Tag Archives: sound


(Sorry, no video or disco occurring in this blog)


So this article is from the Stone Age (2015) but I just found it now, so we’re going to take a look at it. For six songs, there are three samples provided (three for each song, that is). The task is to pick which of the three samples is of the highest audio quality.


I’m going to listen to each audio sample on 1) my $5.99 Koss headphones (the ones I use for walking) and on 2) my massive $600-ish Sennheisers (the ones that I freak out over nearly every day because they’re so damn good). I’m going to see if it’s easier to assess audio quality on the Sennheisers when compared to the Koss.

The tricky part is trying to be as objective/unbiased as possible for each song while still having to listen to each with both headphones. So rather than check my answers as I go, I’m going to first write them down for the Koss and then for the Sennheisers and then check my correctness. This will at least in part mitigate the issue of knowing which answers are correct as I go through the second round.

So let’s go!

Round 1: $5.99 Koss Headphones
Here are what I think are the best quality versions for each song:

  • Speed of Sound: sample 1
  • Mozart: sample 2
  • There’s a World: sample 2
  • Tom’s Diner: sample 3
  • Tom Ford: sample 3
  • Dark Horse: sample 3

[I waited about an hour between this round and the next and am not looking at my above answers as I do this process for the Sennheisers; I don’t remember what my above answers were]

Round 2: $600 Sennheiser Headphones
Again, here are what I think are the best quality versions for each song:

  • Speed of Sound: sample 3
  • Mozart: sample 1
  • There’s a World: sample 3
  • Tom’s Diner: sample 1
  • Tom Ford: sample 3
  • Dark Horse: sample 1

Ready for the results?

Score with Koss: 2/6
Score with Sennheisers: 5/6

Hahaha, wow. Wasn’t expecting that much of a difference!

Edit: turns out there’s a follow-up article. 29.7% of quiz-takers got a 2/6 score and only 4.5% of quiz-takers got a 5/6 score. Interesting!

Let’s Talk About Sound

Or, more specifically, how to kill people with it!*

Sound, as we all know, is a physical thing. It comes from vibrations moving through matter (including air, of course). A sound begins when something causes a vibration. This vibration creates a longitudinal wave traveling through matter. This wave is actually a pressure wave. If said pressure wave hits our eardrums, then we hear a sound.

The volume or loudness of a sound is based on the amplitude of these vibration-created pressure waves. A loud sound will have a larger oscillation between the high and low pressures of the waves when compared to a soft sound, meaning that loud sounds have higher high pressure sections and lower low pressure sections than soft sounds.

This is kind of convenient because it allows there to be a threshold for what we can consider to be the “loudest” sound—if the low pressure gets too low, it hits vacuum-level and cannot go lower. So the loudest sound is something that creates low pressure sections between waves that are nearly vacuums.


In fact, what we consider to be the “threshold of sound” on the loud side of the scale (at least on earth) occurs at 194 decibels.** And where do we hit the point where sound can be deadly? Somewhere around 185-200 decibels.

Here are a few good resources/articles that talk about sound in general as well as what happens when you start approaching (or passing!) that “here is where sound gets deadly” threshold.

It’s actually kind of disturbing to think about. But also really cool.

*Sound killing people was actually something I focused on in my 2012 NaNoWriMo, “Whistler’s Father.” A scientist and an artist were working together to create the “perfect” sound—something that would boost mood, health, and would overall make people “better” if they were to hear it. But it turned out that the perfect sound was actually deadly if it was listened to for too long; the scientist in my story ends up killing himself via this perfect sound because he becomes addicted to it and is unable to stop listening to it in time to prevent his own death. Yeah, that was a cheery NaNo.

**You can get sounds louder than this, but the vibrations that create them don’t create waves (again, because of that low pressure threshold) but they still create something. Things like the atomic bombs dropped on Japan and the eruption of Krakatoa, for example, were louder than 194 decibels, and were very destructive if we even just consider the sounds (or rather, the spikes in atmospheric pressure) they produced.




TWSB: The Sound of a Solar Re (and a Do, a Mi, a Fa, a So, a La, a Ti, and More Do)

The authors of the Ask a Mathematician/Ask a Physicist blog received and answered this question not too long ago: If you could hear through space as though it were filled with air, what would you hear?

The answer is as follows: the sun.

Yes, our big showy center of the universe is also the loudest thing around, at least to us. The Physicist explains: both the loudness and brightness of an object is exactly proportional to how big it is. The sun’s brightness, therefore, is a function of its temperature and size. If a small ball of the same temperature as the sun were to be held up so that it appeared to be the same size as the sun, it would feel exactly as warm and seem exactly as bright as the sun.
Taking this comparison of a small bright ball = distant, huge sun with respect to the amount of heat omitted, The Physicist states that the sun, if we could hear it, “would be exactly as loud as any other large-marble-sized nuclear explosion held at arm’s length.”

So we’d pretty much be deaf. Or dead.
Insanity! Article here.

30-Day Meme – Day 19: A talent of yours.
Rewriting song lyrics. I swear this is my single talent in life. Like I said in my “100 Things” list, I credit my mom playing a lot of Weird Al when I was a kid. It comes very naturally to me. Here are a few examples:

  • Justin Timberlake’s Sexy Back rewritten as Easy Mac.
  • Boston’s Peace of Mind rewritten as Piece of Pi.
  • MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This rewritten as U Can’t Prove This (it’s about logic class and how long it took  me to wrap my head around proofs).

This Week’s Science Blog: She Deafened Me with Science!

Super cool! Says a related article, “The Audio Spotlight system uses nonlinearly propagating ultrasound to create highly directional beams of sound in mid-air, which can be “shone” and “directed” much like light.”

This could be used to freak so many people out.

30-Day Meme – Day 8: Describe the style you had 10 years ago.
Haha, what is this “style” you speak of? Let’s see…ten years ago was 2001, so I was in 7th grade. I wasn’t quite as colorful as I am nowadays, but I still wore a lot more color than my peers. I remember being compared to Phoebe from Friends with respect to my clothing…though I wouldn’t really know how accurate this statement is, ‘cause I’ve never seen Friends. So I guess my style is the same as it is now, only subdued.

Short Blogs for Short People

This is super fun.

I told you this was short.


Today’s song: Suite pour orchestre No. 2 en Si mineur by Richard Galliano


Hooray for Wiki.
This makes me very happy. That is all.