Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Undisciplined: The Sounds Of Space

Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA

No human has ventured farther than 250,000 miles from earth. So what we know about what lies beyond us is limited to what we can see through data collection. But why limit the potential of understanding data to what we can see in images? Why not turn it into something we can touch or something we can hear?

Kimberly Arcand has spent her career creating new ways to help people see, touch and hear the universe, using data to build 3-D models of exploded stars, virtual reality to create high-energy astrophysics experiences, and, most recently, an auditory experience that uses images from different telescopes as musical scores.

Arcand is a data visualization scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This year, in addition to the space sonification project, she released her first two children’s books — the fictional “An Alien Helped Me with My Homework” and the parody “Goodnight Exomoon.” 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.