Public Release: 

Lay-language summaries of latest research at Acoustical Society meeting now online

American Institute of Physics

College Park, Md. (May 16, 2011) - 'Feeling' sounds, muffling explosions and car exhaust, and 'hearing' damage to spacecraft are just some of the approximately 50 lay-language versions of papers being presented at the 161st Acoustical Society of America's (ASA) meeting in Seattle, Wash., May 23-27. These summaries are posted online in the ASA's Worldwide Pressroom; many contain evocative sounds, images, and animations.

Reporters attending the meeting or covering the sessions remotely now have access to a wide array of easily approachable summaries covering all aspects of the science of sound. There are no embargoes on these presentations.

The following are excerpts of selected lay-language papers. The entire collection can be found here:

http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/index.html

Lay-language Paper Highlights

  1. Turning KA-BOOM! into ka-boom
  2. Listening to the ocean and marine life using fiber-optic monitoring system
  3. Biomedical ultrasound: Making a quantum leap in medicine
  4. Using bubbles to reduce underwater noise
  5. Silencing your car with a hybrid muffler
  6. Feeling sounds
  7. "How did she say that?": An examination of male-to-female transgender voice physiology
  8. Spacecraft damage-detection system for human habitation modules
  9. Demonstrating the effect of air temperature on wind instrument tuning
  10. The sources and effects of motorcycle noise
  11. Why is understanding foreign accents so hard?
  12. Understanding casual speech: "Well he was like, 'what's wrong?!?'"

1. Turning KA-BOOM! into ka-boom

"When explosives are found unexpectedly, left over from mining or road-building, or before a planned terrorist attack, often the safest way to dispose of them is to detonate them in place. Even if the explosives were intended for civilian use, they might have become unstable over time so that moving or touching them could be very dangerous. To do this safely, airmen, soldiers, and others need extensive training, including hands-on use of real explosives. Recently, training like this has produced added noise around military facilities and increased noise complaints from neighbors. We studied some suggested methods to reduce this very loud noise to see if any would work." Paper 1aNS11 by Michelle E. Swearingen et al. will be presented Monday morning, May 23. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Swearingen.html

2. Listening to the ocean and marine life using fiber-optic monitoring system

"As our abilities to listen to the ocean in trying to better understand and manage it have evolved, the application of fiber-optic, high-bandwidth transmission technology is revolutionizing ocean observing. These advanced systems, stemming from developments in telecommunications, enable the simultaneous acquisition and transmission of high-density data streams, including acoustic measurements. A multi-disciplinary collaboration of geophysicists, acousticians, and biologists is working to merge acoustic observation systems into a cabled observing network that is being deployed off Washington and Oregon and will operate for the next 25 years." Paper 1aAO by Brandon Southall et al. will be presented Monday morning, May 23. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Southall.html

3. Biomedical ultrasound: Making a quantum leap in medicine

"Combining creativity and ingenuity, scientists are expanding the role of ultrasound in the clinical setting. Historically, ultrasound has been used for such applications as imaging fetal development or quantifying blood flow. In recent developments, researchers are fusing expertise in physics, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and nanotechnology to formulate solutions to tough clinical problems. The collaborative spirit has led to the production of specially engineered particles for novel imaging and therapeutic applications." Paper 1pID10 by Tyrone Porter will be presented Monday afternoon, May 23. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Porter.html

4. Using bubbles to reduce underwater noise

"Manmade, or anthropogenic, underwater noise is known to have the potential to disrupt marine life, including the possibility of affecting the migratory patterns of marine mammals." Researchers note that: "A traditional noise control approach is to erect a barrier around the noise source. To be effective in this low frequency range, such a barrier would have to be significantly larger that the noise source itself and more dense than the water, and hence is impractical in many cases. Research is underway at the University of Texas at Austin to develop practical and relatively inexpensive methods to significantly reduce the level of low-frequency sound emitted by underwater noise sources using either freely rising air bubbles, or tethered encapsulated air bubbles." Paper 2aUWb11 by Kevin M. Lee et al. will be presented Tuesday morning, May 24. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Lee.html

5. Silencing your car with a hybrid muffler

"Imagine that you drive a car without a muffler along Main Street in a town. The roar of the internal combustion engine of your car can lead to an extremely loud noise at the end of the exhaust pipe. Even installing a less efficient muffler than the original one can cause your car to violate noise regulations that may earn you a citation from a police officer. Installing a properly designed muffler can reduce the roaring noise of the engine into a quiet purr." Researchers looked for ways to improve this performance. "By choosing different sound absorbent materials, we demonstrate that a specific hybrid muffler can be designed for sound reduction at any desired frequency bands." Paper 2pPA12 by Rong Bi et al. will be presented Tuesday afternoon, May 24. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Rong.html

6. Feeling Sounds

"Most of us take for granted that our senses - hearing, touch, taste, smell, vision - are discrete. For people with a condition called synesthesia, however, the experience of these sensations is mixed. Some 'synesthetes' see colors when hearing musical notes, for example, or feel distinct shapes on the tongue when tasting certain foods - lemon is pointy, for example, or chocolate is round. Now, new research ... might explain the origins of this phenomenon. [Researchers] find that synesthesia may result from a particular type of cross-wiring in the brain, and they show that a form of this kind of crossing of sensory information occurs even in the normal brain." Paper 3aPP5 by Tony Ro will be presented on Wednesday morning, May 25. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Ro.html

7. "How did she say that?": An examination of male-to-female transgender voice physiology

"Perceptual judgments about a person's gender are formed quickly and are strongly influenced by that person's voice and communication. Transgender (TG) individuals make considerable efforts to portray themselves in a way that ensures others perceive them as their desired gender. If they fail to do so, the social, occupational, and mental health ramifications can be dire. A speech-language pathologist has the expertise to provide voice and communication therapy to enable the TG individual to present a gender consistent with their personal gender identity." Paper 3aSC19 by Adrienne Hancock et al. will be presented on Wednesday morning, May 25. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Hancock.html

8. Spacecraft damage-detection system for human habitation modules

"Astronauts live in a shooting range. Just beyond their living space, tiny projectiles traveling twenty times faster than a speeding bullet are whizzing by." It was noted that: "... after every Space Shuttle flight, typically two windows must be replaced due to particle impact damage." The implications for this are important. "As NASA begins designing habitats for astronauts to live in space or on other bodies (Moon, Mars, asteroids), there is an obvious need for an instrument to alert the crew when and where a damaging impact occurs." Paper 4pEA2 by Robert Corsaro et al. will be presented on Thursday afternoon, May 26. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Corsaro.html

9. Demonstrating the effect of air temperature on wind instrument tuning

"Musicians who play wind instruments know that tuning is a problem when the air temperature is well above or below normal room temperature, as may occur during outdoor performances of concert bands in the summer and football marching bands in the fall. Instruments from both the brass and woodwind families tend to play sharp when the air is hot and flat when the air is cold." This presents an interesting teaching opportunity. "A simple and inexpensive demonstration of this air temperature effect has been developed that can be used in classes of various levels." Paper 4aED1 by Randy Worland will be presented on Thursday morning, May 26. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Worland.html

10. The sources and effects of motorcycle noise

"Motorcyclists ride for all sorts of reasons: the freedom of the open road, the excitement, the convenience and the reduced impact on the environment of their transport choice. Noise is important to biking and many riders love the rush they get from a throbbing exhaust or a screaming engine. The thrill has a price, however: noise can seriously damage hearing and stop you enjoying hard biker rock - quite a price to pay. In our work, we have studied the causes of this noise and, surprisingly, it's not the engine or the exhaust that are important, but the helmet. We have also looked at the effects of this noise on the road, in the laboratory and in our wind tunnel." Paper 5aNS12 by Michael Carley et al. will be presented Friday morning, May 27. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Carley.html

11. Why is understanding foreign accents so hard?

"Many people have at one time or another felt frustrated trying to understand a speaker with a foreign accent." But why is this so difficult? "In a series of studies, [researchers] examined listeners' ability to understand the speech of two different speakers: a native English speaker and a native Quebec French speaker, both speaking English." Their results were revealing. "These results tell us two important things about understanding accented speech: First, when talking with someone who has a foreign accent, it may be easier to adjust to the accent if the speaker says many similar-sounding words at first. Second, listeners are likely to have the most difficulty understanding foreign-accented words when the accent creates confusion between two real words in English, such as 'beet' and 'bit.'" Paper 5aSC22 by Alison Trude and Sarah Brown-Schmidt will be presented Friday morning, May 27. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Trude.html

12. Understanding casual speech: "Well he was like, 'what's wrong?!?'"

"This paper examines how listeners combine information about words, sentences, and sounds to understand very casual, even "sloppy" speech, in which sounds are not pronounced clearly." Researchers explore the information listeners use to do that. "To summarize, this work shows that listeners are very skilled at combining information from the acoustics of the sounds of a word itself, the rate of surrounding speech, and the meanings of other words in the sentence to determine the meaning of very reduced, casual speech. However, they do not do this by relying primarily on the meaning of the context, as people sometimes think. Rather, they favor the information in the sounds they actually hear, and make inferences about what sounds the speaker may have left out in fast speech." Paper 5pSC17 by Dan Brenner et al. will be presented Friday afternoon, May 27. http://www.aip.org/asa_laypapers2011/Brenner.html

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MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE 161ST ASA MEETING

The Sheraton Seattle Hotel is located at 1400 Sixth Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98101. The hotel main numbers are: 1-206-621-9000 and toll-free: 1-800-325-3535.

USEFUL LINKS:

ASA Worldwide Pressroom:
http://www.acoustics.org/press

Main meeting website
http://acousticalsociety.org/meetings/future_meeting

Searchable index:
http://asa.aip.org/asasearch.html

Hotel site:
http://www.starwoodmeeting.com/StarGroupsWeb/booking/reservation?id=1009104388&key=980BA

PRESS REGISTRATION

ASA will grant free registration to credentialed full-time journalists and professional freelance journalists working on assignment for major news outlets. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact Charles E. Blue (cblue@aip.org, 301-209-3091), who can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org

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