How music sounds with a hearing implant — listen below!

imageThe Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (by gichristof)

Ever wonder what the world sounds like with a hearing implant? At the moment, it’s not the best. One person describes it as hearing everything through a robot voice, and more complex sounds, like music, are almost impossible to comprehend.

Tone and timbre — what make music sound like music — get lost with a cochlear implant, a highly controversial, surgically-implanted device that allows the deaf and hard of hearing to experience sound. Without picking up on timbre, for example, you can’t distinguish the sounds of one instrument from another, so you can’t hear what’s a guitar and what’s a flute if they play the same note.

Now, two scientists are out to change that. A new electronic processing system for implants is currently being developed by electrical engineer Les Atlas and bioengineer Jay Rubinstein at the University of Washington (home to TEDx event TEDxUofW). This new system makes implants more sensitive to complicated sounds, a huge breakthrough that not only makes music sound better, but also helps users distinguish between sounds in a noisy room, which — right now — is really difficult to do with a cochlear implant.

Below — what a pretty famous song sounds like through a normal cochlear implant, thanks to Seattle radio station KPLU:

And now — the same song through Alas and Rubinstein’s new implant:

(If you didn’t pick up on it, that is “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel.)

While we’ve got you thinking about cochlear implants, you can learn more about their relationship with music in Charles Limb’s TEDMED talk on the subject. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you to check out Rachel Kolb’s inspiring TEDxStanford talk on deaf culture and advocacy in a world so often geared toward the hearing:: "Navigating deafness in a hearing world."

Discovered! A translucent snail living deep underground in Croatia
In Lukina Jama-Trojama, Croatia’s deepest cave and one of the 20 deepest cave systems in the world, scientists recently discovered a new species of snail: Zospeum tholussum. The Zospeum tholussum is tiny, fragile, and translucent, with a curvy, transparent shell to match.

"Only one living specimen was found," says a release about the discovery, first recorded in the journal Subterranean Biology, “…at the remarkable depth of 980 m, in an unnamed chamber full of rocks and sand and a small stream running through it.”

This snazzy new species is one of several species of snails that spend their days completely underground in the darkest dark, breathing air, yet unable to see. Zospeum are considered to be eutroglobionts, AKA exclusive cave-dwellers. So don’t expect to find one in your family’s garden.

To celebrate this discovery, a talk on snails and a talk on caves:

My life in caves: Andy Eavis at TEDxHull
Though not a discoverer of snails, TEDxHull speaker Andy Eavis has been exploring caves since he was 18. In this fascinating talk, he shares stories from his trips underground — with beautiful photos to boot.

What I’ve learned from snails: Panagiota Vlachou at TEDxAcademy
What can you learn from a plate of snails? A lot. At TEDxAcademy in Greece, heliciculturalist (now you know the technical term for snail farmer) Panagiota Vlachou explains how she came to farm snails, and how — for her — they became a symbol of economic recovery and even feminism. (Filmed in Greek with English subtitles)

(Photos: Top left, Croatian Speleological Server, Top right, Alexander M. Weigand; Bottom, Jana Bedek, HBSD)

Today in cool science news: Sounds from space! Voyager 1 leaves the solar system, sends back an eerie interstellar song

image(Photo: An artist’s rendering of the general locations of Voyager 1 and 2. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Many years ago, NASA’s Voyager 1 left Earth. And now, on a recent star trek, the craft departed our solar system, moved past cosmic purgatory (a real thing), entered interstellar space, and brought home supernatural sounds of the beyond (cue Twilight Zone music).

How did Voyager 1 hear this deep, dark area of space? Via plasma! While traveling through the space between the stars, Voyager 1 recorded vibrations made by the very, very dense plasma of interstellar space, and sent back to Earth the very first recordings of the sound caused by this über-dense ionized gas, which you can hear for yourself in the video below:

To celebrate this grand achievement. 2 TEDx Talks on the wonders of space exploration:

Tour the solar system from home: Jon Nguyen at TEDxSanDiego
Not all of us can board a spacecraft to tour the universe. At TEDxSanDiego, NASA engineer Jon Nguyen demos NASA’s "Eyes on the Solar System" software — a free-to-use program that allows users to navigate our solar system without ever having to leave home. Look out for a Voyager 1 cameo at the 5-minute mark.

A sense of place from space: Joseph P. Allen at TEDxSonomaCountry.
Ever want to know what it’s like to walk around in space? At TEDxSonomaCounty, astronaut Joseph Allen walks you through daily life on the International Space Station:

Crowdsourcing science: Can everyday citizens discover the secrets of the universe?

At TEDxCERN, a TEDx event held at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, scientist Chris Lintott introduced us to a bold new idea: crowdsourcing scientific discoveries.

Through his work with Zooniverse and Galaxy Zoo, Lintott has turned everyday citizens into scientists for dozens of cutting-edge projects — from galaxy mapping to planet hunting. Watch him explain the projects and see how you can become a volunteer:

How to discover a planet from your sofa: Chris Lintott at TEDxCERN

Now, following Lintott’s lead, some of CERN’s particle physicists have launched an exciting new project that allows anyone with a computer to experiment with antimatter, the strange twin of the matter that makes up our universe.

Here’s how this works: Scientists with the AEgIS experiment at CERN are preparing to do some crazy particle smashing. To be exact, they will “shoot antihydrogen atoms at ordinary matter, causing both to annihilate and produce a host of other particles,” says NewScientist.

The new particles will travel through liquid, creating tracks you can actually see. Scientists hope these tracks will reveal new facts about antimatter and antiparticles, like whether antimatter is affected by gravity in a different way than regular matter — facts that would answer a question like, "Would an antimatter apple fall up?"

But, these particle tracks need to be traced, and that is where you come in. AEgIS has created short animations that allow users to see and trace particle tracks during a particle annihilation. By picking out possible particle tracks, the crowd can help physicists design programs to analyze this new data.

Crowdsourcing expert Lintott said in an interview with NewScientist, “This is the first place I know of where particle physicists have turned round and said ‘actually, we do need humans.’”

To learn more about antimatter, check out this animation made for TEDxCERN by CERN scientist Rolf Landau and TED-Ed, and for more on the AEgIS experiment’s crowdsourcing project, visit its information page.