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.
Stephen Nessen, WNYC, writes about the Second Avenue subway in New York City and the efforts that were made to improve the sound in its stations. He introduces us to Joe Solway of the international engineering firm ARUP, which designed the new Second Avenue stations. Solway spent 15 years working on the subway, “figuring out how to eliminate squealing wheels and loud distorted announcements.” He lists the measures taken to make the experience as good as it could be given that “[t]he new system had to work with the existing system.” Among other things, Solway said that they redesigned the way the rails are fastened to the ground, encasing them in rubber that mitigates vibration, used better booths and cables and high quality speakers, and installed sound absorbing panels on the walls and ceiling.
So, did it work? Commuter Rafael Colon thought so. “It’s very quiet, like unusually quiet, not like when you take the number 6 train,” he said.
Click below to hear Nessen’s interview of Solway:
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.
“Bartholomäus Traubeck wondered what story those trees would tell. So he created equipment that could translate those rings into music on a record player. But instead of a needle, an optical sensor reads the wood’s color and texture.” Listen:
By Daniel Fink, MD
One of the heated discussions that sometimes occurs among those of us concerned about noise is the use of the terms “noise” and “sound.” Some people insist that we hear noise but measure sound. Others say the terms can be used interchangeably.
The word “noise” means “unwanted sound,” with an implication of being bothersome. One dictionary definition of noise is, “a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.” “Sound,” on the other hand, implies meaning, “a particular auditory impression.”
Nina Kraus, Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University, has written an intriguing article for Scientific American that discusses new research that shows that our brains can actually tell the difference between noise and sound. Studies of brain waves, done at Northwestern, show that sound is understood by the brain while noise merely disrupts it. And noise not only interferes with function, it can actually damage the brain:
Noise is more pernicious than an in-the-moment nuisance. Even a modest level of noise, over a long enough period of time (e.g. beeping garbage trucks, hair dryers, air conditioners), can cause damage to the brain networks that extract meaning from sound. Many of us don’t even realize our brains are being blunted and our thinking impeded by this invisible force.
So what can we do to protect our brains from damaging noise? We can’t shut out all sound, because “the absence of meaningful sound also leaves a mark on the ability to process sound.” Dr. Kraus adds that “there are distinct ways to tone and hone your listening brain.” Namely:
You can learn a second language. The challenge of juggling two languages bolsters the auditory system and redounds to improvements in cognitive functions such as attention.
Another way to exercise your auditory brain is to play a musical instrument. This has a huge payoff cognitively and emotionally for children and adults alike. A few years of playing an instrument while in school sharpens the auditory system and can benefit language development in children. And this benefit lasts a lifetime.
Fascinating! Even more supporting evidence for the goal of The Quiet Coalition: to make the world quieter, one decibel at a time.
Dr. Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.
Originally posted at The Quiet Coalition.
Dyllan Furness, Digital Trends, writes about the U.S. military’s successful launch of “one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms” in October in a piece titled, “The sound of 103 micro drones launched from an F/A-18 will give you nightmares.” Click the link to the piece and hit play on the video at the top of the page. The micro-drones can be heard starting at 2 minutes, 17 seconds.
We’re not sure if the sound will give you nightmares–although it is unnerving–but it did make us wonder about what would happen to our soundscape should Amazon and others succeed in convincing governments that drone delivery is a great idea. What you hear on the video is 103 micro-drones–small drones “with a wingspan under 12 inches.” Now imagine a battalion of full-size, package-wielding delivery drones flying above your head. Just saying.
Jillian Scudder, Forbes, asks What Does The Sun Sound Like? Scudder, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Astrophysics, notes that a major problem with recording sounds in space is that “there’s no atmosphere for sound waves to travel through, so any pressure waves an object may be producing will be instantly silenced without a medium to compress.” But, she adds, “there are other ways of recording information which can be translated into a sound; the easiest one is vibrations.” Enter sonification,”a booming area of data manipulation — it’s another face of the data visualization scene; instead of presenting the information visually, you can code it audibly, and listen to it over time.”
Click the link above to hear examples of sonification of the sun.
Dr. Daniel Fink, Chair of The Quiet Coalition, has written a post about disturbing noises automobile manufacturers purposefully add to their cars: There’s More To Car Noise Than Interior Sound. Dr. Fink’s second post was prompted by a reader who noted that while “[d]esign of the quietest interior possible has become highly competitive,” little thought is given to “the effect that automotive lock, locating, and security technology have on the residential soundscape.” Simply put, automobile manufacturers have adopted sound as a default to confirm a car door is locked or to locate a car in a parking lot without thinking about the effect of adding all of these audible honks and beeps and warnings to an already noisy soundscape.
Fortunately, there are some steps car owners can take to disable or modify the audible alerts, but not without difficultly. Click the link above to get Dr. Fink’s list of questions to ask about audible alerts before buying a car.
and it’s not for a good reason. Claire Asher, BBC, reports on how climate change and animal extinctions have altered the way our world sounds. Asher writes that human activity is changing our natural soundscape irreversibly:
In 2015, a US team of scientists and engineers reported that the loudest sound in some waters now comes from millions of tiny bubbles, which are released by melting glaciers and icebergs. In the fjords of Alaska and Antarctica, the average noise level is now over 100 decibels – louder than any ocean environment recorded before.
And it is more than our oceans that are affected. Asher notes that “natural spaces are now polluted with human-made noises. As we change forests into farms and drive species to extinction, we are fundamentally changing how our world sounds.”
Click the first link to read this interesting, if depressing, article.
Link via @jeaninebotta.
The sound of the Internet of Things (and why it matters for brands). Yes, yet another article about using sound for branding. Apparently we aren’t spending enough money so branding gurus–or whatever they are calling themselves these days–are trying to figure out how to make their brands stand out from competing products and services through the use of sound. And in an attempt to appear thoughtful as they invade public and private space with invasive sound, they write stuff like this:
Brands need to start creating a sound ecology that differentiates them whilst supporting their consumers. As we interact with a product, watch a commercial or experience a retail environment, it is only the brands of the future that have a fully considered, cohesive and familiar sonic identity that will stop us reaching for the mute button.
How about no? We are already assaulted by layers of noise whenever we enter the public sphere, do we really need to have even more layers of competing sound added to our increasingly chaotic soundscape? As if that’s not offensive enough, these branding fiends want to use sound for alerts for our now connected home appliances, leaving us not a moment of silence in our homes as our dishwashers and refrigerators beep and pop, competing for our attention. Because reasons!
At some point, if business refuses to show restraint, someone must step in to stop this anti-social behavior. No matter how convenient it may be for some people to have their devices scream at them for attention, what of the innocent bystanders who are simply attempting to go from Point A to Point B? Will no one think about our right to be left alone?
Link via @QuietMark.