You all remember the tagline from Alien, "In space, no one can hear you scream." While that was movie hype, it is actually an interesting question that a group of students are getting ready to explore. Can you hear a scream in space? Do you want to be part of the test to find out?
Students from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom are preparing to launch a smartphone into space loaded with human screams via a nanosatellite launching in December 2012. The plan is to play the screams at max volume while the phone is in low Earth orbit. The phone will simultaneously record the playback to see whether they can capture any sound of a scream in space.
Of course you want to know where you come in. The students need the best screams possible for the project so they are opening the job up to the public. All you need to do is submit your best scream via a YouTube video at least ten seconds long and send it to the Scream In Space website. You'd better hurry and get your best scream on though as entries close at midnight (UTC) on November 4, 2012.
Not up to screaming? You can still get in the game by voting on the best scream at the website and the top ten vote getters will be loaded to the space going phone.
Most of us would probably agree that finding out if you can scream in space is a cool enough experiment, but actually there is more to the project. The larger goal is to see whether a smartphone has the capability to control a satellite in space — the scream test was just one of the winning entries from a Facebook contest run by UK space company Surrey Satellite Technology to find apps to go into orbit.
The company's Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration team (STRaND) will use an Android phone and a computer built to test the stats on the phone. Once the data is in from the scream test and some of the other experiments the phone will perform, they will switch off the micro-computer and will attempt to use the smartphone to operate parts of the satellite while it orbits at roughly 248 miles above Earth. To give that some context, that ISS territory.
If the plan works, the company will proudly call the STRaND-1 the "World's first SmartPhone Nanosatellite."
As for the scream experiment, it sounds like the members of the Cambridge University Space Flight group (CUSF), the student group behind the project, are tempering their expectations. Edward Cunningham, a physics undergrad and member of the group has said:
"Obviously, we're not expecting to get much back, there may be some buzzing but this is more about getting young people interested in satellites and acoustics, perhaps encouraging them to consider future study in science or engineering"
Let's evaluate. If I were a student this project would definitely get me more interested in science and space. Finding out whether you can control a satellite via a smartphone sounds like valuable research that could have some interesting applications in the future.
I'm going to go out on a limb though, and say I'm going to be following this project hoping to hear some really blood-curdling screams beaming back to Earth. After all, hearing those screams could come in handy if we come up against some angry aliens as we start stepping out and colonising places like Mars and beyond.