Archive for the ‘Sound’ Category
NoiseTube allows citizen scientists to monitor noise pollution with a mobile app.
Come to your senses! SciStarter has curated a list of projects for all 5 senses.
I was overjoyed the first time I heard the peaceful fountain, twittering bird song, and gentle rustle of wind through the trees oustide my office window. Then, one morning in early January, I opened the windows to a cacophony of new, and unwelcomed, sounds – cars on the freeway, backhoes and bulldozers beeping, chainsaws buzzing. The developers had arrived with their manmade noise pollution and associated health risks. But how loud is this new racket wafting in on the breeze?
NoiseTube was developed by the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris and the BrusSense Team at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel to empower citizen scientists to measure and record their daily exposure to noise. According to Dr. Ellie D’Hondt, a scientist with BrusSense, “The volunteers helping out in these campaigns are essential… we are showing that participatory maps are just as useful as the ones made by official approaches.”
Once the free mobile app (available for iOS, Android, and Java ME-based smartphones) is downloaded, your mobile phone is transformed into a noise-sensing machine. Curious how noisy the school run is? Is the ‘sound of silence’ really deafening? Are theme parks louder than crashing waves? Simply launch the app and record your noise exposure on-the-go to find out. Once your tracks are uploaded, you can compare your experiences with others around the globe.
Since its launch in 2008, over 2250 citizen scientists representing more than 652 cities in 75 countries have contributed sound tracks to the project. The top seven cities – Paris, Brussels, Zagreb, Hoeilaart, Aachen, Brooklyn, and Braunschweig; account for over 1000 minutes, or 16.67 hours, of recordings.
After analyzing data from just one city, Wommelgem, Belgium, Dr. D’Hondt explains, “I learned interesting things – where red lights were, where there were traffic slowers, and how locals would related these to colours on the noise map.” But how can a noise map show where red lights are? Through collaboration and feedback from local citizen scientists, Dr. D’Hondt discovered that a red light was located on the high dB(A) side of a roundabout (pictured). Eventually, Dr. D’Hondt would like to understand how loudness correlates positively and/or negatively with fun experiences.
While helping scientists understand how people perceive their daily soundscape, researchers hope to engage city planners by providing them with evidence to improve zoning and building regulations. “Getting the techniques to be accepted by authorities is still difficult at times.” Dr. D’Hondt observes. “Cities struggle with these norms [noise assessment guidelines] and often don’t have the means to include more modern techniques [such as participatory sensing].” The BrusSense lab has shown that citizen scientists contribute high quality data and that “Particpatory Noise Mapping Works!” – supporting the continued acceptance and democratisation of grassroots citizen scientist projects to explore the world around us.
Armed with my NoiseTube, I’m dying to know how the backhoes and bulldozers compare to rustling leaves or the cheering crowds at this weekend’s race. How might your experiences with fresh crunching snow compare to those of crashing waves? Why not grab your mobile phone and record the soundscape of our modern lives?
Dr Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and communicator dedicated to sharing the inspiring stories of life science and helping the general public explore their world. She holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh for research into how antibiotics kill bacteria, was a policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences, and is a published photographer. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science. Not content to stay stateside, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80 or plotting her next epic adventure.
Can Words Trigger a Response from Your Senses? Find Out with the Investigating Word Modalities Project
Investigating Word Modalities seeks citizen scientists to help investigate words attached to senses.
SciStarter is shuffling science into the language department. Explore the science of words with these citizen science projects!
Modality describes a pathway in the body through which a stimulus is registered. It essentially refers to one of the five senses. For example, the stimulus light is registered through the visual modality with the eyes. However, unexpected stimuli can sometimes trigger a modality, such as words. The goal of the Investigating Word Modalities Projectis to explore which words elicit a response from the auditory (hearing) or visual modalities.
Drs. Bonnici and Simons from the Memory Lab at the University of Cambridge are performing the research, which Simons describes as “a small pilot study.” They ask that participants take a quiz rating how strongly a series of words are associated with an auditory sensation, a visual sensation, or both. The words range from onomatopoeia, in which the word mimics the sound it is describing, to names of objects that make sounds, to things that make no sound at all. Similar types of words are explored for the visual modality, ranging from things that can be seen to those that are invisible.
When I took the quiz, it was interesting to see what words triggered a sensory response. I found that a number of words describing silent objects still caused me to have an auditory response, while similarly, I experienced visual sensations with words that name invisible things. I also found that many words evoked distinct auditory or visual memories.
Overall, the quiz was a fun exploration of the associations made my brain. If you have a spare twenty minutes, give it a shot – you, too, might be surprised by the response of your senses. Plus, you’ll be helping scientists understand how words can elicit a modality.
Emily Lewis is a PhD candidate in chemistry at Tufts University, where she analyzes catalysts for synthetic fuels on the nanoscale. She received her BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University, and her thesis work examined fuel cell catalysts under real operating conditions. She loves learning about energy and the environment, exploring science communication, and investigating the intersection of these topics with the policy world. When she’s not writing or in the lab, you’ll probably spot Emily at the summit of one of the White Mountains in NH. Follow her: @lewisbase, emilyannelewis.com.
The hills are alive with citizen science. More musical projects for your ears and brain.
This morning, I woke up after a good night’s rest, ready to take on the world. I was still lying in bed, thinking about how great it would be if I could just lace up and go out for a run. I imagined myself getting ready like Rocky Balboa in his now famous training montage (never mind that I’m closer to Kung Fu Panda than Rocky in the physical fitness department). After a few moments, I realized I was humming the tune to ‘Eye of the Tiger’. Before I knew it I had the tune stuck in my head and couldn’t get it out all day long. What is it about this song that’s so ‘sticky’ I wondered and so when I got back home, I listened to the full song a few times. And then it hit me. It was the guitar riff at the beginning that had me hooked.
If you hear that song right now, you’ll see that the riff and the chorus (“It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight…”) are the parts that have a penchant for getting stuck in your head. Not surprisingly, that’s what you’d call the song’s hook. And it isin’t just me trying to find out where the hook is. Singers and songwriters are always looking for that perfect hook that creates the next chart topping hit. And scientists like Dr. Henkjan Honing and Dr. John Ashley Burgoyne at the University of Amsterdam are looking deeper, trying to decipher how our brains process these catchy tunes (the science of musical cognition). When Dr. Erinma Ochu, an expert in citizen science engagement at the University of Manchester got to know about this research, she did what she does best. She made a citizen science project out of it.
And so #Hooked was born. Launched in October this year at the Manchester Science Festival, the project was a big hit. It kicked off by asking about 700 people what they thought was the catchiest tune and analyzed the results. Now the project moves on to the next phase where anybody in the world can participate in this exciting experiment. To take it to the masses, the #Hooked team has created a game that can be played online. The game is set to launch in early 2014 and as the team explains on their webpage,
“We’ve designed a name-that-tune type game where people need to first recognise a tune then identify the hook in that song. By comparing the results from lots and lots of people who play the game, we will be able to look at the musical elements of the hooks to see what common factors, if any, create the most noticeable part of the tune.”
If you’re asking yourself why you should participate, apart from being a whole lot of fun playing this on the ride home from school or work, the project could end up adding significantly to brain research. By analyzing the results of this experiment, scientists hope to understand how your grey cells respond to colorful tunes. That knowledge in turn can be applied to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, whose memories are failing. Ready to jump on this groove train? Sign up to receive alerts about the project and know when the game is released (we’ll be sure to update it here as well!).
And oh, the tune voted the catchiest at the Manchester Science Festival? Fittingly, it was ‘I Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ by Kylie Minogue.
Arvind Sureh is a graduate student in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. For his thesis, he has been studying the molecular mechanisms behind uterine contraction during pregnancy. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera. www.suresharvind.com
Absolute pitch, also known as “perfect pitch” is the ability to instantaneously identify a musical note or recreate that note without an external reference. It is not fully understood why some people have perfect pitch and others do not, but it seems to require both an innate predisposition as well as musical training.
Do you think you have absolute pitch? It so, try out the project Perfect Pitch. This project, conducted through the University of Toronto, examines if the timbre or source of a sound affects how accurately we identify that pitch. So, though the frequency of a note might be the same, that note produced by a piano might be easier to identify than that if that same note was produced by a digital synthesize. Why? That is what researchers hopes to understand.
In this study, participants complete a brief questionnaire about their musical training and background before starting the sound test. There are four rounds. In each round, 24 pitches from A3 to Gb5 are played in random order. You have three seconds to identify the note before another pitch is played. In each round, the source of the sound will differ. The whole test only takes about 15 minutes.
If this sounds fun, be sure check out the other music themed projects highlighted in this week’s newsletter!
Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.
Calling all music enthusiasts–the Bodleian Libraries are enlisting the help of the public in order to improve access to their music collections. About sixty-four boxes filled with unbound, uncatalogued sheet music from the mid-Victorian period has been digitized for public access. Although this particular genre of music was considered to have little academic value in the past, it has recently come into new light as a window of insight into amateur music making as well as social practices during the Victorian era.
For instance, the “Cleopatra Galop,” written by dance-master Charles d’Albert, was advertised as “new dance music” in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay Herald in September 1878. Archival gems like these are not uncommon in the Bodleian collection. What’s even more fascinating is that the Bodleian team has partnered with the University of Oxford to make recordings of some of these works available so that users can aurally experience the pieces that they’re helping to describe. Listen to the “Cleopatra Galop” in the extensive recordings collection.
In order to help with the project, participants simply submit descriptions of the music scores by transcribing the information they see. There’s no pre-requisite of being able to read sheet music to take part, and the Library provides a superb step-by-step guide on how to do it.
The metadata collected from this project will eventually feed into a database, making the music collection ultimately more searchable online once it’s made available. By participating in this project, you’ll gain access to tons (all right, maybe pounds or kilos) of sheet music that has never been released to the public. Not only that, but the artful covers are worthy of a study in themselves.
Most importantly, the Bodleian Library has partnered with Zooniverse, a world leader in crowdsourced technology and a platform for various citizen science projects like Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, and Bat Detective (many of which are searchable in SciStarter’s Project Finder).
Music enthusiasts, history buffs, archive divers, or those simply curious are all invited to take part in this sonically stimulating citizen science project. Help the Bodleian keep score!
Image: Musical Notes, NSF
Image: Bodleian tutorial, whats-the-score.org