Friday, November 23, 2007

Forensics: Target gets recognition

The WCCO television station profiles the audio/video forensic guys at Target - yes, Target, the department store chain.  They truly are heroes in our profession, and largely unsung ones at that.  Target encourages and supports their in-house forensic unit in assisting law enforcement agencies in solving their audio/video forensic problems and they do it for free.  It is nice to see them getting some well deserved attention.

Human Auditory System: Hearing the Aurora

Damn Interesting has an article about reports of people "hearing" the Aurora Borealis.  Different explanations are presented but the author leans toward something called electrophonic hearing, which is the phenomena where electromagnetic fields stimulate the auditory nerves and thereby create the sensation of sound in human subjects.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fun: Foreign words and phrases that have no exact English translation

English has absorbed many words and phrases from many different languages over the centuries, but there are some that haven't quite been imported yet.  A new book titled Toujours Tingo has quite a collection of very interesting, and perhaps even occasionally useful, words and phrases that exist in other languages but have no corresponding English equivalent.  The Mirror (UK tabloid) has a review.

I have no idea if the translations of these are accurate or not, but a couple that I particularly found amusing, at least the way they are presented in the book, are:

Vrane Su Mu PoPile Mozak - Croatian: crazy, literally "cows have drunk his brain"
Gadrii Nombor Shulen Jongu - Tibetan: giving an answer that is unrelated to the question, literally "to give a green answer to a blue question"

If you want a copy of the book, the details are Toujours Tingo: More Extraordinary Words to Change the Way We See the World, by Adam Jacot de Boinod, published by Penguin Books.

(Hat tip: GeekPress)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Physics: How are sound and light different?

Sound and light are very different, even though they are both waves.  For instance, one can travel in outer space and the other one cannot - at least outside of Hollywood, sound doesn't travel in a vacuum! 

To explain more fully, let's start off with how light and sound are the same.  Both are indeed waves and therefore have amplitudes, frequencies, wavelengths, and speeds.  Wavelength is the distance a wave travels before repeating, or, put another way, it is the distance between two successive troughs or peaks on a periodic (repeating) wave.  Frequency is the number of times a wave repeats in a second and is closely (and inversely) related to wavelength.  The speed of a wave is the frequency times the wavelength.

One way that they differ is in how they propagate. Sound requires a media to travel in because it is basically just a change in pressure.  For example, in air, it is a change in air pressure that carries the sound.  Sound can also be carried by other media, such as water (e.g. sonar).  Light, on the other hand, is an electromagnetic wave, which means that it is a combination of electric and magnetic fields that travel together.  Therefore, it does not need air, water, or any other medium to carry it - in essence, it carries its medium with it.

Another way in which they differ is in their speeds.  Sound travels about a foot (approximately a third of a meter) in a millisecond.  Light, on the other had, travels 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second.  Talk about the tortoise and the hare!

So, despite many similarities, sound and light differ in ways that are significant and have consequences for many different life forms - but that is a topic for another posting.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Acoustics: A next generation microphone needs a special test chamber

I certainly hope it is not a sin to be envious of someone else's funded research work, because if it is, I have a penance coming.  The University of Alabama and Tuskegee University got an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant for research into a next generation microphone that will sense more than just changes in sound pressure and they are getting a new anechoic chamber to test it in as a bonus.  ScienceDaily has a write-up that focuses on the chamber, while the Tuscaloosa News has more details on the microphone research.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Photography: 13 things to teach a child about digital photography

I probably am not the only parent who has, upon purchase of a newer digital camera, turned around and given the older model to the children and said something amounting to "Here,  go take some photos with this and come back when its full."  This, of course, leads to some impromptu lessons in photography for the children who are interested.  So, with that lead in, here is a link to an excellent blog posting that summarizes those lessons for you.