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Sonification of simulations in Computational Physics

Authors Groß-Vogt, K.
Year 2010
Thesis Type Doctoral thesis
Topic Sonification
Abstract Sonification is the translation of information for auditory perception, excluding speech itself. The cognitive performance of pattern recognition is striking for sound, and has too long been disregarded by the scientific mainstream. Examples of ‘spontaneous sonification’ and systematic research for about 20 years have proven that sonification provides a valuable tool for the exploration of scientific data. The data in this thesis stem from computational physics, where numerical simulations are applied to problems in physics. Prominent examples are spin models and lattice quantum field theories. The corresponding data lend themselves very well to innovative display methods: they are structured on discrete lattices, often stochastic, high-dimensional and abstract, and they provide huge amounts of data. Furthermore, they have no inherently perceptual dimension. When designing the sonification of simulation data, one has to make decisions on three levels, both for the data and the sound model: the level of meaning (phenomenological; metaphoric); of structure (in time and space), and of elements (‘display units’ vs.‘gestalt units’). The design usually proceeds as a bottom-up or top- down process. This thesis provides a ‘toolbox’ for helping in these decisions. It describes tools that have proven particularly useful in the con- text of simulation data. An explicit method of top-down sonification design is the metaphoric sonification method, which is based on expert interviews. Furthermore, qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods are presented, on the basis of which a set of evaluation criteria is proposed. The translation between a scientific and the sound synthesis domain is elucidated by a sonification operator. For this formalization, a collection of notation modules is provided. Showcases are discussed in detail that have been developed in the interdisciplinary research projects SonEnvir and QCD-audio, during the second Science By Ear workshop and during a short- term research visit at CERN. They show diverse applications of sonification for data exploration.
Supervisors Höldrich, R., Gattringer, U.