Radboud Sounds - Walter van Suijlekom
Radboud Sounds - Walter van Suijlekom

Drummed up for math

Imagine finding out the shape of an object, without looking or feeling it. Impossible? Not for mathematician Walter van Suijlekom. He beats large drums, and calculates the shape of each drum purely on the basis of the sound waves they produce. In other words, it’s possible to see with your ears. Come listen, and discover what sound waves can tell us and how this technique can be used for example to gather more knowledge about the universe.

21.55 - 22.10 | Rode Zaal


Each drum is unique and produces unique soundwaves. Most of us will hear the difference between a large timpani and a small drum: the former sounds much lower than the latter. But hearing the exact size and shape of a drum? Whether it’s round, oval or even square? That's a whole different story. Walter van Suijlekom investigated whether you can reconstruct the shape of an object by looking closely at soundwaves. It turns out, that it is possible! He will demonstrate this together with percussionists Niels Eijkemans and Werner van Weerenburg.

Drums and the universe

Listening to the shape of a drum may be fun, but is it useful? It is indeed. If we learn how to distinguish shapes through sound waves, we could open up a whole world of possibilities. Think of the waves picked up by large satellite dishes. Would these eventually enable astronomers to listen to the shape of the universe? Come and discover the story behind a timpani strike.

About the speaker

Walter van Suijlekom is professor of Noncommutative Geometry at the Institute for Mathematics, Astrophysics and Particle Physics at Radboud University. In his research he focuses on noncommutative geometry and its applications in particle physics. He is also a timpani player in the Nijmegen Symphony Orchestra, and this passion is reflected in his research.

Radboud Sounds

This program is part of Radboud Sounds. The festival where science meets music with lectures, dance, live music and more on Friday 12 May 2023 in Doornroosje, Nijmegen. Come and celebrate Radboud University’s 100th anniversary. Radboud University scientists from various disciplines shed their light on music and science. Come and listen, dance, enjoy and sharpen your mind on the effect of music. Compose your own program and see the world of music from a different viewpoint.

Contact information

Would you like to know more about the Radboud Sounds programme, or do you have other questions or comments? Please contact info [at] reflects.ru.nl.

Organizational unit
Radboud Reflects