noise and signals

Wait, my love, and I’ll be with you


We all know the awkward feeling when a conversation is disrupted by a brief silence. This paper studies why such moments can be unsettling. We suggest that silences are particularly disturbing if they disrupt the conversational flow.

A mere four-seconds silence (in a six-minute video clip) suffices to disrupt the conversational flow and make one feel distressed, afraid, hurt, and rejected. These effects occur despite participants’ unawareness of the short, single silence. […]

Finally, the present research reveals that although people do not consciously notice brief silences, they are influenced by conversa- tional disfluency in a way quite similar to ostracism experiences (e.g., Williams, 2001). That is, people report feeling more rejected and experience more negative emotions when a conversation is disrupted by a silence, rather than when it flows. Thus, disrupted flow can implicitly elicit feelings of rejection, confirming human sensitivity to social exclusion cues.

{ Journal of Experimental Social Psychology | PDF }

from Greek phero ‘to bear’ and hormone ‘impetus’


Have you ever found someone particularly sexy without knowing why? It could be that you are lured in by their pheromones, invisible chemical signals that can subtly alter a person’s mood, mindset, or behavior. According to new research published last week in Current Biology, men and women give off different signals, but you subconsciously only respond to the gender you find attractive. And when you smell these pheromones, the object of your affection instantly appears even sexier in your mind.

{ Popular Science | Continue reading }

A roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says, Five beers please


Your voice betrays your personality in a split second


They extracted the word “hello” and asked 320 people to rate the voices on a scale of 1 to 9 for one of 10 perceived personality traits – including trustworthiness, dominance and attractiveness. […] “We were surprised by just how similar people’s ratings were.” […] most people agreed very closely to what extent each voice represented each trait.

{ NewScientist | Continue reading }

related { How sound affects the taste of our food }

‘Kierkegaard was made entirely of obsidian.’ —Jeffrey Cranor


In previous research, acoustic characteristics of the male voice have been shown to signal various aspects of mate quality and threat potential. But the human voice is also a medium of linguistic communication. The present study explores whether physical and vocal indicators of male mate quality and threat potential are linked to effective communicative behaviors such as vowel differentiation and use of more salient phonetic variants of consonants. […]

[T]aller, more masculine men display less clarity in their speech and prefer phonetic variants that may be associated with masculine attributes such as toughness.

{ Human Nature/Springer | Continue reading }

‘Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.’ —Paul Theroux


We evaluated the impact of different presentation methods for evaluating how funny jokes are. We found that the same joke was perceived as significantly funnier when told by a robot than when presented only using text.

{ Dr. Hato | PDF }

Ongoing projects: Adding farting to the joking robots.

{ Dr. Hato | Continue reading }



More young men in California rise in pitch at the end of their sentences when talking, new research shows.

This process is known as “uptalk” or “valleygirl speak” and has in the past been associated with young females, typically from California or Australia.

But now a team says that this way of speaking is becoming more frequent among men.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Dennis Stock }

That’s your solution? Have a cookie?


Shoppers are more likely to buy a product from a different location when a pleasant sound coming from a particular direction draws attention to the item, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“Suppose that you are standing in a supermarket aisle, choosing between two packets of cookies, one placed nearer your right side and the other nearer your left. While you are deciding, you hear an in-store announcement from your left, about store closing hours,” write authors Hao Shen (Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Jaideep Sengupta (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). “Will this announcement, which is quite irrelevant to the relative merits of the two packets of cookies, influence your decision?”

In the example above, most consumers would choose the cookies on the left because consumers find it easier to visually process a product when it is presented in the same spatial direction as the auditory signal, and people tend to like things they find easy to process.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

Take it easy, Gramps! We gotta stay here ’til Evinrude brings us word from the mice.


Sound waves with frequencies just above human hearing can levitate tiny particles and liquid droplets and even move them around, a team of engineers has demonstrated. […]

In the new research, the team […] uses the setup to lift and spin a toothpick. Previously, no one had been able to control objects larger than a few millimeters in diameter.

{ Science | Continue reading }

One of the biggest frustrations with online dating is that people are deceptive


By exploiting some exotic acoustic techniques, researchers have built a window that allows the passage of air but not sound.

{ The Physics arXiv Blog | Continue reading }

photo { David Slijper }

Hear you this Triton of the minnows?


Using a high-speed camera pointed at the throat, scientists can decipher a person’s words without relying on a microphone.

By snapping thousands of images per second, researchers recorded every wavering wobble of neck flesh that accompanied sounds floating out from a person’s voice box. A computer program then turned the recorded skin vibrations into sound waves, Yasuhiro Oikawa of Waseda University in Tokyo reported June 3.

{ ScienceNews | Continue reading }

We all have enough strength to endure the misfortunes of others


Why do we sigh?

Does it help regulate my breathing when I’m stressed? Is it a subconscious action I do to express to those around me that I’m anxious or upset? Perhaps a mental reset button, so to speak?

In fact, it may be a combination of all three.

In a series of studies, Teigen and colleagues at University of Oslo explored the context in which people sigh—when are people doing it, and how is it perceived by others?

{ Gaines, on Brains | Continue reading }

photo { Mario Torres }

So we grew together, like to a double cherry, seeming parted


{ Chris Cunningham’s original photo for Aphex Twin’s Windowlicker cover }


{ A spectrogram of “Windowlicker” reveals a spiral at the end of the song. This spiral is more impressive when viewed with an X-Y scatter graph, X and Y being the amplitudes of the L and R channels, which shows expanding and contracting concentric circles and spirals. The effect was achieved through use of the Mac-based program MetaSynth. This program allows the user to insert a digital image as the spectrogram. MetaSynth will then convert the spectrogram to digital sound and “play” the picture. | Wikipedia }

Floating hair of the stream around the limp father of thousands


A drug applied to the ears of mice deafened by noise can restore some hearing in the animals. By blocking a key protein, the drug allows sound-sensing cells that are damaged by noise to regrow. The treatment isn’t anywhere near ready for use in humans, but the advance at least raises the prospect of restoring hearing to some deafened people.

{ Science | Continue reading }

image { Yoshifumi Hayashi }

Wait a moment. Wait a second. Damn that fellow’s noise in the street. Self which it itself was ineluctably preconditioned to become.


For people with a condition that some scientists call misophonia, mealtime can be torture. The sounds of other people eating — chewing, chomping, slurping, gurgling — can send them into an instantaneous, blood-boiling rage. […]

Many people can be driven to distraction by certain small sounds that do not seem to bother others — gum chewing, footsteps, humming. But sufferers of misophonia, a newly recognized condition that remains little studied and poorly understood, take the problem to a higher level.

They also follow a strikingly consistent pattern, experts say. The condition almost always begins in late childhood or early adolescence and worsens over time, often expanding to include more trigger sounds, usually those of eating and breathing. […]

Aage R. Moller, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas […] believes the condition is hard-wired, like right- or left-handedness, and is probably not an auditory disorder but a “physiological abnormality” that resides in brain structures activated by processed sound. […]

Taylor Benson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Creighton University in Omaha, says many mouth noises, along with sniffling and gum chewing, make her chest tighten and her heart pound. She finds herself clenching her fists and glaring at the person making the sound.

“This condition has caused me to lose friends and has caused numerous fights,” she said.

Misophonia (“dislike of sound”) is sometimes confused with hyperacusis, in which sound is perceived as abnormally loud or physically painful. But Dr. Johnson says they are not the same. “These people like sound, the louder the better,” she said of misophonia patients. “The sounds they object to are soft, hardly audible sounds.” One patient is driven crazy by her beloved dog licking its paws. Another can’t bear the pop of the plosive “p” in ordinary conversation.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘Maybe it was then that he really imagined something for the first time, as he was standing there in the dark.’ –Fyodor Dostoevsky


A new study published in PLoS One shows that chili seeds can perceive nearby plants even if these are enclosed in boxes. As it was not possible that the enclosed vegetables could communicate through air or soil, researchers believe that plants may be able to hear sounds.

{ United Academics | Continue reading }

photo { Raymond Meeks }

The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau


Neuroscientists have uncovered the first evidence of a common genetic thread, which links together multiple senses in humans.

The new findings suggest our sense of touch is genetically intertwined with our sense of hearing; in practice this means if you’ve got a good sense of hearing, it’s highly likely you also have a high touch performance.

{ Cosmos | Continue reading }

The queen of infinite space


There’s a room in the U.S that’s so quiet it becomes unbearable after a short time. The longest that anyone has survived in the ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is just 45 minutes.

It’s 99.99 per cent sound absorbent and holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s quietest place, but stay there too long and you may start hallucinating.

{ DailyMail | Continue reading }

illustration { Suzanne Sattler }

While I switch gears, bitch lookin at the bracelet

My name’s [your name]. So you know what to scream in bed.


A low-pitched voice in a man is associated with a litany of masculine traits: dominance, strength, greater physical size, more attractiveness to women, and so on. But new research strikes one trait off that list: virility.

An Australian study looked at male voice pitch, women’s perceptions of it, and semen quality. Their first finding was no surprise: Women like deep voices and consider them masculine.

But contrary to expectations, they also found that these men aren’t better off in the semen department. In fact, by one measure of sperm quality — sperm concentration in ejaculate — men with the attractive voices appeared to have a disadvantage.

{ LiveScience | Continue reading }

related { Breakthrough in male fertility: scientist grow sperm in laboratory }

They say that dreams are growing wild just this side of Burma-Shave


Two scientists who study icky sounds have figured out why fingernails dragged across a chalkboard make people’s skin crawl. It’s not the highest or lowest sounds in the squeak that are so annoying, but rather tones that lie in the range of a piano keyboard.

{ ScienceNews | Continue reading }

photo { Jordan Kinsler }