In laboratories, any noise can sound absolutely unusual and surprising. In the outside world, we take many sounds for granted. Sound waves, frequencies, and even music subside, then revive again, and we react to them as we have been accustomed to all our lives. However, super-technological devices can reveal absolutely incredible properties and abilities of sounds in the most unexpected circumstances and places. In addition, sound can affect the human brain at a level that we do not even suspect due to the limitations of our perception. Ahead of you is a selection of 10 stunning facts about noises that were discovered in scientific laboratories and during experiments.
10. Sound can help to understand the effect of anesthesia
Conservative medicine is of the opinion that nerves transmit information through electrical impulses. They are the paths along which the brain communicates with the rest of the body, and they can even be called messengers, giving the hand a command to stroke a cat or take a cup of coffee, for example. However, this sounds extremely incomprehensible to physicists. Thermodynamic laws state that electrical impulses produce heat, but no one has yet registered such heat inside the human body. Therefore, scientists have made another assumption – nerves do not actually use electricity. Instead, they communicate using sound waves. Not all scientists agree with this theory, but it may well explain an old medical riddle.
Anesthesia is not new in the world of healing, but no one really knows exactly how all the senses are turned off. According to physicists, sound plays an important role in this amazing process. Nerves have membranes. These shells must maintain a temperature close to the temperature of the human body so that sound pulses can transmit commands. A sufficient amount of analgesic substance can affect the temperature of cells and successfully blocks sound waves, preventing nerves from sending pain signals during surgery.
9. The visual system can also hear
During the experiment, the behavior of monkeys led to an incredible discovery. At first, the animals were taught to reach for the light when a light bulb lit up on a special scoreboard. When the beam was bright, the monkeys reacted to it immediately. When the light bulb shone dimly, it became more difficult for the primates to complete the task assigned to them. However, if the dim light was accompanied by a sharp sound signal, the monkeys reacted to the beam with lightning speed, which allowed us to conclude that the brain can even use sound to “see”.
This discovery shook the ideas of neurologists about the nature of things, because it was previously believed that the parts of the brain responsible for vision and hearing are not connected in any way. However, 49 visual neurons of the monkey brain proved the opposite.
During the perception of dim light accompanied by an audible signal, the neurons reacted as if the eyes saw a brighter light. The reaction rate was so high that the reason for this could only be a direct connection between the sound and visual parts of the brain.
The discovered connection of sensory abilities can also explain the improvement of vision in the deaf or the excellent hearing of the blind. Most likely, the part of the brain responsible for the lost feeling continues to support other functional abilities of a person, sending the released resources there.
8. A new way to diagnose and take blood tests
Blood tests are one of the most important ways to make a correct diagnosis, but even here it is not without its difficulties. Current technologies for studying blood samples are time-consuming, and there are a number of risks, including infection and damage to the sample. In addition, blood delivery is also not always an easily feasible task.
Recently, a completely new method has appeared that can change almost everything! Now the blood can be checked using sound waves, which allows you to get the necessary tests quickly and with very high accuracy. The future is not far away when the information about the patient’s condition that doctors need will be provided based on the processing of exosome data. These microscopic extracellular vesicles secreted by tissues into their environment can tell a lot of interesting things about our body and its problems. Exosomes were found in blood serum, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, breast milk and other media.
The new technology separates cells, platelets and exosomes using sounds at different frequencies. Blood during such acoustic tests is practically not exposed to any harmful effects, which minimizes the risk of damage to the sample taken.
The use of sound for blood analysis has great potential to save lives! Among the advantages of the new method are faster diagnostics, replacement of the usual tests of internal organs, which are more difficult to reach, and an excellent alternative to standard biopsy procedures, which are associated with a number of inconveniences. One of the most valuable advantages of the sound method is that portable sets of such analyzers can be used in any conditions from sterile laboratories or ambulances to remote and hard–to-reach settlements.
7. Solving levitation
Puzzle lovers have tried to explain the ability of Buddhist monks to soar above the ground in various ways. Among the versions offered theories about magnets and even about lasers. It turns out that the answer lies in the silent noise… In 2014, researchers from a Scottish university discovered that sound percussion is able to lift whole objects into the air.
Sound waves can produce forceful pressure on the environment. In our case, it’s air. This power is so unique that it can even be used during levitation. However, Scottish scientists have failed to design a functional device that would lift objects into the air with the help of sound.
The problem was the amplitude and frequency. To overcome gravity, sound waves had to be produced in a certain order, and it depended on whether the object would lie in place, hover at a certain height, or even move in some chosen direction. Such tasks require the involvement of very complex mathematical calculations.
Recently, another group of researchers, using a special program and data from the Scots, tried to calculate this magical pattern of sound waves necessary for levitation. They discovered as many as three such sets of frequencies and amplitudes and even created a successful three-dimensional sound field using 64 tiny speakers.
The installation was called an acoustic hologram, and in this field, scientists learned how to launch light polystyrene balls into the air and control them. Using three different sound circuits, the researchers were able to hold these balls in the air inside the sound cage, as if they were in the center of a small sonic tornado.
6. Sound can extinguish a fire
At first, professors at George Mason University in Virginia were rather skeptical about the project of their two students. A couple of young engineers wanted to learn how to “stun” fire with sound waves. Previous research on this topic inspired young scientists to create a fire extinguisher equipped with a special sound system.
The guys specialized in electrical engineering and software, not chemistry, and therefore their idea was initially received with laughter rather than enthusiasm. However, 23-year-old Seth Robertson and 28-year-old Seth Robertson (Viet Tran) continued their work anyway, and partly at their own expense, although not without the participation of one of the professors.
Ordinary music was excluded from research almost immediately when it became clear that such sound waves were too inconsistent to affect the flame. The main task of the engineers was to wean the fire from its main power source – oxygen. It finally succeeded when the flame was subjected to a low-frequency influence at the level of 30 – 60 hertz.
Sound waves created an area with low oxygen saturation, and this prevented the feeding of the flame, which in response began to fade. To assemble a working portable fire extinguisher capable of fighting the burning of different types of fuel and fires of different sizes, it is necessary to carry out a lot of research and testing work.Gorenje But the discovery can already be considered a breakthrough that can revolutionize the usual methods of extinguishing fire. It seems that in the future firefighters will be able to abandon fire extinguishers that leave behind toxic substances.
5. Sound can change the taste
It turns out that low-frequency sound waves not only extinguish fires. They are also associated with the perception of the bitter taste of food, and high frequencies, on the contrary, play a role in the sensation of sweetness.
This phenomenon has not yet been fully studied, but a large number of laboratory experiments and experiments right in restaurants have confirmed that the perception of the taste qualities of food also depends on the surrounding sound. It turns out that taste can be modulated. It seems that scientists have learned to add sweet or bitter shades while eating almost any product, be it cake or steak.
The unusual influence of sounds does not affect the taste buds as such. It’s all about the magic of our brain. High or low notes affect brain preferences to focus on sweet or bitter characteristics of food.
In addition, it turned out that simple noise can negatively affect the process of eating. In 2011, during one of the studies, it was found that background noise plays a big role in the perception of the taste of food. If it’s too loud around, people are less likely to enjoy their lunch break and feel the sweetness or salinity of snacks worse. This explains to a large extent why noisy restaurants are not the best place for dinner, or why travelers so often scold airlines for snacks served to them on board planes.
4. Symphonies from scientific data
Mark Ballora grew up in a family of musicians. Later, while studying at the university and in the process of obtaining his scientific degree, the man became interested in converting information into music. As a result, Ballora came to sonification, a method of expressing mathematical data in the format of sound waves.
For almost 20 years, Ballora has created a number of melodies in which he encrypted the data of several scientific studies. Among others, these were symphonies composed of works on the energy of neutron stars, the body temperature cycle of American ground squirrels, tropical storms and solar activity.
During the creation of such compositions, Ballora first gets acquainted with new information for herself, covered in a scientific work, and then selects suitable sounds that complement and reflect the research topic, and translates them into music.
Symphonies about tropical storms were characterized by “swirling” and cyclical sounds, music about the solar wind was distinguished by transitions and a shimmering rhythm. In the scientific world, sonification is not yet considered a widespread tool for storing and analyzing data, but among astronomers it has already managed to gain some success.
For example, blind astrophysicist Wanda Merced from the South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town has already managed to love listening to her working data in the form of musical compositions. She discovered that during the explosions of stars and due to the exchange of energy between the particles released due to the explosion, electromagnetic waves arise. Her colleagues with good eyesight missed this because they were looking at graphs and data, and not “listening” to this information.
3. Cocktail party effect
When researchers wanted to understand the essence of the phenomenon called the “Cocktail Party Effect”, they turned their attention to patients with epilepsy. These patients had something very valuable for science – some of them already had special electrodes installed in their brains for therapeutic purposes.
Usually these devices are designed to monitor seizures, but 7 patients agreed to participate in a “cocktail” study. When a person tries to concentrate on a certain conversation in a noisy place, this process is called the cocktail party effect. Scientists wanted to understand exactly how our mind manages to recognize speech during active interference.
Each subject listened to the same poor-quality speech recording. Almost none of them understood the speaker. Then the patients listened to a clean version of the same speech, and immediately after a clear recording, they included a new segment of speech with noises. Incredibly, this time the audience understood the whole distorted monologue. They did not pretend, as evidenced by the data from the electrodes.
During the first test (with noises), the parts of the brain responsible for recognizing sounds and speech remained practically inactive, but they immediately “lit up” with listening to a good recording and then during the last speech with noises. It turns out that our ability to follow the thoughts of the interlocutor in a noisy environment is associated with incredible plasticity and lightning-fast brain response. As soon as the brain recognizes the words, our mind immediately concentrates on the subsequent sentences. Visual and auditory systems are sharpened and tuned to identify the source of speech and filter out the accompanying noise.
2. Pink noise
Top 10: Amazing scientific discoveries about sound
Among people suffering from insomnia, there is the term “white noise”, which they sometimes use in relation to a good night’s rest. It is also the ability to block background noise and ignore it, concentrating on higher priority tasks. For example, you easily forget about the sound of a running fan when you are busy with something important. But recently, a number of independent studies have found something more interesting for those who have trouble sleeping – pink noise.
White noise is associated with uniform and prolonged sounds, and pink (or flickering) noise is considered to be uniformly decreasing in the logarithmic frequency scale. The spectral density graph in this case corresponds to the pink color, for which this noise got its name.
Pleasant sounds of wind, rustling leaves or raindrops pounding on the roof can reduce brain activity. As a result, sleep becomes deeper, calmer and more effective. Chinese researchers conducted an experiment during which the pink noise lulled 75% of the volunteers, and they slept much better than usual. When the tests were carried out on those who like to sleep during the day, it turned out that the number of people who entered the recovery and rejuvenation phase increased by 45%. Recall that in China, daytime sleep is commonly called the sleep of beauty and rejuvenation.
For older people, research on pink sleep is also great news. Aging is closely related to intermittent sleep, which in turn has a bad effect on memory. A team from an American university invited people over the age of 60 to experiment and observed their reaction to pink noise during a night’s sleep. In the morning, all the subjects passed memory tests. Those who did not sleep under the pink noise coped with the tasks 3 times worse than those who slept under it.
1. There are people in the world who hate sounds
For those who love pink noise or rock concerts, it may sound absolutely incredible, but there are people in the world who can’t stand the sound of bursting packaging film bubbles. Yes, clicking with a ballpoint pen can cause someone to have a rapid heartbeat and sweating, this extraneous sound will irritate them so much.
It may seem to you that these people are exaggerating or pretending, but British scientists have found that intolerance to certain sounds is a very real medical problem called “misophonia”, and it is directly related to abnormalities in the structure of the brain. In those suffering from misophonia, the frontal lobe department is smaller and not as developed as in those for whom the sound of the keyboard when typing does not cause a desire to scream and cry.
During the experiment, scientists observed two different groups of subjects – misophonics and healthy people. All participants in the experiment listened to different sets of sounds while the researchers analyzed their brain activity. Unpleasant noises irritated the insular lobe of the cerebral cortex of both groups of volunteers, regardless of their condition. This part of the brain is responsible for the formation of consciousness, the support of homeostasis, the formation of emotions and a “fight or flight” type reaction (response to a threat).
However, the brain of those suffering from misophonia reacted much more intensively and provoked the appearance of symptoms of physical stress, including palpitations and increased sweating. Interestingly, the insular lobe is directly related to the anomalies of the structure of the frontal lobe of the brain.