Sounds Science: Research Results For The Visually Challenged

While I’ve written before about conversions of research data into sound, I never addressed what would seem to be an obvious application – assisting the visually impaired in ‘reading’ the data.  Chemical and Engineering News has a summary of a recent article in Journal of Chemical Education about converting infrared data into sound data.  By converting this data into the MIDI format, you can hear the spectra of various compounds.  There is some retraining involved, but a group of visually impaired students was able to distinguish specific groups within the spectra sounds.

This example of sound data is more literal.  While space is not conducive to hearing sound, there are still radio waves.  NASA collects radio waves on its instruments, and has converted many of them into sound files.  You can hear some of them on the NASA website.  NASA also has many sound files from its missions, instruments and launch vehicles.

The radio station affiliated with NASA is more a promotional tool than a research apparatus.  Depending on what you think of the playlist, that may or may not be a problem.