Ear to the Sky: NASA’s New Soundcloud

NASA has a Soundcloud, and it’s every bit as awesome as you’d imagine.

Part historical archive and part sound effects library, there’s an entire set dedicated to JFK’s quotes about Apollo 11:

As well as snippets of sound from space. My top three favorites are:

This is one of a series of star light curve waves captured by the Kepler mission and converted to sound. Note its rhythmic, periodic components.

Radio waves or wind in the tundra?

And finally, Voyager captures a sine wave sweep along with Jupiter’s lightning.

There’s many more sounds to be explored at the full Soundcloud page, including mission talk, rocket launches, and the strangely adorable sound of Juno saying hi in morse code. Not only is this further proof that NASA knows what it’s doing when it comes to social media (who else follows the Curiosity on Twitter?) this is also a fantastic new resource for composers and sound designers. But even going beyond that: NASA has provided a new way to experience our forays into the unknown. At a time when everyone could use a little inspiration, this is a wellspring. I hope it captures the public’s imagination.

The Science of Wikidrummer


We’re back from spring break with a new video!

Drummer Julien Audigier and Audio Zéro put together the Wikidrummer video, an exploration of different environments and the effect these spaces had on drum sounds.

In this video, we break down the science behind why all of these spaces sound different. We’ll also show you our own reverb experiment, and how you can incorporate physical spaces into your music, even if it was recorded somewhere else.

Introducing an Introduction (to Electrical Components: Capacitors)

New YouTube channel means new content! The Science of Music presents an Introduction to Electrical Components: an ongoing series dedicated to teaching the basic building blocks of musical electronics. Today’s topic: capacitors or “caps” for short.

Capacitors are a type of passive electrical component that store electrical charges via an electrostatic field. There are several different types of capacitors, and we’ll go through their differences and shared similarities.

Be on the lookout for more in our Intro to Components series with resistors, voltage regulators, and more in the weeks ahead.

DIY: Build Your Own Microphone!

This how-to video explains the process of building a dynamic microphone (which, incidentally, can also be used as a loud speaker) from a cup! This rudimentary audio transducer could be used as a quick project for a physics class exploring electromagnetism or an audio technology class exploring transduction. Or you could do it just for kicks.

The fidelity of the completed project is not studio quality (if it was our lives would be a whole lot cheaper), but it’s cool. And on the upside you don’t have to have an EE degree to build it.


  • Written and Directed by Travis Kaufman and Nick Dooley
  • Produced with support from The National Science Foundation

Can Speakers be Used as Microphones?

A door once opened can be stepped through in either direction…

Okay, we promise that we’re serious people when we’re not making Doctor Who references (but we are never not making Doctor Who references so…paradox?). This video shows how a speaker, once removed from its enclosure, can be used as either a speaker or a microphone, thus exhibiting the beauty of transduction! Specifically, this is a good example of how electromagnetic transduction can work in both directions (electrical to acoustic transduction and acoustic to electrical).


  • Directed by: Langdon Crawford
  • Voice:  Tyler Mayo
  • Editing Caitlin Gambill

Frequency Domain and EQ Basics

You see frequency domain all the time when you use audio equalizers, but how clear are you on what that is, exactly? Learn how to master any EQ/spectral analysis tool by watching this video on exactly what the frequency is, why it’s important in the music/audio field, and how—if you do any mixing whatsoever—you come across it all the time.

Once you’ve got this part down, you may be interested in learning about the actual method used to get a sound representation from the time domain to the frequency domain. If so, check out this link for more: http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/ph/p/i….


  • Written and Directed by Travis Kaufman and Nick Dooley
  • Produced with support from The National Science Foundation

How to Use an SPL Meter

This video explains how to use an Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter.  This is an essential tool for measuring intensity (think amplitude or volume) of a sound.   This is different than our perception of loudness, thus a specialized instrument (the SPL meter) is needed.


  • Written and Directed by Nick Dooley and Travis Kaufman
  • Produced with support from The National Science Foundation