I have to admit that I'd never thought about this one before. We love listening to our favorite artists here on Earth, but what would, say, Fleetwood Mac sound like on Mars (prior to Mick Fleetwood's head exploding ala "Total Recall")? After all, we're dealing with different atmospheric temperatures, densities and pressures. Nothing would be quite the same.
As it turns out, Physicist Andi Petculescu and acoustics Professor Tim Leighton have already done just about everything short of actually blasting pipe organs into space. Eager to know the sounds of other worlds, the duo used existing atmospheric data to create a computer model of how the atmospheres on Mars, Venus and the Saturn's moon Titan. Then they took earth recordings of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" and engineered the audio to correspond with the fluid dynamics of an alien world.
Linked from Petculescu's website on the project, here are the MP3s for Earth, Titan, Venus and Mars. Oh, and Public Radio International did a short audio story on the subject back in 2008, which you can listen to right here. Here's what Leighton had to say about it all:
"The atmosphere on Venus shifts the pitch up dramatically (from D Minor to F Minor), making the children sound like Smurfs, while the atmospheres of Mars and Titan transpose the music down (to keys of G-sharp minor and F-sharp minor, respectively), transforming my ten-year old daughter's voice to that of a large adult. However, while the sound on Titan carries even better than it does on Earth, on Mars the atmosphere absorbs the sound so much that almost nothing is audible when you are only 20 meters from the organ. The calculations indicate what the instrument would sound like at various locations in open - ‘air' - concert halls on the various planets. One thing's for sure - you wouldn't sell many tickets on Mars!"
Why does any of this matter? Because the more we understand the acoustic characteristics of other worlds, the better we'll be able to build microphones to sample their sounds. And the more we know about those extraterrestrial acoustics, the more the better we'll be able to analyze them and learn about those environments.
About that photo: Quite unrelated to this post, but too cosmic to turn down. The North Christian Church in Columbus, IN was the last building designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1964. The hexagonal building features a sloping roof and a Holtkamp organ with 2,342 pipes, one of the last designs of Walter Holtkamp. (Cathlyn Melloan /PhotoDisc/Getty Images)
Originally posted at HSW: Space Music: This is the Sound of Pipe Organs on Mars
Robert Lamb also co-hosts the "Stuff to Blow Your Mind" podcast and blog.
Skull still intact? Follow Stuff to Blow Your Mind on Twitter and Facebook.