TED talk: How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars

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.

Dr Diaz is on her way to South Africa to begin a 3 year post doctoral research project at the OAD. She will be working on sonification techniques and analysis methods to impact the students of the Athlone School for the Blind. “Science is for everyone,” she says. “It has to be available to everyone, because we are all natural explorers.”


This talk was presented at an official TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, and is featured by TED on their home page