Cellist, composer and computer music professor Margaret Schedel will be a guest on the April 15th “Science Friday,” a weekly radio show about science and technology that airs on 400 public radio stations across the country every Friday from 2 pm to 4 pm.
Schedel is an associate professor in the Department of Music at Stony Brook and she also directs cDACT, the consortium for digital art, culture and technology. On this week’s “Science Friday” she will be discussing nanomaterial sonification.
Through her work, Schedel explores a relatively new field — data sonification — generating new ways to interact with information through the use of sound. Her work explores how we can expand our understanding of complex scientific information by using our sense of hearing.
“As we enter this era of big data, people are trying to figure out different ways to experience their data,” said Schedel. “Sonification is becoming a new buzzword.”
More About the Sounds of Science
Schedel began sonifying data with her husband, Kevin Yager, a scientist at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Lab. Yager’s research focuses on the use of scattering methods to measure nanostructures. Schedel had seen some of the images from his X-ray scattering work, so she asked him to explain the math behind it.
As part of his research, Yager uses Fast Fourier Transform (FFT), an algorithm already well known to Schedel from its application in audio. She uses FFT because it enables her to split the pitch portion of the sound from the timing information.
Once Schedel realized that their fields had FFT in common, she began to connect the dots. She convinced Yager that she could enhance his research by giving him the opportunity to hear the vast amount of data from the beamline instead of just seeing the images. Schedel essentially attached pitch to a location and volume to brightness, and then played a sound from an image.
Now Schedel is using the knowledge she gained to help a diverse range of departments across Stony Brook experience their own data through sound. She is exploring the possibility of sonifying patients’ health records for the Department of Biomedical Informatics and is working with the Department of Physical Therapy to sonify the movements of patients with Parkinson’s Disease. She is also involved in bringing sound to the Department of Computer Science’s Reality Deck.
Read more from Margaret Schedel in her blog post.