Tag Archive: sound

The importance of sound in understanding our past

 

Photo credit: Martin Belam licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Science Daily reports that many attempts have been made “to explain how past people experienced their wider world,” but those attempts have primarily “focused on sight at the expense of sound.” But things are changing, as “researchers from the University at Albany and the University at Buffalo have developed a tool that puts sound back into the ancient landscape.” The researchers “use[d] GIS technology to advance a largely theoretical discussion into a modeled sensory experience to explore how people may have heard their surroundings throughout an entire archaeological landscape, or soundscape.”

Science Daily writes that the “attempt to infuse character into the material world and incorporate the relationship between people and their surroundings is part of what’s called phenomenology.” Says Kristy Primeau, an archaeologist, PhD candidate, and employee at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

From a phenomenological perspective, the difference between a space and a place is critical. People don’t live in a vacuum and we have to look at all aspects of the lived experience.

Do click the link above to read the entire piece. It’s a fascinating topic and well worth your time.

How sound affects how food tastes

Eustacia Huen, Forbes, writes about  “Charles Spence, a gastrophysicist and Professor of Experimental Psychology who has spent the past 20 years researching on the influence of our four other senses on our assessment of taste at the University of Oxford.” Huen wonders about how “incredibly noisy restaurants in the States (especially in NYC)” affect our ability to taste and enjoy the food.”  So she looks at whether and how sound affects our taste, if at all. And for this she turns to Spence, who shares an excerpt from his new book, Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating.

What follows is a fascinating discussion about how “the sounds that we hear when a food fractures or is crushed between our teeth generally provide a much more accurate sense of what is going on in our mouths.” Says Spence, “it makes sense that we have come to rely on this rich array of auditory cues whenever we evaluate the textural properties of food.”

Click the first link to read the entire piece. It s short but informative piece.

The sound of the city

Olga Yurkina, Worldcrunch, writes about how “some local governments [in Switzerland] are turning to sound specialists to make cityscapes easier on the ears.”  Yurkina introduces us to Fabian Neuhaus, an acoustician who runs a firm that specializes in sound architecture. While his company mainly works on upgrading the sound quality of industrial spaces and concert halls, Neuhaus believes that outdoor spaces “need to be properly ‘tuned’ to produce pleasant sounds.” “Unfortunately,” he adds, “it’s rarely a priority in an urban project.”

But not any more. Far-sighted public officials in two Swiss cantons are beginning to seriously consider acoustic features in urban design. To that end, the cantons have engaged Neuhaus’ firm to offer guidelines for “a well-designed soundscape along local roads.” “Instead of fighting against noise pollution afterward, we should include the acoustic dimension in the project from the very beginning,” asserts Neuhaus.

Urban planners are also thinking about the design of outdoor urban spaces and what can be done to make them more interseting and aurally pleasant. For example, Trong Maag, an urban planner in Zürich, notes that large uniform facades of glass and steel are “real torture for our ears,” while a gravel or sand path will offer “a soothing rustle,” trees can act as a sound barrier, and a green wall can absorb high-pitched sounds.  And other designers have come up with interesting options, like anti-noise modular screens “with flexible acoustic correction” or singing fountains. Designer Andres Bosshard hopes that at some future time “acoustics will be an integral part of urban design and we will create something with sound rather than just block noises.” After all, he adds, “[w]e have to keep in mind that in a city, sound is central to our sense of well-being.”

Click the link above to read this fascinating article in its entirety.

Link via Antonella Radicchi.

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.

Is a better sounding subway possible?

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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:

 

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.