Comet Eavesdropping

A comet is recorded, a koan is clarified, a marketing campaign is muted.

A familiar koan was updated this past week. “In space,” we were told long ago thanks to promotions for the movie Alien, “no one can hear you scream” — that is, we’ve now learned, until that scream has its frequencies boosted “by a factor of 10,000.” That’s how, among countless other news organizations, characterized the marvel that was the (literally) otherworldly sound of the (figurative) song captured from a comet by the Philae lander. Nothing is going to shut up the commenters on, who seem to wait eagerly for a moment to point out the absurdity of sounds in outer space scenes in movies and on television, but nor is the Philae incident the first audio collected from space. Back in 2013, as the Voyager space probe was leaving our solar system, two bursts of sound were collected and shared by NASA, sounds that we used in a Disquiet Junto project. One funny thing that happened last week was that just as the entire planet was celebrating the act of listening to sounds from space, the DVD and Blu-Ray of the film Gravity were released with a “Silent Space” alternate version that removes all the sound from the outer-space sequences. A welcome edit, if one slightly marred by unfortunate timing.

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