EP 235 | William Chaplin

EP 235 | William Chaplin

Professor William Chaplin is a professor at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, and leads the Asteroseismology program of the NASA Kepler Mission.

We’re thrilled to have Professor William Chaplin on the podcast this week to look at audio from the fascinating perspective of someone who focuses on what could be loosely termed the sound of stars. We dive deep with him on some incredibly interesting topics like how sound works in space, how he’s able to measure the resonances of objects that are countless light years away, and how all of that can inform the way we think about sound here on earth.

“Think of the total energy bound up in the sound that’s contained in a star. It’s hugely, hugely, vastly bigger than the energy that you have tied up in someone playing a musical instrument. But it’s the same fundamentals, the same principles.” – William Chaplin


3:21 – What drove the professor to study sound in relation to objects in space

7:21 – The basics of exactly how we can measure the sound waves inside a star

11:59 – How light was used to read stars

13:10 – How to map an object or location that’s hundreds of light years away

18:18 – Parallels between sound on Earth and sound in space

20:17 – How the nature of sound changes under extreme conditions 

22:16 – How their work with stars helps them understand more about our own sun

25:24 – The professor’s thoughts on extraterrestrial life

28:09 – Our dependence on technology as a society

33:53 – How the professor got involved with NASA

40:54 – How the professor works with other members of their consortium, including some details on how they share data

51:07 -How to know when you’re approaching a dead end (and it may be time to simply start over)

55:45 – How they work with “fake data”

59:59 – Why so many critical scientific discoveries are essentially happy accidents

1:04:49 – Why the professors work can be its own artform at times

1:07:47 – How to find those “lightbulb moments”

1:14:47 – The professor’s thoughts on the fact that he won’t see the end of the work (since it could continue on for hundreds of years)

1:18:13 – The analytical tools and methods in the professor’s line of work that could be used to produce new kinds of sounds

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