Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The cosmos according to a plasma physicist

November 10, 2002|Mark Swed

"Sun Rings" collaborators Terry Riley, David Harrington and Willie Williams all describe Donald Gurnett as an amiable tour guide to the solar system. In fact, a visit to Gurnett's office can be exhilarating and start your head spinning from the implications that plasma physics and space sounds can have on life on Earth. Here are a few typical Gurnett observations:

"Worldwide, there are several hundred lightning flashes a second producing whistlers, and lucky for us these sound waves aren't in our atmosphere, or it would be really complicated to hear anybody talk."

"I call some space sounds musical, but that raises an interesting philosophical question: Does music have to be made by humans?"

"Think about how few natural sounds there are here on Earth. If you rule out animate objects, like birds and whales, what is left? Thunder, wind blowing through trees, the tones you can get from the tension on a wire or a telephone line, crashing ocean waves. That's about it. But space is just full of weird tones that come and go."

-- Mark Swed

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|