Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Whales sing at the same frequencies as stars... when you know that, you realise that the universe we live in is integrated and interconnected. It isn't a space of disconnections and dislocations, but instead it is one where we constantly discover and explore what it truly means to be part of a connected world. Social networks and media technology are mere mimicry of what already exists in the world. That's what the whale song reminds us. Let alone the giant neutrino telescopes on the sea bed which are now enabling us to eavesdrop on the sounds of the deep ocean.

Go to the LIDO (Listen to the Deep Ocean) site - - and the whole soundscape of the ocean is yours at home right now. The ocean is as close as your breath. The sound is next to the beat of your heart. There are charts which tell you what you are listening to at any one given moment, so you can identify what you eavesdrop on. Who knows, it could be one of the sperm whales in the mediterranean which the LIDO network of seafloor observatories were the first to discover were there.

This act of listening to the deep blue is an illicit pleasure. Somehow the sounds of the oceans are more radically mysterious to us in this visually dominated age saturated by underwater footage which has probed the mysteries of the big blue that it mainlines into our consciousness. It's like having a shot of adrenalin fuelled by imagination. And this is all thanks to those giant eyes - the neutrino telescopes - on the ocean beds around France, Italy and Greece which were made with the purpose of detecting the cosmic rays which fall from outer space, but which now have ironically become great ears as well. Keep your eyes and ears open.

It seems that particle physics is on a mission to replicate our sensory organs - making them bigger and better, in order to fully comprehend Nature in all its monumental grandeur. The detectors used in particle physics at CERN and Fermilab in the USA are nothing but giant eyes enabling us to see the invisible. Stare at them when they are unpeeled, and even then their resemblance to the iris of an eye is astounding. The cosmic ray neutrino telescopes are giant ears of the deep oceans. And so LIDO was born...through the accident of discovering that as well as detecting the cosmic rays falling down to earth from deep space above, they could also detect the sounds of deep space below.

But that's not all. The LIDO network is also a way of us monitoring the movement of the earth itself - earthquakes seismic shifts, tsuanamis - as well as bioacoustics and anthropogenic noise which are normally inaudible to the human ear. These telescopes are the ultimate guardians planted in the sea like in a Greek myth, monitoring sounds, movements and sights in the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent Atlantic waters.

And so, we can keep watchful and earful guard on the planet we live on. Thanks to them, we have the ocean on our sitting room floor and encounter a whale as we read in the bath. Time and space - the great dimensions of our world - have been superseded by new technology so that nothing now is impossible - because our imaginations then can take us the ultimate distance. But the question is, will we ever run out of mystery? And if we do, what will our lives be without discovery? Could we live our lives without it? The eyes and ears have it.

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