All posts tagged sound

Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here is the list of the ten posts on Green Comet that got the most visits in 2018.

1. Spanking for Love

Once again Green Comet seems to be a gateway for people who want to learn about spanking their women. Humans are funny little things, aren’t they?

2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

Judging from the pattern of hits, I’m guessing that a lot of children find this post after getting a school assignment.

3. Home Page
This makes sense, since it’s the landing page for the site.

4. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

It’s a fascinating story, so I’m not surprised at the interest in it. It’s interesting to speculate about the search parameters that led here. There are some good comments, too.

5. Most Unpleasant Sounds

Once again, how do people end up here? What is the interest in unpleasant sounds?


This is gratifying. Since the purpose of the Green Comet website is to provide a home on the internet for the Green Comet trilogy, I am pleased that so many people go to the downloads page. In fact, you should do that as soon as you finish reading this post. Download everything. It’s free.

7. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

This one is probably linked to #2. They are closely related ideas.

Credit Craig Sunter – CC-BY

8. Cirrus Homogenitus

Everyone loves clouds, and this one is probably particularly interesting because it’s one of the rare new ones designated by the World Meteorological Organization in their International Cloud Atlas.

Photo credit – Ross Cooper

9. Altocumulus Lenticularis

More clouds, and these ones are popular for their striking appearance and their counter-intuitive behavior.

10. Altocumulus Castellanus

More clouds, and again very distinctive in their appearance.

So, that was 2018. I think I’m safe in predicting that the list for 2019 will be similar.


Petar Milošević CC-BY-SA – tap for original

Synesthesia of the Day — Misophonia

For the first time in a long time I don’t feel as if I’m up to my elbows in work. It seems like after I finish writing a novel is when I get really busy. It has to be prepared for publication, then it has to be published, and there’s a lot to that for someone who does it himself. Then there’s the recording, which took a month for The Plainsrunner, and preparing that for release. So I’ve been busy and it’s letting up, and now I find myself looking around for anything I’ve missed. Wracking my brain in case there was some little detail I’ve left out. I guess I’ve gotten used to being busy, and it’s taking a while to slow down. As I do slow down, though, I realize that I now have time for a blog post that isn’t about the book. Here’s one about synesthesia.

In a previous post — Most Unpleasant Sounds — we looked at Dr Sukhbinder Kumar of Newcastle University and a small study where he came up with a list of the ten most unpleasant sounds, as selected by volunteers. The list would seem reasonable to most normal people, although I’m sure most people could easily alter it, either with the sounds themselves or the order of their unpleasantness.

It turns out that Dr Kumar works with people for whom unpleasant sounds go far beyond any list that normal people might make. The list would be much longer and the reaction to the sounds would go beyond unpleasantness or discomfort. For the people suffering with misophonia, some sounds can get down to their primordial emotions, from uneasy fear to terror. Mere sounds can evoke a classic fight-or-flight response. Unless they can find a way to insulate themselves from the sounds, they could live their whole day in a state of extreme stress.

It’s easy to dismiss the complaints of people with misophonia. Why should I have to worry about every little sound I make just because somebody’s a little sensitive. Tiny little sounds that everyone makes unconsciously every day. The popping or smacking of lips. Sniffing. Even the way we breathe. And that’s just few from one small part of the body. There are a lot of triggers — largely things we could control if we tried — and we would have to be on our guard all day long to avoid bothering anyone with misophonia. Can’t they just suck it up and deal with it?

No, they can’t. With therapy they can learn how to deal with it better, but there’s no cure. Unlike other forms of synesthesia, which can be pleasant, or at least interesting, misophonia seems to be unrelentengly bad. Sufferers soon give up trying to get the rest of us to give them a break, and look for ways to live with it. Typically that means cutting themselves off from people. Working from home. Staying single. Since the bad sounds are largely made by people, who could avoid making them — that’s an important part of it, that it’s not just any sounds, but sounds that people make when they don’t have to — the most effective course is to avoid people.

Next time you hear someone drag their fingernails across a blackboard, and you recoil, your skin crawling, try to imagine if you also felt primeval fear, your thighs quivering in preparation for running away. Then try to imagine feeling that way if someone snapped their fingers or sucked their teeth. Misophonia — hatred of sound — might be the worst form of synesthesia.

Read this BBC article about Margot, and how she lives with misophonia.


Credit Marjaree Mason Center – CC-BY-SA

Here are the ten most viewed posts of 2017, not including permanent site components such as the home page, Downloads, Welcome, etc. Once again it seems I’ve become the Internet gateway for people wondering about spanking their wives.

1. Spanking for Love

What is it with spanking? This post has just over twice as many views as the second one.

2. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory

The interest in this continues. It spikes at the same times each year. School assignments?

3. Ants in the Devil’s Garden

After a big drop-off from #2, people seem to love these orchardist ants.

4. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory

The curve flattens from here on down. This one is probably spillover from #2.

5. Altocumulus Castellanus

The only Cloud of the Day in the top ten. That surprises me. And I wonder why this one in particular.

6. Collective Nouns

A perennial favorite, and a favorite of mine. Murders and murmurations.

7. Most Unpleasant Sounds

This one also surprises me. A quirky little list.

8. 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just point them at this and not have to deal with them over and over?

9. Milankovitch Cycles – Obliquity

The only top ten post that I actually wrote this year. Part of a demanding series.

10. Microsculpture – The Insect Portraits of Levon Biss

Oh, good. I’m glad the list includes a tribute to beauty and hard work.

So, that was 2017. What are the odds that spanking will be again in 2018?


VocalID Certificate

VocalID Certificate

I got a certificate! VocalID gave me a certificate to reward my efforts, and to encourage more. VocalID is an initiative whose goal is to provide unique voices to people who can’t speak on their own. They need devices that can synthesize a voice for them, and VocalID wants to let them choose their own rather than settle for one of the generic ones. See my original post on VocalID.

Watch Rupal Patel’s TED Talk and get inspired.
Visit VocalID’s website to see what they’re about.

VocalID is looking for people to join their Summer Ambassador Fellowship Program. Do you know any students who are looking for a good cause this summer? See about it here.

Maybe they can get a certificate, like me!-)


Mapparium in Blue

Mapparium in Blue

A whispering gallery is defined as “a space beneath a dome or arch in which sounds produced at certain points are clearly audible at certain distant points,” in the Free Dictionary, a free online dictionary.

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, defines a whispering gallery similarly: “a gallery beneath a dome or vault or enclosed in a circular or eliptical area in which whispers can be heard clearly in other parts of the building.”

HR MacMillan Science Centre

HR MacMillan Science Centre

There are many examples of whispering galleries around the world, some natural, some artificial constructions. The viewing areas in planetariums generally have a projection dome on top of a circular wall. The whispering can be heard around the inside of the wall. Sometimes you can hear people on the opposite side of the room better than you can hear your neighbor.

Large buildings and public spaces dominate when it comes to finding whispering galleries in human structures. Buildings that serve more than a utilitarian purpose, where the costs can be justified for pride or beauty, are good candidates. Churches and other large public buildings often have superfluous structures in them, like domes and arches. Large, curved surfaces make the best galleries.

The Grand Central Oyster Bar

The Grand Central Oyster Bar

Grand Central Station, a New York railway station built when monumental was the word, is such a building. In it is an oyster bar called the Grand Central Oyster Bar, which is entered via an arched hallway. People in opposite corners of the hallway can hear each other whisper.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London has a dome. The current Saint Paul’s does, anyway. The original one, built of wood by the Saxons and lost to fire in 675, didn’t. Neither did any of the many incarnations of the cathedral built over the next thousand years on the same spot. The present version, completed in 1708, was designed by Christopher Wren and is the first to have a dome. From ground level one must climb 259 steps before entering the dome. Once inside, the whispering gallery effect can be heard.

The Mapparium

The Mapparium

The Mapparium, in Boston, goes beyond arches and domes. It’s a stained glass globe, fully enclosed in all dimensions. All points share acoustical effects with at least one other point. It was built in 1935 and shows the Earth’s political boundaries in stained glass. People can walk on a glass sided bridge right through the center and look out through a map of the world all around them.

William Hartmann at the Mapparium

William Hartmann at the Mapparium

Physicist William Hartmann and his team have recorded many acoustical effects in the sphere. There is the classical whispering gallery, where people on opposite sides in the structure can hear each other. There are places where sounds are amplified or muted. A sound source moving away across the bridge can seem to flip back and forth from ear to ear.

I can’t think of a nicer place for an acoustically-inclined person.