Tag Archives: vinyl

This vinyl playing under an electron microscope is mesmerizing

Vinyl just sounds better, doesn’t it? It’s as if all the scratches and tiny imperfections in the recording work to make the sound perfect.

But how exactly does it work? How do you get sound from a piece of grooved plastic? Well, let’s start with this image tweeted by Vinyl Loop.

That huge spike you see in the picture is the player’s needle, magnified 1000 times. The groves are analog representations of sound vibrations, etched into the record. As the table turns, the needle follows the grove and moves on two axis — up and down, left and right.

The needle’s arm is attatched either to a piezoelectrical crystal or a series of small magnets placed near a coil. The arm moves the two magnets relative to the coil, generating small electrical currents which are picked up, amplified, and turned into sound — Andrei covered this in more detail here. The scratch sounds you sometimes hear on a vynil are either particles of dust cought in the grove — that needle up there is only about 1-2 mm thick — or actual scratches on the grove.

And now, through the wonder of modern technology, you can see how vynil stores sound in this video Applied Science put together of a record under the electron microscope. It’s a really nice video, but skip to ~4:25 if you’re only interested in seeing the groovy action. Enjoy!


The Golden Records re-created for Voyager’s 40th anniversary

A new Kickstarter campaign plans to bring the golden records to the public.

Image credits Ozma Records.

Image credits Ozma Records.

Some 40 years ago, NASA was launching two daring spacecraft to boldly go where no man has reached — deep space. These were the Voyager probes, and each of them was given a golden-plated copper record with greetings from Earth for any alien species they might encounter. Ten copies of the golden records were made before launch, most of them being on display in various NASA facilities.

So, needless to say, they’re exceedingly hard to get your hands on. Even Carl Sagan, who led the golden record project, couldn’t get a copy.

But now, in anticipation of the 40th anniversary of Voyager launches (which took place on 5 September/20 August 1997,) David Pescovitz from the website Boing Boing and Institute for the Future, Timothy Daly of Amoeba Music, and designer Lawrence Azerrad have joined forces to create near-exact replicas of the records. They’ve put together a Kickstarter campaign which will be open until Oct. 21st. It has already passed it’s goal by a lot, however, showing people are willing to shell out a lot of cash for a piece of scientific history. Twenty percent of the net proceeds will be donated to the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell Uni.

The original records were adorned with images showing the human race and explaining the crafts’ origin. They had 27 musical tracks from around the world grooved into their surface, the work of artists ranging from Beethoven to Chuck Berry along with greetings recorded in 55 different languages and natural sounds — thunderstorms, volcanoes, a baby crying, and several animal calls.

For a $98 pledge, you’ll receive three translucent gold vinyl LPs, a hardbound book, a digital download card for all the audio and a lithograph of the iconic Voyager Golden Record cover diagram. Various other themed gifts are available for donations of $10 and up. The records are expected to ship in August 2017.

The Voyagers will continue on their trek in the meantime, taking the records farther and farther from Earth. Voyager 1 left the solar system and entered interstellar space in 2014. Voyager 2 has not yet made it to interstellar space and is still exploring the outskirts of the solar system.

Hopefully, one day some friendly neighbors will bring our far-flung records back.

Music company just played a vinyl record 28,000 meters above the Earth

Third Man Records, founded by famous musician Jack White has just become the first company to ever play a vinyl record, on a turntable, in space. The 80-minute long recording, consisting of a mix of composer John Boswell’s A Glorious Dawn and audio clips of Carl Sagan, was sent to space using a high-altitude balloon.

Image via officialTMR

Image via officialTMR

“Our main goal from inception to completion of this project was to inject imagination and inspiration into the daily discourse of music and vinyl lovers,” White told The Guardian.

“We hope that in meeting our goal we inspire others to dream big and start their own missions, whatever they may be.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve sent a record to space — that distinction belongs to the 1977 Voyager mission. But those records are meant for another, more alien, audience. Really, it’s meant for aliens. This is the first time we’ve sent vinyls to space for no other reason than to play them.

Now, turntables aren’t made to survive in the harshness of space — surprising, I know. So White and his colleagues had to find a special container that could protect it and the record on their adventure. They turned to Kevin Carrico, and engineer whose father worked on NASA’s Viking missions.

Carrico spent the past three years designing the Icarus Craft, a container designed to carry a gold-covered vinyl record to the outer limit of the Earth’s atmosphere using a high-altitude balloon. Gold was used to keep the record cool, as Carrico explains:

“As you rise higher and higher into the thinning atmosphere, temperature and increasing vacuum (lack of air) can cause issues,” Carrico said.

“Vinyl has a rather low melting point (71°C/160°F) and without air to keep things cool, you could wind up with a lump of melted plastic on your hands if a record is exposed to the sun for too long.”

The record played for 80 minutes, after which the Icarus eventually crashed in a vineyard. The team reports that the record was still spinning when they finally recovered it.

“Once the return to Earth began (with the craft attached to a parachute and falling about 4x faster than it rose), the turntable automatically went into ‘turbulence mode’, where the record continued to spin, but the tone arm was triggered to lift from the record surface and stay in its locked position, to protect both the needle and the record itself,” the team says on their YouTube Channel.

“When Icarus reached the ground – a vineyard, to be exact – the record still spun, unfazed by its incredible journey.”

You see the vinyl’s journey and its historic playback in this video Third Man Records put together:

Watch a vinyl and stylus at 1000x magnification

If you’re a music connoisseur, then the vinyl probably has few secrets for you. But even if you’ve spent countless afternoons enjoying the delightful tunes, you haven’t probably looked at the vinyl and stylus through a microscope. Here’s a neat view of just that – a stylus going on a vinyl magnified a thousand times.

Image credits: Microscopic Things/Youtube.

The image is so zoomed in that you can actually see how the etched grooves interact with the needle. In case you don’t know how this technology works, it’s extremely ingenious. A typical record player has a stylus that bumps depending on the shape of the groove of a vinyl (plastic) disc. The stylus is actually tiny crystal of sapphire or diamond mounted at the very end of a lightweight metal bar. As the crystal vibrates in the groove, its microscopic bounces are transmitted down the bar. The stylus also features a piezoelectric crystal at the other end of the bar. As the vibrations are transmitted, the metal bar presses against the crystal and, each time it moves, it wobbles the crystal slightly, generating an electrical signal. These signals are fed out to the amplifier to make the sounds you hear through your speakers or phones.

Image credits: Microscopic Things/Youtube.

Below, you can see a record being played under a microscope, with no sound though:

Image source: A Twitter account which only posts Microscopic Images.