noise and signals

The ball is round, the game is long

Two alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain why grunting in tennis may impede opponents’ predictions, referred to as the distraction account (i.e., grunts capture attentional resources necessary for anticipation) and the multisensory integration account (i.e., auditory information from the grunt systematically influences ball trajectory prediction typically assumed to rely on visual information). […]

our findings provide strong support for the multisensory integration account by demonstrating that grunt intensity systematically influences judgments of ball trajectory.

{ PLoS One | Continue reading }

Un joujou extra qui fait crac boum hu

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Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit — all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.

{ Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendice, 1995 }

‘Tu as été rêvée (ouïe) dans mon rêve sans l’avoir voulu. Mais cela ne t’autorise pas à y rêver à ton tour pour me déposséder encore. Je ne connais pas les soins pour que tu ne souffres plus. Le son, la musique sont partout.’ —Jean Palomba

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Researchers at Brigham Young University and Colorado State University have found that the noise your food makes while you’re eating can have a significant effect on how much food you eat.

The “Crunch Effect,” as they call it, suggests you’re likely to eat less if you’re more conscious of the sound your food makes while you’re eating. Therefore, watching loud TV or listening to loud music while eating can mask eating sounds that keep you in check.

To be clear, the researchers are not talking about the sizzle of bacon, the crack of crème brulee or popcorn popping. The effect comes from the sound of mastication: chewing, chomping, crunching.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

Upon the knife of my youth

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Researchers have created a digital audio platform that can modify the emotional tone of people’s voices while they are talking, to make them sound happier, sadder or more fearful. New results show that while listening to their altered voices, participants’ emotional state change in accordance with the new emotion. […]

The study found that the participants were unaware that their voices were being manipulated, while their emotional state changed in accordance with the manipulated emotion portrayed. This indicates that people do not always control their own voice to meet a specific goal and that people listen to their own voice to learn how they are feeling.

{ eurekAlert | Continue reading }

drawing { Julia Randall }

You can always make a deal when two parties want different things. The only time you can’t make a deal is when people want exactly the same limited resource.

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When we talk we take turns, where the “right” to speak flips back and forth between partners. This conversational pitter-patter is so familiar and seemingly unremarkable that we rarely remark on it. But consider the timing: On average, each turn lasts for around 2 seconds, and the typical gap between them is just 200 milliseconds—barely enough time to utter a syllable. That figure is nigh-universal. It exists across cultures, with only slight variations. It’s even there in sign-language conversations. […]

(Overlaps only happened in 17 percent of turns, typically lasted for just 100 milliseconds, and were mostly slight misfires where one speaker unexpectedly drew out their last syllable.) […]

This means that we have to start planning our responses in the middle of a partner’s turn, using everything from grammatical cues to changes in pitch. We continuously predict what the rest of a sentence will contain, while similarly building our hypothetical rejoinder, all using largely overlapping neural circuits.

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

collage { Penelope Slinger, Giving You Lip, 1973 }

Beyond that road lies a shining world. Beyond that road lies despair.

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Why do dogs tilt their heads when we talk to them?

Biologist here. Head tilting allows an animal to gain information about the vertical placement of the sound (how far up/down it is, relative to the axis of the skull). It is assumed that canids do head-tilting to try to localize a sound better. This is backed up by the fact that canids do a lot of head-tilting when hunting small prey that are hidden behind grass or snow.
 Generally — as bilaterally symmetrical animals, mammals already get pretty good information on left-right placement of a sound, due to the fact that we have an ear on the left and a different ear on the right — that means we can get left/right info by things like, time of arrival of the sound at each ear, and loudness of the sound in each ear. But up/down information (how high or low the sound source is) for a sound that is coming from directly in front can be difficult to figure out. This is a challenge for a predator that is typically approaching prey that are right in front. The head tilt solves this problem by offsetting the two ears vertically so that sounds from lower down will hit the lower ear first, and will also be ever so slightly louder in the lower ear, and vice versa for sounds coming from higher up. […]

With domestic dogs looking at a human, typically they already know the sound is coming from the human; they seem to just instinctively add the head tilt when hearing a puzzling sound, even if they’re pretty sure where it’s coming from.

{ 99trumpets/reddit | Continue reading }

‘The message is, there is no message.’ —James Holmes

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Artificial-intelligence researchers have long struggled to make computers perform a task that is simple for humans: picking out one person’s speech when multiple people nearby are talking simultaneously.

It is called the ‘cocktail-party problem’. Typical approaches to solving it have either involved systems with multiple microphones, which distinguish speakers based on their position in a room, or complex artificial-intelligence algorithms that try to separate different voices on a recording.

But the latest invention is a simple 3D-printed device that can pinpoint the origin of a sound without the need for any sophisticated electronics.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

photos { 1 | 2. Yo-landi Visser photographed by Pierre Debusschere }

A hand from the cloud emerges, holding a chart expanded

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In the course of several studies, 22 male and female subjects, ranging in age from 5–75 years, have been stimulated while asleep by simulated sonic booms […] and subsonic jet flyover noise. […]

Children (5–8 years of age) are uniformly unaffected by noise during sleep;

older subjects are more sensitive to noise than younger subjects;

women are more sensitive to noise during sleep than are men.

{ Journal of Sound and Vibration | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Hilo Chen, Beach 163, 2009 }

Gradual decline into order

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The first portable audio recorder was made in 1945 by a man named Tony Schwartz. […]

Armed with his recorder (and sometimes a secret microphone attached to his wrist), Schwartz chronicled every sound in his Manhattan neighborhood.  He recorded children singing songs in the park, street festival music, jukeboxes in restaurants, vendors peddling vegetables, and more than 700 conversations with cab drivers. […]

He released 14 records of his sound collections, including a whole record of the sounds of sewing, and had a free-range weekly radio program on WNYC for more than 35 years. […]

As insatiably curious as he was, Tony Schwartz didn’t travel. He was severely agoraphobic. […]

Eventually Schwartz amassed a huge collection of more than fifteen thousand recordings of conversation, folklore, and folk music, which he then shared with his listeners. He introduced Harry Belafonte to Jamaican music, gave African music to the Weavers, and created a global sound exchange, all from within the few blocks he felt comfortable traveling.

{ 99% Invisible | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

skateboard deck { Kronk }

Don’t give up your dreams. Keep sleeping.

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Algorithm recovers speech from vibrations of potato-chip bag filmed through soundproof glass

Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass. In other experiments, they extracted useful audio signals from videos of aluminum foil, the surface of a glass of water, and even the leaves of a potted plant. […]

Reconstructing audio from video requires that the frequency of the video samples—the number of frames of video captured per second—be higher than the frequency of the audio signal. In some of their experiments, the researchers used a high-speed camera that captured 2,000 to 6,000 frames per second. […] In other experiments, however, they used an ordinary digital camera. Because of a quirk in the design of most cameras’ sensors, the researchers were able to infer information about high-frequency vibrations even from video recorded at a standard 60 frames per second. While this audio reconstruction wasn’t as faithful as it was with the high-speed camera, it may still be good enough to identify the gender of a speaker in a room; the number of speakers; and even, given accurate enough information about the acoustic properties of speakers’ voices, their identities.

{ Phys.org | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

photo { Philip-Lorca diCorcia }

Allo, non mais allo quoi

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The weather impacts not only upon our mood but also our voice. An international research team has analysed the influence of humidity on the evolution of languages.

Their study has revealed that languages with a wide range of tone pitches are more prevalent in regions with high humidity levels. In contrast, languages with simpler tone pitches are mainly found in drier regions. This is explained by the fact that the vocal folds require a humid environment to produce the right tone.

The tone pitch is a key element of communication in all languages, but more so in some than others. German or English, for example, still remain comprehensible even if all words are intonated evenly by a robot. In Mandarin Chinese, however, the pitch tone can completely change the meaning of a word.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

Create and manage chaos, then offer a form of order

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{ 100 Copies of The Beatles’ White Album Playing At The Same Time }