Scientix- astroEDU-Music and Nature
If you close your eyes, you can travel in music, it can instantly make you see with your brain a forest, a spring, the roaring rain, the sound of thunder.
We must return to the music of nature, to the silence interrupted by a chirp or the wind, all of which is environment and nature is also universal music. These sounds, known as white noise, are also reproduced in devices that technologically imitate the sounds of nature, with the aim of promoting sleep in babies and alleviating stress.
Since time immemorial, astronomical images have inspired people to create a type of music that can properly be called ‘Astromusic’. A wonderful experience for young learners can be found among the resources of the Scientix project in the astroEDU project where astronomy, physics, space exploration and music become one at the same time engaging and futuristic.
This activity has been designed for use by both music and science teachers. It starts from the premise that improvisation is the art of creating music without musical scores (e.g. writing music on the fly). The added value of improvisation is that creativity flows undisturbed and the result is unique, open and not at all predictable. In addition, there is no such thing as an error during improvisation, which helps to lower the emotional filter, particularly in teenagers.
Involving students in musical improvisation develops self-esteem and an awareness of error as a fundamental aspect of discovery and research.
Students view astronomical images that become stimuli for creating short musical improvisations (15-30 seconds). Then they describe how the music they have created relates to the image. They explore different ways of using sound to represent what they see.
For students with little or no musical background, percussion instruments (drums, shakers, etc.) are best. However, it is not essential to own a musical instrument, any object that can produce sound is fine.
Students make their own amplifier.
iSTEM, where the ‘i’ stands for interaction, interdisciplinary, ingenious, interesting and inclusive.
This project is multidisciplinary with a one-year STEM-x basis. Using various tools and methodologies typical of innovative education, including CBL, students are initially guided in exploring the properties of sound, and subsequently also explore their own auditory spectrum. A further aim of the project is to learn when and how to protect themselves from sound. During the research activities, the field of analysis is gradually widened until they discover the connection between what they are studying and the sound of their own mobile phone.
Once the scientific background has been consolidated, students are encouraged to choose a customised amplification system for their mobile phone: they can turn their mobile phone into a mechanical sound box, an external speaker or a musical instrument.
The documentation and project steps can be downloaded as a zip file, in Dutch language, from the iSTEM project website “https://istem.be/.”
Scientix-Music, physics and fun
Peeking into the Scientix resources we discover that it is possible to mix music & physics & fun. The first simple experiment, one of the most popular but still fascinating for students, is to take as many glasses as there are musical notes. The glasses, which should preferably be of different shapes, are then filled with water of different levels and tested with the pupils. The notes needed to ‘set the tone’ for a fantastic concert can then be created.
This experiment is intended to explain in an engaging way the characteristics of sound, how to combine music with physics and to make concepts such as frequency, density and oscillation width understood in a fun way.
Music in science or science in music? DNA dance
Another fascinating field of investigation is that which directly concerns the human body. The body, also, has its own music. A veritable ‘music of life’ is produced by the vibrations of proteins that modulate their movements like violin strings. It is thanks to these movements that proteins can rapidly change shape to bind to other proteins and allow vital body functions such as respiration and DNA duplication to take place.
In a study published in Nature Communications conducted by a team of researchers led by Andrea Markelz of the University of Buffalo, New York, the researchers were able to observe, for the first time in detail, the vibrations of lysozyme, an antibacterial protein. They discovered that the vibrations, previously thought to decrease rapidly, actually persist in the molecules like the sound of a bell.
These tiny movements underpin processes necessary for our bodies to perform critical biological functions such as absorbing oxygen, repairing other cells and replicating the genetic code. The discovery of this ‘music of life’ was first made in 1922 by Alexander Fleming, the biologist who synthesised penicillin.
DNA dance & protein synthesis
Music, science and dance
Starting from a similarity between the sequence of musical notes and the sequence of amino acids, a collaborative choreographic experience can be proposed to the students: it is necessary to know (even briefly) about protein synthesis, the structure of nucleic acids and amino acids and to have a musician who can transform the sequences of amino acids into musical intervals and a group ready to experiment.
Teachers and/or pupils dance to the sound of music and transform nitrogenous bases into proteins.
A test of this experiment was conducted in Brussels during the 2018 SCIENTIX International Conference. The conference was well organised, and included colleagues from all over Europe and several countries outside Europe. Each presented a laboratory, a new experience. This lab was entitled “DNA Dance…” The title was strange, the theme was familiar.
The dance mimicked the transformations (transcription and translation) that take place during protein synthesis in which, for example, the amino acid arginine is encoded by the nucleotide triplets CGG, CGA, CGT and CGC.
In biology, transcription is the process by which the information contained in DNA is enzymatically transcribed into a complementary RNA molecule. It is the transfer of genetic information from DNA to RNA. Translation (protein synthesis) is a biological process by which messenger RNA (mRNA), produced during transcription, is translated into polypeptide chains (proteins).
The experiment – The teacher who led the workshop and the musician were South American and used a stringed instrument such as a guitar or mandolin. The participants were divided into three groups: one group had to simulate DNA, the second RNA m, and the third proteins.
The teachers, lined up facing each other, represented the nitrogenous bases, some were Adenine, others Cytosine, Thymine and Guanine. C. Cossu was an Adenine and in front of him was his colleague Thymine, which in nature represents its complementary, their elongated arms representing hydrogen bonds. This formed the double strand of DNA in which the sequence of nitrogenous bases corresponds to the protein to be encoded.
The music starts, rhythmic, identical to itself. The double helix of DNA begins to separate, the teachers let go of the hands of their colleagues opposite and open up into two single rows (single DNA chains). The second group comes into action, no longer a spectator, colleagues from group 2 go to meet those from group 1 respecting complementarity. In front of the Arginine the colleague Uracyl is brought and so on until a new row is formed that becomes the RNA m (Transcription). The music becomes more rhythmic. The RNA teachers organise themselves into groups of 3 (the triplets) and the amino acid colleagues identify the various triplets, give each other a hand (peptide bonds) and form a protein chain (Translation).
The experience was preceded by a descriptive card and badge identifying each participant’s role (nitrogen base/amino acid) and name (Adenine/Arginine). Some lecturers played more than one role.
There are many amazing ideas such as DNA Dance