Photo of the Week: The Look of the Sound of the Sea


This week's photo is an artistic visualization of a beluga whale's call collected in the Arctic by graduate student Josh Jones of the Scripps Whale Acoustics Lab, led by John Hildebrand.

Georgia Tech mechanical engineering student Nick Evans (formerly of San Diego) created the image as an experiment in converting spectrograms into three-dimensional renderings. He has been posting interpretations of these and other audio recordings on his website, starting with snippets from Rick & Morty, a show on the Cartoon Network.

"Upon showing this to my roommate and artistic partner-in-crime Charlie, we started to talk about how different sound-landscapes could be created by changing the colormap of the surface and zooming in to 'explore' the physical landscape created by the spectrogram," Evans writes. "By doing this very basically with one sound file and default colormaps, and capturing the result we were able to create some amazing patterns and layouts."

The spectrogram of the whale's call was shared with Nick by a member of Simone Baumann-Pickering's Scripps Acoustic Ecology Laboratory, which analyzes a variety of marine sounds to study a variety of ecological, behavioral, and biological questions.

"Because sound is a cetacean's primary mode of communicating and interpreting their environment, visualizing the sounds that they make, along with other sounds in the ocean, can give us insights into how these animals behave," writes Fairlie Reese, a bioinformatics major who works in Baumann's lab.

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Here's a second interpretation provided by Nick Evans.

Related Image Gallery: Photo of the Week 2017

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