Skip to Content

Listening to the Data

November 1, 2003

As any music lover knows, the human ear is adept at picking out subtle patterns. And the growing power of computers to translate almost any kind of information into variations in pitch, rhythm, or volume is boosting the field of sonification, the representation of data as sound. From sounding out variations on a pathologist’s tissue section slide to flagging suspicious travel activity, sonification has the potential to help scientists, doctors, and analysts spot trends and trouble spots.

Ronald Coifman, a mathematician at Yale University, and Jonathan Berger, a composer at Stanford University, have developed software that transforms light reflected off colon cells under a microscope into pulsating sounds. Under one setting, cancerous cells are louder than healthy ones. Coifman and Berger’s study is mainly aimed at discovering which sound patterns are most effective at conveying complex data, which Coifman says they and other researchers will achieve in two years.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station
Workers disinfect the street outside Shijiazhuang Railway Station

Why China is still obsessed with disinfecting everything

Most public health bodies dealing with covid have long since moved on from the idea of surface transmission. China’s didn’t—and that helps it control the narrative about the disease’s origins and danger.

crypto winter concept
crypto winter concept

Crypto is weathering a bitter storm. Some still hold on for dear life.

When a cryptocurrency’s value is theoretical, what happens if people quit believing?

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.