Tag: acoustics

What Did Australopithecines Sound Like? More "Duh" Than "Ugg"

By Valerie Ross | November 28, 2011 5:31 pm


Artist’s rendering of an Australopithecus afarensis

When archaeologists hear whispers of humanity’s past, it’s through the painstaking work of piecing together a story from artifacts and fossilized remains: The actual calls, grunts, and other sounds made by our evolutionary ancestors didn’t fossilize. But working backward from clues in ancient skeletons, Dutch researcher Bart de Boer has built plastic models of an early hominin‘s vocal tract—and, by running air through the models, recreated the sounds our ancestors may have made millions of years ago.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Physics & Math

Acoustical Archaeologists Solve the Mystery of the Doge's Stereo System

By Veronique Greenwood | November 3, 2011 12:25 pm

church
Saint Mark’s basilica was where many Venetian polyphonic works had their debut performances, but the reverb presented a puzzle for historians.

Ah, the Renaissance—lots of deep thinkers, gorgeous art, busty maidens, fried dough on a stick (if Ren faires are to be believed), and the liveliest music this side of the Middle Ages. But when you compare the elaborate, up-tempo harmonies of late Renaissance polyphony to the churches where they would have been performed, a serious discrepancy pops up. Giant Renaissance churches like Saint Mark’s basilica and the Redentore, both in Venice, have way too long of a reverberation time for those tunes to sound good. It takes a full 7 seconds for a note to fade after it’s played or sung, and that means that songs, especially fast ones, blend into a giant muddy mess.

A physicist and a music technologist, who presented their work at the American Acoustical Society on Monday, wondered if the churches, when packed full of people and hung with heavy draperies during holy festivals, might have sounded much better than they do today. Working with architectural historians, they calculated the chairs, drapery, and audience members’ ability to absorb sound. With a computer model of the churches, they were able to show that with full-on holy regalia and a crowded audience, the reverberation time was cut in half. They took their analysis even further to see if the small pergoli, or balconies, installed by an architect in Saint Mark’s would have enhanced the experience of a person sitting in the Doge’s throne when a choir was split between them (all the rage in Renaissance Venice). Indeed, they found that with a split choir in a fully decorated church, the reverberation time at the Doge’s throne was reduced to a mere 1.5 or 2 seconds, which is the gold standard for modern concert halls.

To hear the Doge’s stereo system for yourself, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

[via ScienceNOW]

Image courtesy of Andreas Tille / Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology

Miniature Balloon Ear Buds Take A Beating So Your Ear Drum Won't

By Veronique Greenwood | May 17, 2011 3:57 pm

ear balloons

What’s the News: A new type of ear bud hacks the ear’s reflexes, reducing its natural damping so you don’t have turn the volume up so high to get your jam on. It also cuts down on all that unsightly “leathering” on your eardrum…

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MORE ABOUT: acoustics, audio, hearing

New Foam-Like Fabric Lets Sunshine In…and Keeps Road Noise Out

By Veronique Greenwood | May 6, 2011 3:40 pm

theviewThe weave of the new translucent fabric traps sound, while letting light—and in this photo from the Swiss lab, a view of neighboring houses—through.

What’s the News: Noisy rooms are no fun, but neither are those smothered in heavy sound-canceling drapes. The solution? A translucent curtain that quenches sound by behaving like foam, developed by Swiss materials scientists and a textile designer.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Uncategorized
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