Scientists Convert Trappist-1 Planetary System Into Celestial Synth Music

NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Never before has the term “music of the spheres” been used so literally. Scientists have converted data from the Trappist-1 planetary system into almost-danceable synth music that may, in turn, help scientists understand how the strange system works.

The TRAPPIST Sounds project is at the center of a pretty sweet Venn diagram. On one side is astrophysicist Daniel Tamayo of the University of Toronto. On the other is musician Andrew Santaguida. And between them is musician/astrophysicist Matt Russo, who just so happens to be Santaguida’s bandmate and Tomayo’s office neighbor.

The announcement of Trappist-1’s discovery in February 2017 set off waves of excitement, and not just among scientists. The system’s seven planets are arrayed around a cool central star, and at least some exist in that most unlikely of spaces: a habitable zone. (The system's discoverers originally published that all seven could potentially harbor liquid water [PDF].) Playing into mounting public daydreams of exiting this planet for a better world, NASA even produced WPA-style Trappist-1 travel posters.

We won’t actually be packing for the stars any time soon, of course, but Trappist-1 does still represent an immense discovery, one we’ll be exploring from Earth for a long time.

Tamayo’s research involves investigating the paths of Trappist-1’s planets as they trace invisible rings around their star. Astronomers like Tamayo have converted each planet’s approximate location and movements into data. Russo and Santaguida converted that data into music and imagery.

Experimental though its orbits may sound to us, the Trappist-1 system is apparently a better composer than most of its peers. Russo tried music-ifying another seven-planeted-star, Kepler-90, with ear-splitting results. “It’s just horrendous,” he told The New York Times. “It’s very uncomfortable to listen to.”

Trappist’s clanging, banging notation could be as good as it gets. “I think Trappist is the most musical system we’ll ever discover,” Russo said. “I hope I’m wrong.”

[h/t New York Times]

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

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How Much Is the Earth Worth?

The New York Public Library, Unsplash
The New York Public Library, Unsplash

Our home planet may be the most precious place we know, but it isn't priceless. The Earth's resources and the value it offers to humans add up to some unknown, tangible cost. The species may never have to worry about buying or selling the world, but thinking of it in terms of concrete numbers can help us better understand its value. Now, as Treehugger reports, one scientist has developed a special formula that allows us to do just that.

According to the calculations of Greg Laughlin, an assistant astronomy and astrophysics professor from the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Earth is worth roughly $5 quadrillion (or $5,000,000,000,000,000). He came up with that price after gauging the planet's mass, temperature, age, and other factors that directly correlate to its ability to sustain life.

To emphasize just how valuable the Earth is, Laughlin also estimated the worth of other planets in our solar system. Our nearest neighbor Mars costs about the same as a used car at $16,000. That's a fortune compared to Venus, which he appraised at the meager value of one cent.

Laughlin doesn't expect these numbers to have applications in the real world. Rather, he hopes they will inspire people to better appreciate the only home they know. He's not the first person to put a massive, hypothetical price tag on something just for fun. The cost of the Death Star from Star Wars has been calculated at $852 quadrillion—many times Laughlin's estimate for Earth.

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