Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Your Ear is Amazing Part Two

Good Day!

Time for part two, the how the ear understands music!

 This amazing video

And your amazing ear consists of an eardrum, tiny bones, and the cochlea. Today we will see how the cochlea understands music, pitch, chords, and tamper. Lets start off with pitch:

from Google
Pitch: The quality of a sound governed by the rate of vibrations producing it

The "rate of vibration" is called frequency. The frequency dictates what sound you hear. For each pitch or note there is one frequency. For example Middle C is 256 Hz about. This number corresponding to a certain group of hairs in the cochlea.

Now every pitch creates things called overtones. For Middle C the overtones are at 256*2 = 512 Hz. and  256*3 = 768 Hz. and ... you get the idea. For every multiple of the frequency a overtone is made. Your ear hears these tones if they are there or not. The hairs in the cochlea that hear 512 and 768 are triggered when a sound a 256 is played, but not as loud. Sound waves and their overtones look like this:
Harmonics = Overtones

A chord is made by playing notes and its overtones. so if you play 256 and 512 and 768 at the same time you get a major chord. You can also use different fractions to make different chord like 256, 256*3/2 = 384 and 512 to make a chord.

Music simply is made up of notes and cords that are just sets of frequencies which hairs in your cochlea translates to electrical signal for your brain to figure out. Music is fun and crazy.

I hope you learned something and enjoyed our blog. This is the last post, sorry if you were looking for more Sound Fun.

~The Sound of Silence Team

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day Dubstep!

While I was looking for some Turkey Day inspiration I found the delightfully festive video below!
Born out of a town in England, the music genre of Dubstep slid on the music scene around 1999. With its heavy bass background and almost hypnotic beats dupstep has flooded the club scene!
With a frequency less than 90Hz and tunes that sound like Transformers getting it on Dubstep is perfect for a crazy night of dancing! 

The emerging nature of this new genre makes the direct classification of Dubstep difficult especially with qualities that overlap with other genres such as electronica, dance and hip hop.

Whether you like jams of Skillrex and the rest or not I hope you enjoy festive video and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Na na na na na na Bat-hearing!

To carry on our tradition of talking about cute things today's cute animal is...(drumroll)...

A baby bat!


Now, most people know that bats use echolocation to hunt, as they have VERY bad eyesight, but did you know that they actually do this in three ways? The bat will let out a very high, loud chirp and then listen for the sound reflections to come back, catching them with his giant (adorable) ears.

The first type of chirp is called constant frequency, which means that the frequency is steady. This type of sound is used to locate an item or object. The second type is called frequency modulated. This means that the frequency (how close the waves are together) gradually descends. This helps the bat to tell what type of object it is, as well as how far away.

Finally, the bat utilizes the Doppler effect (that is, the way sounds change in pitch as they get closer or further away) to modulate its speed in relation to its environment. These skills are so precise that bats can even tell the type of insect in order to decide on the most delicious dinner possible. 

Basically, bats are awesome.

But we knew that already. Photo here.

If you want to learn EVEN MORE about how bats hear and explore their surroundings, here is a cool power point presentation!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Les Paul Ultra - III

With thousands and thousands of guitars out in the world today, what feature can make you stand out from the competition? Enter the Les Paul Ultra - III. I was browsing the 2012 Guitar World Review Guide and I ran across this guitar  But what about this guitar grabbed my attention? Bedsides the beautiful instrument that Epiphone has created, it has the ability to plug into your computer via USB cable.

Along with the cable, included is Native Instruments' GuitarRig, which is software that allows you to play your guitar through the computer and allow you to play through a variety of simulated amplifiers and effects. All while listening through your computer speakers or headphones. This software includes a recorder, metronome, and a tuner.

For prices just around $750, this guitar is a great buy for a Christmas present for someone who you love.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Your Ear is Amazing Part One

You are amazing. That is if you are human.

The human ear is one of the most interesting things sensors around. As complex as the eye, more sensitive than the nose, and important than the tongue. It is amazing.

Today we will be talking about how the ear works and how you take in sound. In part two we will explore music and notes, giving the ear and brain more complexity. To start lets explore how sound is made. Clap your hands!


When you clap your hands, the air around your hands moves and bumps into more air particles. These particles run into more and more air particles. This chain reaction of air bouncing around finally gets to your eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates and pushes against tiny bones. These bones push on the cochlea. The cochlea changes the vibrations in to neural signals and sends it off the the brain.

How the ear looks

The cochlea is the most interesting part. It takes a vibration and vibrates a fluid that then tickles cretin hairs depending on the frequencies in the sound wave. The clap you made has a particular sound wave that might look like this.
One Clap Sound Wave
That wave trigers some of the tiny hairs in the cochlea, which send electrical signals to the brain. The brain then interprets the incoming signals and matches it with signals it has heard before to gain meaning of the sound wave. But wait there is more! How many sounds are you hearing right now? Count them? Music, voices in the room, the heater or fan, your cell phone vibrating on the table.... your ear-brain combo takes all of these and can isolate them. Computers cant do this task well...yet. 

Thats all for today. Check out this really cool video on sound.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Sound Blasts!

I know we have talked about a couple of different topics, but I'd like to tie some of what we have talked about in our articles with a post about infrasound itself. Infrasound is sound we can't hear, or sounds below human hearing. and it can be used naturally(earthquakes, etc.) or by human means. This post will talk a little more on how humans have used it currently and in the past.
A Sound Villian
          We know sound can be deadly if used in the wrong hands. We talked about this a little more in depth here with LRAD. Infrasound itself can be related to many different things even ghosts as described here. To go more in depth of how it can be used for harm lets remember Iron Man the movie, when Obadiah uses a sound device to paralyze people? If you don't remember or want a refresher check out this video for a refresher.

Believe it or not this is a real application of sound devices that can be used. Infrasonic generators can cause negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, or depression, as well as biological symptoms like nausea, vomiting, organ damage, burns, or death—depending on the frequency and power level (Mark Rich). Similar devices have been used in the past and are being made by the U.S., Great Britain, Russian using low frequency sound waves in the development of acoustic weapons. These weapons are mostly being developed as a non-lethal approach to handling violence.

A Sonic Bullet Maybe?
Above is what I imagine a sonic bullet would look like if we could see them, but under normal conditions we can't. Police, military and other forms of security can use sound bullets to incapacitate people without bloodshed and has been used in the case of riot control in more modern times by shooting the sound at the low infrasound frequencies. In fact in 1971 there was a good use of infrasound where they used it for riot control which can be further explained and detailed here. That article also goes further into explanation on some different sound weapons as does this one which I also referenced above. So while fun to learn about sound can be a deadly and scary thing or it can be nice and calming. Definitely better than real bullets though in the way of law enforcement.

Hope you enjoyed this little info session on the details of what we have been talking about.
Please feel free to comment and subscribe =D

Ultrasound treatment explained!

So as a follow-up to the previous post here is a great presentation on focused ultrasound technology!

I Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Silent- but not deadly!

Going off of a great articlerecommendation left on our previous post “Shake your Tail Feather”, I decidedto look more into all of those sounds we can’t hear- and dang are there a lot! Inthe next couple of posts I would like to tell you about ultrasound andinfrasound.

While you may be familiar with theclassic ultrasound images of babies and even baby animals, advancements withultrasound technology have been able to produce 3-D ultrasound images!

Dog ultrasound! Courtesy of Anchor Animal Hospital

Well that say it all! Image courtesy of University of California San Francisco

Ultrasound is also being used to treat conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and scar tissue pain. Current treatment prostate cancer is currently using ultrasound to destroy cancerous tissues! The process refered to as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, or  HIFU for short, involves ultrasound waves being focused on the damaged/cancerous tissues thus increasing the temperature at a very fast rate and destroying the cancer
"In order to understand the basic concept of how HIFU works an analogy can be drawn between HIFU burning prostate tissue and sun rays entering a magnifying glass to burn a leaf. When a magnifying glass is held above a leaf in the correct position on a sunny day the sun's rays intersect below the lens and cause the leaf to burn at the point of intersection. "~International HIFU

Image courtesy of International HIFU

 So forget barbequing ants in your backyard! How about we tackle cancer instead?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sounds like learning... starting before birth?

We have all seen the mothers with headphones on there stomach and playing classical music. The theory behind this is that it will make the child smarter and promote healthy brain growth and learning? Is this true and should mothers that decide not to put headphones on their bellies, feel guilty?

Studies have shown that the fetus heart rate changes when listening to sounds either from music or just hearing its mother's voice. This suggest that the fetuses recognizes sounds from outside the womb. The sounds a fetus hears the most during its travels is its mother's voice. And in studies it shows that newborns will be calmer when hearing the mother's voice versus another voice never heard before. So we can assume that newborns can remember sounds that they heard in the womb.

It isn't too hard to make the conclusion that hearing music has a positive effect on a fetus, since most of the brain development happens during pregnancy  A study done by the Musical  Educators Journal found that babies who were exposed to music during pregnancy were more attentive after birth. These babies also had an increase in sound imitation and earlier vocalization.

But not everybody agrees with these findings. Gordon Shaw ( a researcher at the University of California) is once such person. Although he agrees that the change of heart rate of the fetus points to the fact that the unborn child can hear, that this isn't necessary a good thing. A change in heart rate could signal that the baby is uncomfortable with the sound. This could lead to more squirming and more discomfort on the mother.

Whatever you believe, the important part is to proceed with caution. The biggest mistakes mothers make is the volume of the music. The belief that the child is in the belly so the music needs to be loud is wrong. The amniotic fluid that surrounds that baby is very good at transmitting sound waves. So playing music too loud could damage the child's eardrum. Also if listening to music causes the baby to squirm more and increase discomfort on the mother, then exposure to music should be limited. Remember a happy baby means a happy Mother. That is all for today. Be sure to look for my next post in where I cover the effects of music after birth.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scream Science

Every Year groups of young people go out and pay lots of money to get scared and scream! Halloween is the opportunity to scare people to get a good scream. If you have never been to a hunted house before, here is a funny video of lots of people screaming. It is a little scary so be warned.

My curiosity asked, "How does the human body scream?"

Good question me, here is how the human body makes sound.

In short, your voice is like a musical instrument. Let us compare this to a violin. In a violin there are 3 main parts needed to make sound:The bow, the strings, and the chamber. The bow or your fingers provide the power needed to make sound. The strings vibrate. The chamber or hollow body of the violin makes allows the sound to resonate.

The human body also has a power source, vibrator, and resonator. The power comes form the lungs. The voice box or vocal cords provide th vibration. The mouth and nose provide the resonance.

That all you need to scream! With power in your lungs, strong vocal cords, and your mouth opened wide, you are ready to scream this Halloween.

Enjoy the scare.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spooky Sounds

Imagine, you're sitting alone one hot summer night, enjoying a nice book underneath your ceiling fan. The cool breeze is initially calming, but then you start to feel uneasy. You look up, distracted from your book, but find nothing out of the ordinary, so you shake it off and go back to reading. A few minutes later, you still feel like someone is watching you, and, afraid to move and look up from your novel, you realize there is a gray blob standing at the edge of your vision. Watching you. You finally jerk your head up to see who's there, but the figure has disappeared.

Obviously, your house is haunted.

Photo: From VisitFindley.com

...or maybe not. I briefly talked about infrasound before here, and it turns out that it is likely also the cause of psychological effects which are commonly attributed to ghosts. You can read all about it in this paper by Vic Tandy and Tony R. Lawrence, published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, but infrasound is basically sound waves just below what humans can hear, about 20hz.

First, let's talk about that 'creepy' feeling that you got while you were reading, like someone is behind you or watching you. Many objects vibrate at these low frequencies, such as your ceiling fan from the intro story, and, because people can't consciously sense it, they tend to feel that something supernatural is at work.

Next, seeing shapes out of the corners of your eyes. In the paper, Vic Tandy recounts working in a supposedly haunted lab, where he discovered that the extractor fan was vibrating at about 19Hz, very close to what NASA sites as the resonant frequency of the eye. Basically, the low sound waves vibrate your eyes, making you see shapes that aren't there.

So this Halloween, if you feel like making your friend think their house is haunted, try using their computer to go to this website, turn their speakers full blast, and leave their computer on.

Photo: A Place to be Happy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Internet is my Manager

When you hear a new band or a new song, where do you hear it? The radio? No most likely from some source on the internet such as Pandora or YouTube or someone posted it on their Facebook page. In some of our other posts, we've talked about different uses for sound and music, but today I'm here to talk to you about how we distribute music.

When we think about music 10 years ago, the only way to get a new song was by buying a CD. And the way to hear new music was either by the radio or a friend told you. As an artist, the best way to publicize your music, you needed to hire a manager but now and days, the role of manager has switched more to the internet. Where being popular on Facebook or Twitter is more important that skill and talent.

Kristin Thompson, a reporter for Future of Music, participated in the 10th San Fran MusicTech Summit in San Francisco, CA. Here she interviewed several different artists and drew on some conclusions.

First she asked about what technologies these artists used.

As you can see, Facebook, blogs, and YouTube are where over 40% of the artist promote their music. And as this trend continues, artist become more and more comfortable with the internet.

So the question to ask yourself is where does this leave managers? Is it too easy for musicians to be promoted and is that necessary a problem? Is artist success based just on popularity or still focused on talent? 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Jam session!

As a part of our course work we were assigned to create a video to accompany our topic. The idea of this video was to entertain you and maybe teach you something that you didn't already know about sound. Please let us know what you think about Sound of Science's video debut!

Some key terms to make note of are frequency, amplitude, sound waves, timbre.

Sound Waves - They are basically sine waves caused by the vibration of an object that the enter the ear with varying frequency and amplitudes. It's what everyone listens to everyday.
Frequency - How high the noise sounds, or pitch.This is effected by how close together the sound waves are. Higher frequency (faster) causes higher pitched sounds.
Amplitude - How loud something sounds. This is caused by the height of the sine wave; higher amplitude waves are louder than lower amplitude.
Timbre - The quality that differentiates one sound from another that has the same pitch (frequency) and loudness (amplitude).

soundwave not the transformer

And now for the fun part!

background music by: Antoine Smith

Hope you enjoyed our Video and learned something new, for more information on fun sounds with beer bottles check out this link

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sounds like learning...

So,ifIweretotalklikeyouaretryingtoreadthis, no one would understand a thing I was trying to say! Well, for some children that have a difficult time listening and paying attention, differences in speech acoustics can be just as hard to understand as the mash of words at the beginning of this post. So really the stubborn toddler may not be trying to drive you crazy- they just don't get what you're saying!

According to a study by Nina Kraus, Therese McGee, Thomas Carrell, Steven Zecker, Trent Nicol and Dawn Koch of Northwestern University and the University of Nebraska studied the affects of problems discriminating "rapid acoustic changes that occur in speech."
In their study they found that some of the problems may be caused by defects in the auditory pathways (affected by the nervous system) before the child can consciously interpret what they are hearing. Specific therapy programs may be able to help bridge the miscommunication: "previous research shows that speech-sound perception can be modified by training".
Learning more about the specific acoustic disturbances could lead to specialized treatment plans to assist children with ADD and other learning and attention disabilities.

With a family member that teaches at the elementary school level its very easy for me to imagine the amazing benefits the proposed therapy treatment could have in a classroom. With growing class sizes and drastic changes in demographics and attitudes towards school,  streamlining classroom focus and taking a little extra time to encourage learning ability certainly wouldn't be a bad thing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bombs Underwater

One day, you and a friend are scuba diving off the shores of your favorite Pacific island. Its a normal sunny day, and you are watching a school of fish while your friend is off exploring a rock. Then all of a sudden the fish scatter and you hear a thunderous boom, scaring the crap out of you and the fish. Using those survival instincts you swim to the shore for safety and grab your buddy on the way. Your buddy is confused because did not hear anything, but you heard a bomb go off. So what happened?

Science! Underwater sound moves funny and far according to this math heavy article.

Really funny and

really far.

So what happened was, a bomb went off thousands of miles away and you hear it! Lucky you. The fun and magical properties of the deep sea allows sound to move or propagate in horizontal channels. These properties mainly deal with temperature and pressure at different depths. The result is low, or deep bass sounds, can move very far distances underwater. One time a 1.8 kg of TNT (very small) was detected over 19 thousand km away (very far). That less energy than a gallon of gas and almost half way around the earth!

So the next time you are under the sea and hear a large noise, don't panic, it can be miles and miles away.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Talking Monkeys!

Yellow Hat Curious George

Talking about monkeys I go straight to curious george, a family favorite. He is always up to some kind of mischeif and and is super curious about the world. No matter what the monkey, most people can agree that the little curious ones are hard to resist if not super cute(see below).

Baby Monkey so Cute?

Well even though its cute, monkeys can be quite the handful. Did you ever notice how in the TV show that Yellow Hat Man is always talking to George as if they both understand each other? Well in 2001 there was a study conducted trying to decipher how monkeys heard, specifically Rhesus Monkeys. In the article here you will find a lot of sciency jargon that will either blow your mind or make you go wha?? O.o
Like it did to me the first few times. The gist of it is that this species is more attuned to listening to complex sounds rather than simple ones or tunes. Their language is becoming more complex! They probably wont be speaking english any time soon, but from the results of the experiments and the data they collected they may in the future. Just take a look at their speech/sound patterns below.

Makes you wonder what other animals may develop this complex way of thinking. Dogs maybe, who knows. We will probably have to run this sound analysis on them in the future.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Shake your Tail Feather

Flit from Pocahontas!
Photo: hummingbirdflit.tumblr.com

Almost everyone can agree that hummingbirds are cuuuuute (as evidenced above). We know that hummingbirds sing, but did you also know that certain species can create music using only their tail feathers? Last year, this study was published in order to more fully understand how this happens.

It turns out that only male hummingbirds produce the "songs" and, of course, they do it to impress the lady hummingbirds during a mating dance: they fly high up into the air and then shoot down like a rocket, produce the sounds, and presumably, capture the lady bird's heart.

Using wind tunnels, the researchers recreated this courtship dive and discovered that several feathers on the edges of the bird's tails vibrate, creating sound waves. The reason that these sound waves are so loud (for such a tiny bird) is that the feathers vibrate together, creating sympathetic vibrations; in other words, the sound waves stack on top of each other and increase loudness.

In reality, the "song" created by the tail feathers is really more of a small chirp (the video below plays this sound a couple of times times before the narrator comes in), but it is still quite an impressive and unique evolutionary perk!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wait, who wrote that?

With new music coming out every day, isn't it all starting to sound the same? Have you ever listened to a song and said "Hey that sounds familiar?" Well lets take a look.

This song focus on just how 4 chords are used over and over in songs. How such a simple pattern can have so many possibilities. But what if we take this idea into the computer realm. Software is now being created where it loads music from several sources such as Mozart and Beethoven and from those sources finds certain types of patterns and starts to "compose" its own music. Triumph of the Cyborg Composer is an article on David Cope's software that does just that. He developed a program call Emily Howell to create some beautiful works of art. You can listen to some samples right here:

But I'm not here to talk about how does the music sound or how the software works, but who gets the credit? If we look at the samples above, who wrote them? One of the obvious answers is David Cope. He created the software, he created the music. But is that true? Could one say Emily Howell created it? But that's just a program, right? Or is it the original composers who created these patterns in the first place? 

Whatever or whoever you think deserves credit, one thing can be certain, we are pushing into a new realm of music. A realm where computers can figure out what we like and create new songs on the fly and the role of composing music is diminishing and the same four chords can be used to write any song.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mind, Body, Music!

Even after watching the movie Legally Blonde for the umpteenth time I still laugh when Elle Woods explains how her client, a queen of workout videos is innocent: "Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't!"

This got me to thinking if exercise makes people feel happy, but exercising in silence is pretty awful- at least in my world,  then listening to music has to make working out better (somehow)! And as it just so happens various other people must have had the same thought.

Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest from Brunel University studied the affects music has on exercising after learning that the 2007 New York Marathon had banned participants from listening to music during the race. Karageorghis and Priest determined that "...music can influence preparation and competitive performances: dissociation, arousal regulation, synchronization, acquisition of motor skills, and attainment of flow." 

Charles Emery from Ohio State University did similar research and determined "Listening to music may influence cognitive function through different pathways in the brain. The combination of music and exercise may stimulate and increase cognitive arousal while helping to organize cognitive output." Emery has also done testing to see the effects different types of music!

So while you consider the impacts of music on the mind and body check out this sweet video! It is a pretty good argument for the "acquisition of motor" skills by music!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Shut Your Face Gun

There are many interesting gadgets and fun toys out there. Once in a while one grabs your imagination and does not let go. For me it was this Speech Jammer.

This invention uses the principle of Delayed Auditory Feedback(DAF) to produce the desired effect of confusion and silence. By adding a small delay to the targets voice the Jammer confuses the person's ability to hear themselves and disrupts the brains ability to put together sentences.

When I saw this video, I got excited and said to my friend , "We should make one!" Then we did and made a crappy video.
It did not work as well as we hoped but did does confuses the crap out of people. In the process of making and experimenting with our gun we learned that it only works on people speaking in their native tongue.  Also DAF was originally used to help people with stutters correct their speech as seen here.
 So it turns out that a discovery to help people to stop stuttering causes others to stop speaking. One man's cure is another's poison. I hope you found the Speech Jammer as interesting as I did. If you make one your self, let me know by commenting below. Also if you know of any other cool sound gizmos, post those below as well. Till next time.