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The team behind the Radioactive Orchestra converted the signature pattern of radiation released by each of a few thousand unstable isotopes into sound. The energy of the radiation determines the frequency of the notes: high energy radiation will create a high-pitched note, and vice versa.
The result is an ethereal series of notes corresponding to each isotope’s unique radiation fingerprint. Some produce abstract, disjointed beeps whilst others weave more intricate harmonies. To the casual listener it may just sound pretty, but the nuclear physicists who helped with the project can perceive much more.
The radiation given off by atoms delivers vital clues to the inner workings of the nucleus, and studying this radiation is therefore a fundamental aspect of nuclear physics research. Physicists usually ‘see’ radiation as graphs known as energy spectra, so hearing isotopes is a whole new experience for them too.