Gas Music From Jupiter

Copyright 1994, 1995, 2002 Jed Margolin All Rights Reserved

        Jupiter is the largest  planet in the solar system and is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium gas. The orbital resonances with its sixteen moons produce some startling effects, most notably the active volcanoes of lo and the active ice flows of Europa. It also keeps Europa's ocean of liquid water from freezing.

        Gas Music From Jupiter is an interpretation of these resonances. The User selects a combination of the sixteen switches (one for each moon) and the unit plays a tune that evolves for a period of time before returning to its original starting point.

        With sixteen switches there may be as many as 65,536 different tunes. Are there really that many? I don't know. If you spend one hour a day playing tunes, and play each tune for three minutes, it would take 8.97 years to listen to them all. So far, I have listened to perhaps 80 tunes. My current favorite is 1111 0000 0000 1111, left to right, ($F00F in hexadecimal).  (By the way, `1' is with the switch in the Up position, `0' is with the switch in the Down position.)

        Each time you try a different combination of switches you may be hearing a tune that no one has ever heard before.

        Some tunes are more interesting than others. (OK, some are boring.) Some tunes start out being not very interesting, but after a few minutes evolve into something very nice.

        How are the tunes produced? The tunes are produced by an old family algorithm that has been handed down from generation to generation. In other words, it's a secret.

        What are the chances that there are combinations of switches that will produce recognizable tunes like "Stairway to Heaven" or  "Yes, We Have No Bananas"? If there are any recognizable tunes it may say something about the nature of probability or it may say something about how the human mind creates music that it finds pleasing.

        If you do find any recognizable tunes or have any questions or comments about Gas Music From Jupiter:

You may send email here

        And when you find a tune you like, make a note of it. Otherwise you could end up spending the next 9 years trying to find it again.

        The name Gas Music From Jupiter  comes from the Firesign Theater album Everything You Know Is Wrong, issued in 1974. At the beginning of the album Happy Harry Cox mentions that the record album of Gas Music From Jupiter is now available. (Both the character and the record album are fictitious.)

        Happy Harry Cox does a program exploring the strange and the unusual. He is especially interested in extraterrestrials and deep holes in the ground. And he broadcasts from his trailer. Hmmm, that sounds familiar. (Check out .)

        Everything You Know Is Wrong appears to be available on CD through the Firesign Theater Web site at .  The material has held up remarkably well over the years.

        My version of Gas Music From Jupiter runs on a PC under Windows. (I have run it successfully with Windows 95 and Windows 98SE. I don't know if it will run on other versions.) It uses the Windows midi synthesizer and has two user-selectable voices. Each voice can be any of the 128 standard midi instruments.

        I wrote the program using Microsoft Visual C++ and started by using the wizard to create a typical "Hello World" application. After that I added my own code.

        The terms under which I am making the program available for download are that individuals may make copies for their own use, but any commercial use requires the permission of the copyright holder. (That's me.)

        I suggest you download it only from my Web site. That is the best way to avoid worms and viruses. Winzip should report  Size 40,960   Packed 14,575 and CRC 479f2ff2. If I update the program I will update this page with the new values.

        Here is Gas Music From Jupiter Version 1.0:

Jed Margolin
San Jose, CA
August 1, 2002

Further Information

A. Jupiter

        Jupiter is the fifth planet in our solar system. It has an average distance from the sun of 480 million miles (or 5 A.U.) and is larger than all the other planets combined. It also has the strongest magnetic field of all the planets, extending out to ten times the planet's radius. Jupiter has an equatorial diameter of 88,000 miles and its mass is 318 times that of the Earth or about 0.1 percent that of the Sun. Most of this mass is hydrogen and helium; if Jupiter had been 10 times more massive its internal temperature might have been high enough to trigger nuclear fusion and our solar system would have had two suns.   (The picture is courtesy of NASA.)

        Jupiter orbits the sun in 12 Earth years; a Jupiter day is only 10 Earth hours long. This is amazing considering the size of the planet, and it produces very interesting weather in the atmosphere which is mostly methane and ammonia. The current weather report for Jupiter includes a large hurricane in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the famous Great Red Spot. It is about the size of the Earth and has been going on for at least the past 300 years.

B. The Moons of Jupiter

        Jupiter has 16 moons, although there are so many small bodies orbiting Jupiter that it can be hard to decide what is a moon and what is just a small rock. (As far as I know, no motherships have been detected as of yet.)

        The four largest moons are called the Galilean satellites in honor of Galileo, who discovered them. These are lo, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

        Io (2,255 miles in diameter) is made of rock and is the only body in the solar system other than Earth to have active volcanoes.

        Europa (1,950 miles in diameter) is also made of rock but contains water ice in the form of active ice flows.  Underneath is almost certainly an ocean of liquid water. This theory was first put forth by Richard C. Hoagland in an article in Star & Sky magazine in March 1979.  It has taken NASA 23 years to come to the same conclusion. Perhaps one day NASA will do Mr. Hoagland the courtesy of giving him credit for it. (See  Richard Hoagland was also right about the water on Mars. (If you are interested in Mars see the home page of The Enterprise Mission at

        Ganymede (3,273 miles in diameter) is cold and geologically inactive, and is thought to be composed of a rocky core with a water/ice mantle and a crust of rock and ice. (See .)

        Callisto (2,986 miles in diameter) was also thought to be cold and geologically inactive but now NASA thinks it may have a saltwater ocean beneath its icy surface. (See

        Note, by way of comparison, that the Earth is 7,973 miles in diameter, the Moon is 2,160 miles in diameter , and Mars is 4,220 miles in diameter. This means Ganymede is 3/4 the size of Mars.

        Jupiter's remaining moons are Metis, Adrastea, Amalthea, and Thebes (the inner moons, which range from 12 to 117 miles in diameter) and  Leda, Himalia, Lysithea, Elara, Ananke, Carme, Pasiphae, and Sinope (the outer moons, about which even less is known).

        NASA's Web site for the Galileo Project is: .

C. Music of the Spheres

        Pythagoras (582 - 507 B.C.) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and mathematician who founded a school in southern Italy. He and his followers (the Pythagoreans) are best known for two teachings: the transmigration of the soul and the theory that numbers constitute the true nature of things. They made important contributions to medicine and astronomy and were the first to teach that the Earth was a spherical planet revolving around a fixed point.

        As a mathematician Pythagoras proved what is still known today as the Pythagorean theorem which states that in a right-angled triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

        As a philosopher, Pythagoras developed the theory which pictured a series of concentric spheres, in which each of the seven moving objects (which at that time consisted of the planets, the sun, and the moon) was carried by a separate sphere from the one that carried the stars, so that the motions of the planets resulted from independent rotations of the different spheres about the Earth. The friction between them gave rise to harmonious sounds, the `Music of the Spheres', which only the most gifted ear could hear.

        Can you hear them?