists were surprised by what they found in the Higgs boson data when they listened to it for the first time. (Vidéo : CERN)