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    Twinkle, twinkle, little bitcoin

    With the trial involving the black market website Silk Road underway, you may be hearing a lot about the shady-seeming digital currency known as bitcoin. Its value soars; its value plunges. Its origins in the high-powered computers of a scattered population of bitcoin “miners” has the feel of an elaborate fiction. And its anonymous, unstable nature can make getting your mind around it rather like studying a handful of water.

    But if the prognosticating and bickering over bitcoin is enough to eclipse its promise (and there are some fascinating possibilities in the notion of a decentralized currency), there is a better (and more soothing) way for you to tune in to this burgeoning economy.

    BitListen is an online bitcoin visualizer created by interactive designer Maximillian Laumeister that tracks real-time bitcoin usage and translates it into something like a data-driven wind chime. As individual bitcoin transactions enter the “blockchain” (bitcoin’s master ledger), they emerge as a field of twinkling, ascendant bubbles, each scaled in pitch and size to the amount of bitcoin spent.

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    Its music is random, searching, sparse, but constant. Even if the details and the logic of bitcoin continue to elude you, BitListen tells the tale of a powerful force still pulling itself together. Or it’s just something pretty to listen to while you clean the house. Pro tip: For an extra robust experience, open a second browser tab to the slightly busier knockoff, “Listen to Wikipedia.” (And don’t actually listen to Wikipedia.)

    MICHAEL ANDOR BRODEUR

    Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at mbrodeur@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.