31 August, 2006

Sounds Like...

I collect acoustic anomalies. I think they happen to be one of the coolest things ever discovered by man.

I fell enthralled with the idea when we went to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. There are two specific spots under the rotunda where a whisper on one side of the room sounds can be heard on the other, just as clearly as if the whisperer was bending toward your ear. The story is that at one point when the legislature met in that room one delegate used the eavesdropping to his advantage, consistantly scooping the party on the other side of the aisle. While that is nefarious as all heck, it's still a cool thing.

A few years ago I was tickled to find that we have a miniature version of that right here in Nashville. The round room at the back of the Green Hills Starbucks has the same effect. If you sit in chairs against the wall, you will perfectly hear a conversation being held by the people in chairs across the room. I found this out by accident when I was trying to read. I kept wondering why a stranger was talking whispering in my ear about her boyfriend leaving her. It annoyed me until I snapped to and realised what was happening.

Last Saturday I discovered yet another acoustic parlour trick and was thrilled beyond belief. Because it's at the Hermitage Library. If ever there was a place you didn't want sound to travel.... Fortunately, this one is outside. There is a covered walkway leading from the library to the parking lot, which is shared with a small public park. There's a pavillion in the park, at least 100 yards from the library. But the acoustics are such that you can clearly hear the activities in the pavilion while standing in the library's walkway. Hubby and I initially thought there had been loudspeakers installed along the library beams. I think this may be called "reflected sound." I just think it's cool.


At 8:38 PM, August 31, 2006, Blogger Emmett B said...

At the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, there are what looks like 2 plexiglass spoons at each end of a hallway. If 2 people stand facing away from each other and speak into the "spoon" bowls, they can can have a conversation even over all of the noise around them and only they will hear it.

At 8:32 AM, September 06, 2006, Blogger friedApplePie said...

It's all math, of course. I could give you a little talk, but that would ruin the magic. If only precalculus students would notice these kinds of things.


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