Anyone who’s ever watched a horror film will know that the sound of two clashing notes evokes a visceral response in most people. Among Western listeners there’s a strong preference for consonance, which exists even from infancy; consonance is the pleasing mixture of two tones, while dissonance is their clashing. (For a good example of both, see this video.) It’s controversial whether the same preferences exist in other cultures, but new research indicates the preferences might be wired in our brains.
The prevailing theory of music in the brain is that dissonant combinations share frequencies that are a bit too close. When these frequencies are perceived by the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that translates sounds to nerve impulses, they can’t be well distinguished. Because similar frequencies are processed next to one another on the cochlea, their nerve signals can interfere with one another. The perception is a grating effect, called “beating.” Read More
The recording’s grooves, seen through the microscope.
What’s the News: More than a century ago, Thomas Edison recorded a woman speaking the first verse of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on a metal cylinder for use in a talking doll. Now, scientists using microscopes to create 3D scans of the badly damaged cylinder have made it possible to hear her voice again, through the patina of years.
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…