Public Lecture: Sonifying the Cosmos - Dr Wanda Díaz-Merced

Dr Wanda Diaz-Merced on stage, giving a Ted talk.
Dr Wanda Diaz-Merced giving TED talk: How a blind astronomer found a way to hear the stars 2016
Wanda Diaz Merced
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Dr Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astronomer best known for using sonification to turn large data sets into audible sound. She worked on the technique after she lost her sight as an undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico. She received a doctorate from the University of Glasgow in 2013, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town. She works at the South African observatory’s Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD). She has led the OAD project AstroSense since April 2014. In 2016, she gave a TED Talk in Vancouver, BC, Canada. In 2017 she was awarded a Estrella Luike. She is currently a visitor at the University of Southampton, carrying out research on black holes and sonification.

Astronomy is undergoing a revolution driven by a surge in data gathering capabilities, but the field still remains heavily reliant on imaging and visual analysis tools. Multi-sensorial techniques remain largely untapped in this regard. The latter has served as motivation for the International Astronomical Union Inspiring Stars initiative to encourage for the field to address the mainstreaming of peoples of disabilities in the field.    'Sonification' is to convey information using mainly non-speech sound. Our research presents the use of sonification in order to enrich current visual analysis techniques. Astrophysics data sets acquired from the natural lab of the interstellar medium may contain events that may be masked by noise, fleeting, non persistent etc, making these difficult to identify. In this presentation we will present results of human centred experiments, exploration and characterization (heard events validation) of  data and its application as a possible tool, for astronomers to consider to analyse data sets. and a tool that promises to help widening the bandwidth and diversity of peoples contributing to the exploration of the cosmos. We will highlight the awareness efforts carried by the IAU towards disability egalitarian participation in astronomy.



Venue Address

The Royal Astronomical Society,Burlington House


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