Field of Science


12 Days of Inkfish, Day 10: Acoustic Scavenger Hunt

On the beach of a tiny Scottish island, a person kicked and jumped through unusual "singing sands" that made a squeaky barking sound in response. More than 3,600 miles away, I was able to eavesdrop on the weird phenomenon because that person had uploaded a recording to the website Sound Around You.

This crowdsourced sound map is a project by researchers at the University of Salford in Manchester. Volunteers around the world have shared ambient noises or noteworthy moments from their environments. The researchers hope to learn about how our soundscapes make us feel, and how they affect our lives.

Exploring the map they've built so far, you can hear street music in Chile, a quiet countryside in Thailand, and chatter on an Italian bus. From Israel, someone has uploaded the wail of an air-raid siren. Once you start cupping your ear toward people and streets on the other side of the world, it's hard to turn away.

The ambient noises of wind and elevated trains in Chicago seem to be pretty well covered already. But if you live someplace with more interesting background noise, you can use a free app called i-SAY to capture (and share) the sounds around you.

Image: Sound Around You

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