Wanda Diaz Merced

Sonic astrophysicist
While searching for ways to study stellar radiation without relying on sight, Wanda Diaz Merced has developed a way to represent complex data about our universe as sound.

Why you should listen

When Wanda Diaz Merced lost her sight in her early 20s, her dreams of studying stars in the visually oriented scientific world suffered a major setback -- until she discovered “sonification,” a way to turn huge data sets into audible sound using pitch, duration and other properties. Merced realized that she could use her ears to detect patterns in stellar radio data, and could uncover connections obscured by graphs and visual representation.

While working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Merced’s sonifications inspired musician and researcher Gerhard Sonnert to create X-Ray Hydra, an album of oddly jazzy music based on her audio representations.

What others say

“For most people, the study of astrophysics means poring over calculations, charts, texts and graphics. But Wanda Diaz-Merced [and her collaborators] have pioneered a different approach. Its underlying motif is simple: Space produces music.” — Smithsonian, May 31, 2013

Wanda Diaz Merced’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Wanda Diaz Merced

In Brief

What does an eclipse sound like? Plus: Progress in the fight against anonymous companies, life after prison, and much more

August 18, 2017

As usual, the TED community has lots of news to share this week. Below, some highlights. Hearing and feeling an eclipse. An eclipse is a visual phenomenon, difficult to describe, but what if you can’t see it for yourself? Dr. Henry Winter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics partnered with The National Center for Accessible […]

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