Black Holes Collide WITH.IN VR

The first documentary series ever filmed in virtual reality includes one episode about the sounds the universe makes. It takes place at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); it shows the main LIGO laser and interviews astrophysicists who contributed to the seminal discovery which LIGO made. In 2016, LIGO recorded the sound of two black holes colliding at the velocity of light. It was heard as a “chirp”. The discovery proved Albert Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves.

The documentary series is called THE POSSIBLE, and the eight-minute documentary about LIGO is called LISTENING TO THE UNIVERSE. The series is created by Chris Milk and Aaron Koblin’s California-based production company, with support from General Electric. The LIGO episode received $125,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; this is the Foundation's first grant for a VR project. LISTENING TO THE UNIVERSE is created by Justin Denton and Ari Palitz; producer June Cohen helped to spearhead its development.

The web-version of the documentary has a 360-degree view. Within a virtual reality headset, a cell phone can stream the documentary and head movements move the camera. Cell phone viewers can stream the video, and moving the phone moves the camera up, down, or to the periphery. It is best viewed via the app.

For more about LIGO, listen to astrophysicist Janna Levin speak about her book Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space with Science Friday host Ira Flatow.