whispering galleries

The whispering gallery effect.

Credit - Ltikorea CC-BY-SA

Credit – Ltikorea CC-BY-SA

Leaving out the home, contact, downloads and welcome pages, these posts are the best of 2014 by visit.

14. Near Death Experience – Part Three
What happened to parts One and Two? How does the third one outrank the others?

13. Flesch Reading Ease
This surprises me. Why is there so much interest in a method for rating how easy it is to read text?

12. Yawning
Of things our bodies do, including Synesthesia, Smell (1, 2 & 3), Earworms and Handedness, yawning is the most popular.

11. Ball Lightning – Part Three
Again part three is first.

10. Ball Lightning
And it appears readers jumped right over Part Two to read these.

9. BitTorrent Bundles
Good. I’m glad people are interested in my BitTorrent Bundle. No idea how this fits in with the rest, though.

8. Gecko Feet
I’m glad to see this. I have a soft spot for these little guys.

7. Altocumulus Castellanus
This is the only entry from the Cloud of the Day series. Maybe because it sounds so grand?

6. Collective Nouns
I like this series. It’s a lot of fun. Even Part Two.

5. Aquatic Ape – The Theory Evolves
The Bipedal series did well, taking three of the top five spots.

4. Whispering Galleries
This is no surprise. There’s something intrinsically interesting about whispering galleries.

3. Spanking for Love
This is no surprise either. Humans, eh?

2. Bipedal – The Aquatic Ape Theory
The Aquatic Ape is popular, but the Savanna Ape is even more so.

1. Bipedal – The Savanna Theory
This post got more than twice the number of views of the two Aquatic Ape posts combined.

That’s what you were looking at in 2014. Thank you for your interest, and thank you for keeping it interesting for me. Without you, it could be a pretty bleak job maintaining Green Comet’s home on the Internet. You encourage me to carry on, both with this site and with the sequel to the novel, which should be ready in the middle of 2015.

That was the best of 2014. See you in the new year.


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.