Sound

Can plants hear?

Yes they can. Marta Zaraska, Scientific American, reports on a new study indicates that “some flora may be capable of sensing sounds, such as the gurgle of water…or the buzzing of insects.” If plants can hear, are they susceptible to noise pollution? Sadly, the answer could be yes.  Zaraska writes that the research “raises questions about whether acoustic pollution affects plants as well as animals.” Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia who worked on the research project said that “[n]oise could block information channels between plants, for example, when they need to warn each other of insects.” So throw out the gas-powered leaf blower and buy yourself a rake. Your flora will thank you.

Humans can use sound to estimate sizes of enclosed spaces

ScienceDaily writes about fascinating research in echolocation in “Echolocation: Sizing up spaces by ear.” The article tells us about research conducted at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU), and led by Lutz Wiegrebe, a professor in the Department of Biology at LMU, that has shown that sighted people can be taught to estimate room size with the help of self-generated clicks. The research also found differences in how reflected sound affected the visual cortex of sighted versus blind participants.  Namely, with a “congenitally blind participant…reception of the reflected sounds resulted in the activation of the visual cortex.” “That the primary visual cortex can execute auditory tasks is a remarkable testimony to the plasticity of the human brain,” says Wiegrebe. Interestingly, sighted subjects “exhibited only a relatively weak activation of the visual cortex during the echolocation task.”  Click the link above to read the entire article. It’s a very interesting read.

Link via Cheryl Tipp.

The natural world isn’t necessarily quiet or peaceful

Meet some of the world’s noisiest animals. They had me at synalpheus pinkfloydi, “a newly discovered species of pistol, or snapping shrimp, which uses its large pink claw to create a noise so loud it can kill small fish.”  How loud?  Try 210 decibels, which may be enough to kill a man as well.

Link via Hyperacusis Research.

This is pretty cool

CanadaSound aims to make library of Canadian noises. Haydn Watters, CBC News, reports that a “new project is hoping to round up Canadian noises like these to make a soundscape of the country.”  So, what iconic sounds are on the short list? “The roar of a snowblower. An orca’s breath underwater. Bed sheets on a laundry line, snapping in the Newfoundland wind.” Watters writes that the project, The CanadaSound, wants people to submit “their Canadian noises” online with the aim of making those sounds accessible by musicians “making new music.”  

We think this is an excellent project and would actively encourage a similar one for the U.S. What iconic U.S. sounds would you include? The cruel and relentless drone of the Mr. Softee jingle? The ear-blasting screech of New York City subway cars braking as they enter Union Square Station? The loudest stadium crowd roar encouraged in a sadistic display of bravado by sports team franchises? Or perhaps the unconscionably loud scream of a motorcycle with an after market tail pipe racing down a residential street, setting off car alarms in its wake.  Oh….never mind.

Adding that the sound of the wind blowing through a wheat field or waves lapping up on a beach–any beach–at dawn would be pretty fabulous. Your suggestions?

Link via London Sound Survey.

 

Scientists are learning to decode the sounds of icebergs

Sarah Laskow, Atlas Obscura, reports about what scientists have learned from “Listening to Icebergs’ Loud and Mournful Breakup Songs.” Laskow writes that seven years after the largest iceberg broke off of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, “the largest remaining chunk floated out into the South Pacific where, in the warmer water, it began to disintegrate.”  And for the next year, “the ocean was noisier than usual.”  Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had suspended hydrophones underwater and they “were picking up strange signals.” Interestingly, the scientists “didn’t even know that icebergs made noise,” says Haru Matsumoto, an ocean engineer at NOAA who has studied these sounds.”  But now they do and they measure “the extent to which those sounds contribute to the noise of the ocean,” because “the sounds of ice could help them understand the behavior and breakup of icebergs and ice shelves as the poles warm up.”

Click this link to hear what the scientists are hearing.