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.
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.
White noise doesn’t just drown out other noises, it drowns out taste too, says research in the appropriately named Journal of Food Quality and Preference. This could help explain why airplane food tastes so bland, why we eat more with the TV on, and why space tourists need such strong beer, the study’s first author told BBC News:
“There’s a general opinion that aeroplane foods aren’t fantastic,” said Andy Woods, a researcher from Unilever’s laboratories and the University of Manchester. “I’m sure airlines do their best – and given that, we wondered if there are other reasons why the food would not be so good. One thought was perhaps the background noise has some impact.”
To test this theory Woods had a group of taste testers eat a variety of foods with head phones on and piped in either white noise or no sounds. The white noise not only made the food less tasty, it also increased the perceived crunch of the food. The noise could be drawing attention away from savoring the food, Wood said to BBC News:
“The evidence points to this effect being down to where your attention lies — if the background noise is loud it might draw your attention to that, away from the food,” Dr Woods said.
Who would think a printer would inspire such beautiful art?
A collaboration between the ad company Dentsu London, Canon printers, and photographer/biochemist Linden Gledhill created these “sound sculptures” which use high speed cameras to catch tiny droplets of paint as they splatter under the force of sound waves. The resulting videos were used in an ad that celebrates Canon printers’ color quality, but honestly, who cares what they’re selling when the images are so pretty.
Gledhill gets extreme detail in his shots through his use of an ultra-high speed camera, which takes up to 5,000 frames per second, and a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 100mm Macro IS USM lens to get intense, up-close detail. He previously used the paint splatter sculpture technique in his “Water Figures” series, he said on Dentsu’s Flickr page:
I, like many people, find Water Figures almost compulsive viewing. They appeal to people in many ways because they represent a fusion of science, technology, natural chaos and art. Every image is unique and can be appreciated in all of these ways. For the scientist, who is interested in fluid dynamic or chaos theory, they capture the behavior of fluids in motion.
Hit the jump for more info and a video about the creative process.
Though these multicolored horns might look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, World Cup followers can attest that the vuvuzela is a loud and droning reality. South Africa’s soccer stadiums are resounding with their buzzing calls, driving TV audiences to distraction and causing many a viewer to reach for the mute button.
Some spectators have called for bans on the instrument, but FIFA has refused. Its president, Sepp Blatter, said via Twitter: “I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?”
But there may be a technological fix, an audio filter meant to cancel out, acoustically, the collective roar of the plastic horns.
The Telegraph reports that German recording and mixing engineer Clemence Schlieweis believes that viewers can cancel out the sounds blaring from their televisions by playing his 45-minute track of an “inverse” sound wave. He made the sound by manipulating a recording from a match broadcast, and compares his technique to ones commonly used by sound engineers to improve recordings’ quality, to remove the buzz of an air conditioner from an interview, for example.
But some acoustics experts are skeptical, given that the vuvuzela’s sounds are anything but uniform. Trevor Cox at the University of Salford, told The Telegraph:
“I can’t see how it could work. The vuvuzela chorus may come across as a single sound on television, but it is actually hundreds of instruments being blown at different times.”
But if Schlieweis’s recording can’t beat the vuvuzela, another technology is allowing spectators to join the chorus. The vuvuzela iPhone app is the number one downloaded free iPhone app in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, UK, and South Africa, with reportedly over one million downloads.
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Image: flickr / Dundas Football Club
Do you see a hovering white triangle in this picture?
This optical illusion employs “illusory contours”–pieces of an image purposefully arranged to trick your brain into seeing the whole thing. Neuroscientist Jamshed Bharucha says that we play similar tricks with our ears: “The brain is basically a pattern-recognition machine. We are desperate to find patterns.”
Bharucha spoke on a seven-person panel last Thursday at “Good Vibrations: The Sound of Science,” a World Science Festival event in New York.
Bharucha asked a crowded auditorium at Hunter College to identify a sound. Shouts of “birds” rang out. One person yelled, “R2D2.” Bharucha followed the clip with a similar sounding song, and then another. After playing a combination of the three, whispers rose from the audience. Read More
Penn 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:
Ever 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.
It’s a question you wouldn’t be surprised to hear a toddler ask: Do butterflies have ears? Well yes, yes they do. And one species was recently discovered to have ears on their wings. The blue morpho butterfly from Central and South America has beautiful bright blue wings complete with a simple ear structure that picks up noise and relays it to the brain.
In the new study, Kathleen Lucas of the University of Bristol in England and her colleagues were interested in the odd-looking hearing membrane that sits at the base of the blue morpho’s wing. The tympanal membrane, as it is called, is oval-shaped with a dome at its center that kind of resembles the yolk at the center of a fried egg, Lucas said.
Researchers determined that the butterflies can distinguish high and low frequencies, uncommon in simple ears, and they speculate this could help them determine if a hungry bird is about to swoop down and attack.
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Image: flickr / DavidDennisPhotos.com
Golf 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.