Higgs at 3.5 seconds into the melody

Listen to the music… at 3.5 into the recording you will be able to “hear” the sound of the newly discovered boson. That’s the beauty of sonification, a technique that translates dry data into beautiful melodies.


Image edit by Katarina Anthony.

Sonification is a computational technique that requires enormous amounts of networking and processing power to produce results. The sonification of data presented on 4 July by the ATLAS collaboration was performed using the pan-European GÉANT network and the Grid infrastructure. The result is a melody that at 3.5 seconds reproduces the bump corresponding to the new particle. “This sonification was carried out on the same grid infrastructure used by researchers to reconstruct their data and plot their graphs,” says Domenico Vicinanza of DANTE, who led the Higgs sonification project, collaborating with Mariapaola Sorrentino of ASTRA Project (Cambridge), who contributed to the sonification process, and Giuseppe La Rocca (INFN Catania), who was responsible for the computing framework. “The Higgs sonification is an alternative representation of the energy distribution graph. It offers the same qualitative and quantitative information contained in the graph, only translated into notes. Listening to the melody could allow a blind researcher to understand exactly where the Higgs boson peak is and how big the evidence is. At the same time, it could give a musician the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of the high-energy physics by playing its wonders.”

Because of its twofold aspect – scientific and artistic – sonification has gained increasing popularity over recent years. In a concert in Rome held this April, a violin, cello and clarinet trio played data coming from the ALICE experiment. “The concert set a cornerstone for how the sonification of scientific data coming from the most advanced research lab in the world could be used to create scores for a classic music concert for the general public,” says Domenico Vicinanza.

The team developing this powerful technique will continue sonifying data coming from the four LHC experiments, including other Higgs evidence. They are also planning to apply the sonification technique to other fascinating scientific phenomena. “We'll do that working on two sides: on algorithms and techniques able to improve the data discrimination and analysis through melodies; and on music and scores, listening to the beauty of the subnuclear universe,” concludes Domenico Vicinanza. 

Read more on the Higgs sonification on the GÉANT Press Release.

Click on the links below to listen to the Higgs Boson (the data on which these sonifications are based can be found here):

- Piano (solo),

- Piano, bass, percussion, marimba and xylophone.

by Antonella Del Rosso