[Repost] Internet Radio Provides Musical Space-Weather Reports from NASA’s LRO Mission (by Elizabeth Zubritsky)

Internet Radio Provides Musical Space-Weather Reports from NASA’s LRO Mission

January 9, 2014

 

CRaTER has six detectors to monitor the energetic charged particles from galactic cosmic rays and solar events.
The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation, or CRaTER, on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has six detectors to monitor the energetic charged particles from galactic cosmic rays and solar events.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC

The latest tool for checking space weather is an internet radio station fed by data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The radio station essentially operates in real time, receiving measurements of how much radiation the spacecraft is experiencing and converting those into a constant stream of music. The radiation levels determine which instrument is featured, the musical key being used and the pitches played.

“Our minds love music, so this offers a pleasurable way to interface with the data,” said the leader of the music project, Marty Quinn of the University of New Hampshire, Durham. “It also provides accessibility for people with visual impairments.”

The radiation levels are determined by LRO’s Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation, or CRaTER. Equipped with six detectors, CRaTER monitors the energetic charged particles from galactic cosmic rays and solar events.

The instrument makes two kinds of crucial measurements. One type studies the interaction of radiation in space with a material that is like human tissue; this is helping scientists assess the effects that exposure would have on people and organisms. The other type looks at radiation hitting the moon and the products generated by that interaction, which provides a way to explore the composition of the regolith on the moon.

“CRaTER has discovered wide-ranging and fundamental aspects of such radiation,” said Nathan Schwadron, the principal investigator for CRaTER. “For example, we have discovered that tissue-equivalent plastics and other lightweight materials can provide even more effective protection than standard shielding, such as aluminum.”

 

An internet radio station converts radiation measurements from NASA's LRO into a musical space-weather report.
An internet radio station converts radiation measurements from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter into a musical space-weather report.
Image Credit: University of New Hampshire

 

Each detector on CRaTER reports the number of particles registered every second. These counts are relayed to CRaTER Live Radio, where software converts the numbers into pitches in a four-octave scale. Six pitches are played every second, one for each detector. Higher, tinkly pitches indicate less activity, whereas lower, somber-sounding pitches indicate more activity.

The software selects the primary instrument and a musical key based on recent activity. At the lowest radiation levels, the main instrument will be a piano, playing pitches from one of the major scales. But as the peak radiation level climbs, one of the minor scales will be selected instead, and the piano will be replaced by one of seven other instruments.

For example, when CRaTER picked up elevated radiation counts caused by the solar flare on Jan. 7, 2014, the primary instrument changed to a marimba, which is two instruments up from the piano. A steel drum or guitar instead of a marimba would mean the radiation level had ramped up more. A banjo would mean the peak had climbed to the top of the normal operating range.

If the counts climb beyond the top of the normal operating range – as might happen during a very big event – the software would switch into a second operating range. The piano would again represent the bottom of this range, and the banjo would represent the top. To indicate which range is current, a violin and a cello play sustained notes in the background. If those sustained notes are played at the highest pitches on the scale, the normal operating range is in effect; if those notes drop by even one pitch, the second range is being used.

The radio station is one of CRaTER’s official data products and is available online and through an app. The data feed from LRO is live, with one caveat. Whenever the spacecraft moves behind the moon, it cannot line up with data-collecting antennas on Earth, so there is a blackout period of about an hour. During that time, the station reuses the previous hour’s data. To indicate that the music is not live, the sound of the bongo drum in the background is changed, and the chiming of the triangle is muted.

The most familiar example of data sonification – conversion into sound – is a simple one: The Geiger counter produces a click every time it detects a radioactive particle.

In the past few decades, scientists in many fields have experimented with sonification, hoping to capitalize on humans’ ability to hear small changes instantly, even against a noisy background. Music has the added advantage of making it easy to process many changes at once through variations in pitch, rhythm, tempo, scale, loudness and instrumentation.

“Music makes it easy for people to take in the data, and it seems to be a natural fit for space missions,” said LRO’s project scientist, John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Sonification has been used to present data from several NASA spacecraft, especially Voyagers 1 and 2 and Kepler. Quinn previously worked on sonification for other NASA missions, including Mars Odyssey, the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, the Advanced Composition Explorer and the Interstellar Boundary Explorer.

LRO is managed by NASA Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Related Links

› NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
› CRaTER Live Radio and links to the app

Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

[Repost] 7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical (by Arika Okrent)

7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical

filed under: grammarLists
IMAGE CREDIT:
NATIONALGRAMMARDAY.COM

Martha Brockenbrough, founder of The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, started National Grammar Day in 2008. Since then it has been held every year on March 4th, a date that also happens to be a complete sentence (March forth!). It is celebrated in various ways: There is a haiku contest, an anagram unscrambling contest, and even an official song.

That’s all good clean fun. Some people, however, like to use the holiday as an excuse to engage in what Kory Stamper calls “vigilante peeving.” Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster who knows from good grammar, dreads the way the holiday seems to encourage the shaming of others for their mistakes, or, as she calls it, “asshattery in the name of grammar.” (Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.)

This Grammar Day, let’s not look at grammar as a cold, harsh mistress. She can also be a fun, kooky aunt. Here are some tricks you can do to make crazy sounding sentences that are still grammatical.

1. ONE MORNING I SHOT AN ELEPHANT IN MY PAJAMAS. HOW HE GOT INTO MY PAJAMAS I’LL NEVER KNOW.

Take advantage of the fact that the same sentence can have two different structures. This famous joke from Groucho Marx assumes that most people expect the structure of the first part to be

One morning [I shot an elephant] [in my pajamas].

But another possible, and perfectly grammatical, reading is

One morning [I shot] [an elephant in my pajamas].

2. THE HORSE RACED PAST THE BARN FELL.

Make a garden path sentence. In this one, we think we’ve reached the main verb when we get to “raced,” but instead we are still inside a reduced relative clause. Reduced relative clauses let us say, “the speech given this morning” instead of “the speech that was given this morning” or, in this case “the horse raced past the barn” instead of “the horse that was raced past the barn.”

3. THE COMPLEX HOUSES MARRIED AND SINGLE SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

Another garden path sentence, this one depends on the fact that “complex,” “houses,” and “married” can serve as different parts of speech. Here, “complex” is a noun (a housing complex) instead of an adjective, “houses” is a verb instead of a noun, and “married” is an adjective instead of the past tense of a verb.

4. THE RAT THE CAT THE DOG CHASED KILLED ATE THE MALT.

Make a sentence with multiple center embeddings. We usually have no problem putting one clause inside another in English. We can take “the rat ate the malt” and stick in more information to make “the rat the cat killed ate the malt.”  But the more clauses we add in, the harder it gets to understand the sentence. In this case, the rat ate the malt. After that it was killed by a cat. That cat had been chased by a dog. The grammar of the sentence is fine. The style, not so good.

5. ANYONE WHO FEELS THAT IF SO MANY MORE STUDENTS WHOM WE HAVEN’T ACTUALLY ADMITTED ARE SITTING IN ON THE COURSE THAN ONES WE HAVE THAT THE ROOM HAD TO BE CHANGED, THEN PROBABLY AUDITORS WILL HAVE TO BE EXCLUDED, IS LIKELY TO AGREE THAT THE CURRICULUM NEEDS REVISION.

Another crazy center-embedded sentence. Can you figure it out? Start with “anyone who feels X is likely to agree.” Then go to “anyone who feels if X then Y is likely to agree.” Then fill out the X and Y. You might need a pencil and paper.

6. BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO BUFFALO.

Buffalo! It’s a noun! It’s a city! It’s a verb (meaning “to intimidate”)! We’ve discussed thenotorious buffalo sentence before, but it never stops being fun. It plays on reduced relative clauses, different part-of-speech readings of the same word, and center embedding, all in the same sentence. Stare at it until you get the following meaning: “Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in their community, also happen to intimidate other bison in their community.”

7. THIS EXCEEDING TRIFLING WITLING, CONSIDERING RANTING CRITICIZING CONCERNING ADOPTING FITTING WORDING BEING EXHIBITING TRANSCENDING LEARNING, WAS DISPLAYING, NOTWITHSTANDING RIDICULING, SURPASSING BOASTING SWELLING REASONING, RESPECTING CORRECTING ERRING WRITING, AND TOUCHING DETECTING DECEIVING ARGUING DURING DEBATING.

This sentence takes advantage of the versatile English –ing. The author of a 19th century grammar guide lamented the fact that one could “run to great excess” in the use of –ing participles “without violating any rule of our common grammars,” and constructed this sentence to prove it. It doesn’t seem so complicated once you realize it means,

“This very superficial grammatist, supposing empty criticism about the adoption of proper phraseology to be a show of extraordinary erudition, was displaying, in spite of ridicule, a very boastful turgid argument concerning the correction of false syntax, and about the detection of false logic in debate.”

Not only is this a great example of the wonderful crazy things you can do within the bounds of proper English, it’s the perfect response to pull out the next time someone tries to criticize your grammar.

Sources of sentences: 1. Groucho Marx; 2. Bever (1970); 3. Wikipedia; 4. Chomsky & Miller(1963); 5. Chomsky & Miller (1963); 6. William Rapaport; 7. Goold Brown (1851).

Primary image courtesy of NationalGrammarDay.com.

March 4, 2013 – 10:06am