Weapons of Musical Destruction

The principle of Data Sonification involves taking non-audio information and presenting that data back in an audible format. Generally, that mode of translating data into a “musical” state requires that the user make certain decisions about what and how to sonify—whether basing the algorithm on value, brightness, distance, colour, and so forth.

In Stellar Sonification, you take this idea and apply it to space. A visualization researcher from the Center for Astrophysics at the Harvard & Smithsonian worked with a team of scientists and sound engineers from NASA to do just that.

The distant light or presence of nebulae, stellar clusters, supernova remnants, or even a galaxy cluster presents as sound. The concept, in some measure, supported the means to experience the vastness of space without sight—or, at least, without sight alone. However, the process had found value beyond accessibility.

Consider, however, the possibility that the business of transforming stellar backgrounds into audible content might provide a platform for weaponisation. Might an impossible distant alien civilisation, for example, communicate through the medium of light and position in a way that allows them to feed intelligent species the equivalent of malware, rogue code that, once unlocked, might spell the doom of those who have deciphered the message?

To take it a step further, might a powerful, distant species engineer the location and spectrum of stars purely to serve as a platform for focused intergalactic warfare? Imagine a race of alien engineers with the tools at their command to cool or superheat stars or warp the local gravitational fabric to modify stellar pulsing or location, allowing them to spell messages of doom in the starscape accessible solely to intelligent lifeforms in specific areas of the Universe.

If they occupied a specific vantage point, might that message be visible over many light-years of space with sufficient clarity to target millions or billions of planetary systems? The action of creating the message alone might destroy whole worlds or terminally disrupt entire star systems. Then, once prepared, the message would trickle out across the void, a fiendish conundrum to challenge higher brain functioning species and ultimately lead them down a road to melodious self-destruction.

Can you hear “the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes” issuing forth from the “nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity1“?

1 H P Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

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