Tag: hearing

What Would You Sound Like on Venus?

By Veronique Greenwood | April 3, 2012 12:40 pm

venus
First consider what, exactly, you’d be doing here.

Like a Smurf with a bass voice, according to Tim Leighton, a professor of acoustics at University of Southampton who has made it his mission to figure this kind of thing out, using physics and math combined with data about otherworldly atmospheres.

Venus’s atmosphere is much denser than ours, so vocal cords would vibrate more slowly there, yielding a lower voice—the opposite of what happens when you inhale helium. The speed of sound, though, is a lot faster on Venus than it is here, Leighton explains in a press release. He says that this can mess with how big we imagine the speaker to be: “This tricks the way our brain interprets the size of a speaker (presumably an evolutionary trait that allowed our ancestors to work out whether an animal call in the night was something that was small enough to eat or so big as to be dangerous).” So we might interpret that deep bass rumble as coming from a diminutive form.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom

The Creepy Robot That Hears You Breathing Through a Wall

By Patrick Morgan | February 8, 2011 10:56 am

The robotic ears of the U.S. Army just got an upgrade: now robots don’t have to be right next to a wall to detect humans breathing on the other side.

Created by the California company TiaLinx, the Cougar20-H is a radar-using robot that looks like a small blackboard on wheels. As Wired reports:

The … Cougar20-H “can … be remotely programmed at multiple way points to scan the desired premise in a multi-story building and provide its layout,” TiaLinx boasted.

The remote-controlled robot could save lives as troops battle insurgents in Afghanistan and other regions because it allows them to ‘see’ who’s inside a building before they physically enter. And there’s the possibility that it could be used to fight human trafficking or to help with rescue missions.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Silence a Shrieking Dental Drill, Cancel the Fear?

By Eliza Strickland | January 12, 2011 5:32 pm

For certain people, there’s one sound above all others that strikes fear into their hearts and makes them want to run screaming for sanctuary: the high-pitched whine of a dentist’s drill. Presumably dentist-phobes fear the noise because it’s associated with the rotten part of a tooth being drilled away, but experts say the noise itself triggers a strong reaction. According to ABC News:

“It’s been demonstrated that people’s blood pressures rise as soon as they hear the sound, even if they’re not sitting in the chair yet,” said Dr. Mark Wolff, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the New York University College of Dentistry.

So how to help these unfortunate souls? Researchers have come up with an idea: cancel out the shriek of a drill to cancel out the fear. After ten years of development, dental engineers now have a prototype device ready, and they’re looking for investors to bring the invention to a dentist office near you.

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AAAAIIEEE! Tennis Players' Grunts May Help Their Game

By Eliza Strickland | October 4, 2010 11:34 am

SharapovaThose unearthly howls, shrieks, and grunts that burst out of tennis players’ mouths may do more than just fill the silence of tennis stadiums. A new study suggests that a player’s grunt might slow down the response time of her opponent, giving the grunter an advantage.

For the study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers asked students to watch videos of a tennis player hitting a ball; some shots were accompanied by a soft grunt, others were performed in silence. For each shot, the student had to indicate which side of the court the ball would land on by hitting a keyboard key.

According to the study, “The results were unequivocal: The presence of an extraneous sound interfered with a participants’ performance, making their responses both slower and less accurate.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

New Study: If a Dude Sounds Strong, He Probably Is

By Joseph Calamia | June 16, 2010 5:47 pm

armIt’s pretty clear that–in a fight–Darth Vader would crush Jar Jar Binks, Optimus Prime would beat Starscream, and Batman could pummel the Joker. Though some of these fictional characters don’t even look like humans, when it comes to strength, their voices give it all away. New research seems to confirm this: humans, like other animals, can accurately predict physical strength from voice alone.

In a study appearing today in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, researchers asked subjects to evaluate the upper-body strength of speakers from four distinct populations and language groups just by listening to their voices. Even when unfamiliar with a speaker’s language, listeners could tell which men might be good in a fight. The men they judged as sounding brawny were in fact physically stronger as measured by tests of hand grip, chest strength, shoulder strength, and bicep circumference.

As lead author Aaron Sell told Discovery News:

“Information about male formidability would have been important for both sexes over evolutionary time,” said Sell. “Both men and women would have benefitted from knowing who would likely win fights in order to make prudential alliances and for other reasons. Men would need this information to regulate their own fighting behavior. Women would also need this information in order to make effective mate choices.”

They study failed to make a similar link between women’s voices and strength. The study’s authors speculate that this is because early men were more likely to spar. The researchers also couldn’t determine what it was about certain male voices that made them sound strong–it wasn’t just a deep timbre–and say listeners may respond to a complex mix of cues.

For men, the finding proves especially interesting given the non-menacing statement researchers asked English speakers to say: “When the sunlight strikes raindrops in the air, they act like a prism and form a rainbow.” Apparently this sentence is from a passage that contains almost all the sounds of the English language, but those certainly aren’t fighting words.

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Image: flickr / ~ggvic~

Penn State's Football Stadium: Now 50% Louder!

By Darlene Cavalier | May 7, 2010 12:22 pm

penn-state-footballPenn State’s college football team has a new trick in its playbook–courtesy of acoustical science.

Penn State graduate student Andrew Barnard’s acoustic mapping research illustrates how the relocation of 20,000 student-fans in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium could lead to more wins for the Nittany Lions football team.

Last year, during three homes games, Barnard recorded and measured crowd noise at the stadium  using a series of strategically placed acoustic meters. He found when the Nittany Lions had the ball, the crowd noise reached 75 decibels on the field. But when the opposing team played offense, the noise climbed to 110 decibels. As a result, the visiting quarterback’s calls could only be heard within about 18 inches from him.

Barnard wondered whether he could make it even tougher for visiting QBs. So when the stadium was empty, he used a loudspeaker to create noise in various seating locations and measured the sound intensity on the field.  According to Gizmodo, Barnard zeroed in on the stadium’s acoustical sweet spot, where the loudest fans could be the most effective against opposing teams:

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Neuroscientist Says We Perceive "Smounds"—Half Sound, Half Smell

By Smriti Rao | February 25, 2010 2:24 pm

Homemade_buffalo_wingsEver wonder why buffalo wings always smell so awesome when a football game is blaring in the room? Scientists have proposed that the way food smells could possibly be related to the sounds we hear when we consume them.

They note that there could be a connection between smell and sound, a hybrid sense they call “smound.” The theory is  in findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Daniel Wesson made the possible neural connection quite by accident when he was studying the olfactory tubercle, a structure at the base of the brain that aids odor detection. He was observing mice when he put his coffee mug down. The clunk of the mug hitting the desk produced a spike in the mice’s olfactory tubercle activity.

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MORE ABOUT: hearing, senses, smell, smound, sound

My Other Ear Is a Tooth: Bone Conduction Helps the Hard of Hearing

By Smriti Rao | February 2, 2010 2:22 pm

teethWhen Beethoven got frustrated with his deafness and was struggling to hear the music that he had composed, music historians report that he laid his piano down on the floor without the legs and pounded the keys loudly in an attempt to feel the vibrations. Other times, he tried to hear by clenching a stick tightly between his teeth with one end touching the piano so the sound could transfer from the piano to the stick, and then travel through his teeth to finally reach his ear.

We aren’t sure how much of his music he heard this way, but a new device uses some of the same conduction techniques to restore hearing to people who are deaf in one ear. Thanks to a couple centuries of technological enhancement, there are now no sticks involved.

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Clubbers More Likely to Give Cigarettes If You Ask Their Right Ears

By Melissa Lafsky | June 24, 2009 12:00 pm

dance clubFrom 80Beats:

A noisy Italian disco may not seem like a conducive location for scientific experiments, but for a couple of researchers investigating hearing and language processing it was perfect. The undercover scientists studied clubbers who were trying to talk while the music was pumping, and found that they showed a decided preference for speaking into each other’s right ears. What’s more, when the researchers approached clubbers with a request for a cigarette, they found the unwitting test subjects were much more likely to comply if the petition was made in the right ear.

Previous lab studies have also suggested that “humans tend to have a preference for listening to verbal input with their right ears and that given stimulus in both ears, they’ll privilege the syllables that went into the right ear. Brain scientists hypothesize that the right ear auditory stream receives precedence in the left hemisphere of the brain, where the bulk of linguistic processing is carried out” [Wired.com]. Researchers say this bias holds true for both lefties and righties.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: hearing, language

Can Golfing Make You Deaf?

By Nina Bai | January 8, 2009 1:58 pm

golfGolf might seem like a relatively safe sport, but a new report in the British Medical Journal suggests there’s a hidden danger: hearing loss. Turns out, the loud thwaak! of the new thin-faced titanium drivers is about as loud as a gunshot or firecracker—loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage.

British doctors first tuned in to the problem after a 55-year-old male patient sought treatment for mysterious tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear. The doctors confirmed that his symptoms matched those of noise-induced hearing loss, although the man’s occupation didn’t involve loud noises. The puzzle finally came together when the man revealed that for the past 18 months, he’d been teeing off with a King Cobra LD titanium driver three times a week. But the sound from the club had become so irritating that he’d already ditched the club. The doctors also found other golfers online who’d had similar complaints about the “sonic boom” created by the new drivers.

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MORE ABOUT: golf, hearing, sound, sports
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