Listen to the Sound of the Big Bang

By on December 2, 2013 // Science // 4 Comments

Image: Flickr/NASA/ESA via CC by 2.0
Image: Flickr/NASA/ESA via CC by 2.0

There’s an echo throughout the cosmos, a lingering remnant from the time our universe was born, called the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB.

Discovered accidentally by radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson in 1964, the CMB is uniform microwave radiation (a very, very dim glow of light) that permeates from all directions in the cosmos. It’s the oldest light in the universe, originating from the epoch of recombination, which occurred roughly 378,000 years after the Big Bang.

All around us, everywhere we look, are these echoes from the birth of our universe some 14 billion years ago.

And you can listen to them, if you want.

John Cramer, a Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Washington in Seattle, created a new version of his “sound of the big bang” earlier this year, using data from the ESA’s Planck Mission.

Cramer took that data, which included information on the very slight temperature variations in the CMB, fed it into a computer program called Mathematica, and created a listenable sound out of it. He’d done the same thing ten years ago using data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP).

While the program uses temperature fluctuations to produce audible sound that we couldn’t otherwise hear, in the early universe that wasn’t the case. According to Cramer, “the original sound waves were not temperature variations…but were real sound waves propagating around the universe.”

So, what’s the Cosmic Microwave Background sound like? Here’s a short 20 second version:

And here’s a longer 100 second version, which Cramer recommends:

To read all the technical details and access the raw sound files, head over to The Sound of the Big Bang’s official page.

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.
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  • janniemk

    This is absolutely fascinating, but I could have done without the cutesy little “comments” that popped up while the 100-second version was playing. I’m sure they were meant to be funny, but there’s nothing funny about the sounds that accompanied the creation of the Universe.

    • Rob

      I honestly hadn’t noticed that, but you’re right. It’s distracting. So I uploaded the 100 second file too and got rid of the SoundCloud version. Thanks for reading!

    • janniemk

      And my thanks to you for responding and for taking my opinion into consideration. Stranger Dimensions is a great site and I only wish I’d discovered it sooner!

  • SpaceyThings(NotKevin)

    Sounds like the people that made Space Invaders for Atari already had the sounds figured out!