Cell Sounds - Listening: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Jul 28, 2014
Scientist: Jim Gimzewski

Cell Sounds - Listening

Cell Sounds - Listening
What is the sound of one cell singing?

Cell Sounds - Listening

Music; Ambience: 86-degree yeast cell

JM: What's the smallest sound you can imagine? How about the sound of single cell? Oddly enough, it's anything but subtle. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Inside a living cell there's movement. And with the help of a sensitive instrument, it turns out it's possible to listen to the sound of a cell. Dr. Jim Gimzewski is a professor of Biochemistry at UCLA.

JG: "The device we use to detect the sound of the cells and the motion of the cells is called an atomic force microscope, but it's not a microscope. It's actually a sharp tip that we put on top of the cell and we pick up the motion a bit like you would pick up the motion in a gramophone, in the stylus of a gramophone would transduce motion into some signal that we can then amplify. We have an acoustically deadened room, like a sound studio. And then we just follow, follow the motion electronically. Record that. And then amplify it. We hear the sounds of a cell just in the way a rock band, you know, makes sounds for the audience. So, if you take an electric guitar and you pluck the string, you don't hear much. You put that through an amplifier, loud speakers and you can, you know, blast the audience away. So, essentially we are doing the identical thing, we just have an amplifier and a speaker. Instead of the guitar we have this device we call the atomic force microscope."

JM: Once he'd figured out how to "listen" to the cell, Gimzewski moved on to doing experiments to see if he could make the cell song change. We'll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.