New Music of the Spheres

Stars are huge balls of gas and they vibrate or oscillate. This oscillation can be observed by recording slight changes in the colour of the star. This can then be converted into sound, although the frequency is so low it has to be speeded up.

Every star makes a different noise, and this has inspired Sylvie Vauclair is an astrophysicist at the French Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology, and Claude-Samuel Levine, a musician specialising in electronic music, to use the sound of the stars to compose music. They call it “Nouvelle Musique des Spheres”, The New Music of the Spheres. This takes it’s name from the Greek theory that the planets were attached to crystalline spheres which carried them around the Earth, and the mathematical relationships between these orbits was reminiscent of the relations which Pythagoras had discovered between musical notes.

Below you will find links which will let you listen to music composed from the sounds of stars.


Recording the Sounds of Stars

Music Created from Star Sounds

Music of the Spheres in Greek Philosophy

Making Predictions about Climate Change

The future of the world’s climate (long term temperature, rainfall etc) is clearly of importance to everyone. There is clear evidence that the climate has changed in the past, is rapidly changing now and will continue to change in the future, bringing more unstable weather (daily changes in temperature, rainfall etc), causing droughts, fires and storms, flooding low-lying places, and probably already causing wars and mass migrations of people.

The main international body making predictions about climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which assesses the science related to climate change and provides policy-makers
with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and
options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC does not do it’s own research. Instead it co-ordinates research from scientists across the world, bringing their results together to make their conclusions.

Another organistion which supports research aimed at understanding the Earth’s past environment in order to make predictions for the future is PAGES, a project within the University of Bern, Switzerland . They encourage international and interdisciplinary collaborations and seek to promote the involvement of scientists from developing countries in the global paleo-community discourse.

PAGES scope of interest includes the physical climate system, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem processes, biodiversity, and human dimensions, on different time scales – Pleistocene, Holocene, last millennium and the recent past.

Young science communicators wanted in Bern, Switzerland, expenses paid

PAGES (Past Global Changes) is a project at the University of Bern, Switzerland, which supports research aimed at understanding the Earth’s past environment in order to make predictions for the future. We encourage international and interdisciplinary collaborations and seek to promote the involvement of scientists from developing countries in the global paleo-community discourse.

PAGES is currently offering one or two early-career researchers to visit the PAGES office in Bern for at least one and up to two months during mid August to late October to work on that newsletter issue. First-author publishing experience is required, while editorial experience is not (although a plus). They will work together with the PAGES team and the senior editor Didier Roche on editing of the articles of the final Past4Future newsletter in terms of content, style, graphics, and layout. PAGES offers to cover travel and accommodation.

Please contact Thorsten Kiefer if you or any of your early-career team members are interested.

Direct Evidence for Inflation Found in Polarisation of CMBR

An international collaboration BICEP2 has discovered traces of gravitational waves which existed during the inflationary phase of the creation of the universe, before any of the particles we know today existed.

b_over_b_rect_BICEP2Gravitational waves from inflation generate a faint but distinctive twisting pattern in the polarization of the Comsic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), known as a “curl” or B-mode pattern. For the density fluctuations that generate most of the polarization of the CMBR, this part of the primordial pattern is exactly zero. Shown here is the actual B-mode pattern observed with the BICEP2 telescope, with the line segments showing the polarization from different spots on the sky. The red and blue shading shows the degree of clockwise and anti-clockwise twisting of this B-mode pattern.

One of the leaders of the collaboration, Prof John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said: “This is opening a window on what we believe to be a new regime of physics – the physics of what happened in the first unbelievably tiny fraction of a second in the Universe.”



719 New Exoplanets Found by Kepler Telescope

This the biggest haul ever of exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) have been identified by analysing data from the Kepler Telescope.

All 719 of the new planets are members of multi-planet systems—stars with more than one orbiting satellite. Researchers used a new method for weeding out false signals from among the candidate planets found by Kepler. “We studied just over 1,200 systems, and from there we were able to validate 719 planets,” says Jason Rowe of NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., who led the research.

For more see: Hundreds of New Exoplanets Validated by Kepler Telescope Team – Scientific American.

4.4 Billion-year-old Zircon Implies Early Earth Was Colder Than Thought

Professor of geoscience, John Valley of the University of Wisconsin, and others, have used atom-probe tomography for the first time to determine the age of a zircon crystal from the Jack Hills region of Western Australia, dating it to 4.4 billion years ago and so making it the oldest object ever identified on Earth. This indicates that the crystal formed within 160 million years of the formation of the Earth.

oldest zircon

The crystal measures 200 by 400 microns, about twice the diameter of a human hair.

“One of the things that we’re really interested in is: when did the Earth first become habitable for life? When did it cool off enough that life might have emerged?” Professor Valley said.

The discovery that the zircon crystal, and thereby the formation of the crust, dates from 4.4 billion years ago suggests that the planet was perhaps capable of sustaining microbial life 4.3 billion years ago, Valley said.

“We have no evidence that life existed then. We have no evidence that it didn’t. But there is no reason why life could not have existed on Earth 4.3 billion years ago,” he added.

The oldest fossil records of life are stromatolites produced by an archaic form of bacteria from about 3.4 billion years ago.

In the following video, Professor Valley talks about the work:

For the original report:

For more information:

Global energy demand continues to grow, but growth is slowing

According to the BP Energy Outlook 2035, global energy consumption is expected to rise by 41 per cent from 2012 to 2035 – compared to 55 per cent over the last 23 years (52 per cent over the last twenty) and 30% over the last ten. Ninety five per cent of that growth in demand is expected to come from the emerging economies, while energy use in the advanced economies of North America, Europe and Asia as a group is expected to grow only very slowly – and begin to decline in the later years of the forecast period.

via BP Energy Outlook 2035 Shows Global Energy Demand Growth Slowing, Despite Increases Driven by Emerging Economies | Press | BP Global.

GOCE gravity satellite reveals circulation of Earth’s mantle

Analysis of data from the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite, which flew during 2013, reveal deep plumes of mantle material rising from more than 2,000 km down. The images, generated by Dr Isabelle Panet from the Paris Institute of Earth Physics and published by the journal Nature Geoscience, vividly show mid-ocean ridges and tectonic plates plunging back into the mantle.

Goce detects deep plumes of mantle material rising from more than 2,000km down
Goce detects deep plumes of mantle material rising from more than 2,000km down

More Information:

BBC News – Europe’s Goce gravity satellite probes Earth’s mantle.

Relevant links (but without any direct reference to this report)

Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris
GOCE site

Earth’s Oceans Will Evaporate in 1 Billion Years

“The sun, like all main sequence stars, is getting brighter with time and that affects the Earth’s climate,” says Dr. James F. Kasting, professor of meteorology and geosciences at Penn State University. “Eventually temperatures will become high enough so that the oceans evaporate.”

“Astronomers always knew that the oceans would evaporate, but they typically thought it would occur only when the sun left the main sequence,” Kasting said. “That will be in 5 billion years.”

“However, the oceans may evaporate much earlier. My calculations are somewhat pessimistic and present a worst case scenario that does not include the effects of clouds, but they say a billion years.”

via Earth’s Oceans Destined to Leave in Billion Years | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference.

via Earth’s Oceans Destined to Leave in Billion Years | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference.

How a changing landscape and climate shaped early humans

This article in the on-line magazine The Conversation explains how, beginning with the collision of India with Asia 20 mya, followed by the opening of the Great Rift Valley, the climate and landscape of East Africa changed from flat wet forest to desert, mountainous forest and lakes which appeared and disappeared following a 20,000 Milankovitch-like periodic cycle in climate. According to the authors, the disappearance of these lakes forced the newly emerged Homo Erectus to move out of Africa to find habitable land 1.8 mya.

Read the article here.