Sound

Quiet’s hard to come by

Russell Wangersky, The Telegram, writes about being somewhere so quiet that he could hear two birds flying 20 feet above him.  He describes the sound their feathers made as they moved through the air–“It is a sound that almost defies description: both a swoosh and a rustle, and a hint of the sweep of a soft brush–a sound he notes he will likely never hear again. And that experience prompts his essay on sound and modern living, as he considers “how much sound there is all around us, and how that complication of noises gets ever-larger.”

Click the link to read this thoughtful essay.

 

 

How your brain singles out one sound among many

Shilo Rea, Carnegie-Mellon, writes that researchers “have developed a new way to find out how the brain singles out specific sounds in distracting settings.” Why is this significant? Because, writes Rea, “[t]he study lays crucial groundwork to track deficits in auditory attention due to aging, disease, or brain trauma and to create clinical interventions, like behavioral training, to potentially correct or prevent hearing issues.”

This research is important because deficits in auditory attention are associated with social isolation, depression, cognitive dysfunction and lower work force participation. According to Frederic Dick, professor of auditory cognitive neuroscience at Birkbeck College and University College London, once neuroscientists “start to understand how subtle differences in the brain’s functional and structural architecture might make some regions more ‘fertile ground’ for learning new information.”

Click the link to read more about the fascinating study.

Move over Bigfoot, you may have a competitor

The Huffington Post reports that strange sounds are popping up in different parts of Canada. How strange? Listen for yourself:

Ok, we admit that if we were in the middle of the woods and heard that we would set a new record for fastest sprint the hell out of there. That said, our money is on this phenomenon turning out to be the aural version of crop circles. Expect more to come.

And now for a musical interlude, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin

Because yes, along with being know for being “a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, humorist, composer, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat,” Benjamin Franklin also invented the Glass Armonica. It was popular instrument in its day, so why did it fall into disfavor?  Because “there really wasn’t any way to make the armonica louder. Concert reviews from the period bemoan the fact that the armonica sounded wonderful—when it could be heard. So, alas, Franklin’s marvelous invention was ultimately abandoned.”

 

 

Are your ears playing tricks on you?

Or is it your brain? Heather Murphy, The New York Times, examines “Why We ‘Hear’ Some Silent GIFs.” Murphy writes:

An animated GIF showing an electrical tower jumping rope over delightfully bendy power lines began to spread. The frenzy started when Lisa Debruine, a researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, posed this question:

When she asked Twitter users in an unscientific survey whether they could hear the image — which actually lacks sound, like most animated GIFs — nearly 70 percent who responded said they could.

Perhaps the headline should read “Why Some Hear Some Silent GIFS,” because we’ll take their word for it, but we don’t hear a sound. Do you? Click the first link to read more.

The battle between wind power v. wind noise

Vermont is cracking down on noisy wind turbines. But at what cost? Boston.com writes about how the effort by Vermont utility regulators to settle the “long-standing, contentious issue of how much noise neighbors of industrial wind projects should be subject to ended up upsetting both proponents of wind power and those who say the noise poses a health risk to people who live near turbines.”

We love the idea of fossil fuel-free energy, and on seeing a group of large wind turbines from a distance, we thought they looked majestic. But some industrial wind farms have been built very close to existing communities, and opponents of these farms claim the noise levels are too high and “even at a level that is among the lowest in the country would create an unreasonable burden for people who live near the turbines.”

What is that level? For new projects the daytime limit is 42 decibels “near a home,” and 39 decibels at night.  That may seem really low, but the World Health Organization in its report, “Night Noise Guidelines for Europe,” recommends that 40 decibels “should be the target of the night noise guideline (NNG) to protect the public.”

Proponents of the new limits say Vermont won’t meet its goal of “getting 90 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2050” without wind turbines, and Boston.com adds that “scientific studies have shown no link between wind turbine noise and human health.” But there have been complaints throughout New England, perhaps because the people affected “were accustomed to living in quiet areas.”

In the end, the battle will go on as the need for clean energy runs up against the rights of people living in formerly quiet communities.  Let’s hope a happy compromise can be found.

 

Dear god, no!

It will be like this, but horrible | Photo credit: Cliff licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Noise Curmudgeon alerts us to the horribly misguided marketing idea–because it must be the marketing department that’s behind this–that is the Nissan Canto. You see, electric cars tend to be quiet, so some sound must be engineered so that they can be heard by blind people listening for aural clues, other pedestrians, animals, etc.  Rather than engineering a traditional car engine sound for the Canto, Nissan has decided to be clever and will torment us with a “singing car.”  And by singing they mean making a variable high pitched annoying drone that will drive poeple mad.

Hear it for yourself:

Oh, that’s not so bad, you may be thinking. Then imagine a street filled with “singing” cars.

My god.