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Supernova Early Warning System
Supernova Early Detection System


Last week Tim Maly tweeted, “I live in a world where I own a machine that chimes whenever a new planet is discovered.”

But how about a machine that alerts you to an impending supernova?

There's already the Supernova Early Warning System (SNEWS), a network of five subterranean neutrino observatories, two of which we've covered here before: Super-Kamiokande and the recently completed IceCube. Neutrinos are produced in huge quantities before a massive star explodes into a supernova, and are blasted out in advance of the visible light. Since these “ghost” particles travel very close to the speed of light, they can reach us hours before we see the explosion.

The proposal here, then, is to create an app that will vibrate mobile devices when SNEWS sends out a supernova alert. Fuck making the invisible hertzian rain visible. It's just the pitter-pattering of @justinbieber's followers. Physicalize and spatialize an interstellar neutrino super-hurricane instead. Tell us when trillions and trillions and trillions of neutrinos, birthed by one of the greatest shows in the universe, are passing through us, though very rarely, if ever, does even a single one of those particles hit an atom in our body. When telescopes finally see the star's spectacular death, we hear a melodic chime.
5 COMMENTS —
  • Marius
  • January 26, 2011 at 6:03:00 PM CST
  • [Liked]


  • Alexander Trevi
  • January 26, 2011 at 6:10:00 PM CST
  • Perhaps it's worth mentioning that trillions of neutrinos are already passing through our bodies every second. But most of those are from the sun, and are not the death pangs of distant star.


  • Daniela
  • January 29, 2011 at 4:17:00 PM CST
  • Every time a bell rings a supernova dies... kindof grim... but now I HAVE to KNOW!


  • @darren_cullen
  • February 6, 2011 at 9:57:00 AM CST
  • Great idea. But where do I get the exo-planet chime app from? Please drop me a line: @darren_cullen


  • Alexander Trevi
  • February 6, 2011 at 12:32:00 PM CST
  • @darren_cullen:

    I believe this is the app: http://exoplanet.hanno-rein.de/iphone/.

    Features include push notification: "Sign up for push notifications so that you don't miss any new discoveries. Your phone [also for iPad and iPod] will tell you when a new planet has been found!"


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