CaltechLive! is excited to feature Caltech planetary science professor Konstantin Batygin in Out of the Lab, a new virtual series that highlights the talents of Caltech faculty and researchers who enjoy active lives in the performing and visual arts.
Hailed by Forbes as the “next physics rock star,” Batygin (MS ’10, PhD ’12) is also a prolific musician who, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, actively performed with his band, The Seventh Season.
Batygin speaks with Caltech public programming director Michael Alexander about how art shapes his life and research, and shares some of his past musical performances.
“It may seem very different on the surface but being a scientist and being a musician involves the same mental process,” says Batygin. “Coming up with an idea, then building it into a song, and then arranging that song—it has direct parallels with formulating a hypothesis, developing it through research, and turning it into something that can stand on its own.”
Batygin, along with fellow Caltech professor Mike Brown, is known for hypothesizing the existence of an as-yet-undiscovered ninth planet in the solar system. The final music video shared during the interview, Planet 9, is inspired by this research.
Planet 9 was composed by Miami Symphony Orchestra (MISO) conductor Eduardo Marturet with the intent that it be performed in space. In March of this year, the music video for Planet 9 was beamed to the International Space Station.
The piece made its terrestrial premiere pre-pandemic in 2019, with Batygin playing the electric guitar alongside MISO musicians live on stage. Despite being a veteran performer, it was the first time Batygin had played with a full orchestra.
“I never thought being a professor at Caltech would lead me to playing in the symphony,” he laughs. “In what other universe would I have wound up playing with the Miami Symphony?”
A live Q&A with Batygin follows the interview.
This virtual event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required.