T is for Timbre

Can you taste the difference between a lemon and a strawberry? I hope so. If you, blindfolded, had a chunk of each fruit fed to you, how would you describe the difference? Certain attributes like texture and bitterness might be obvious but there are elements of the taste that'd be harder to describe. Yet your difficulty in finding the words wouldn’t mean you’d have any trouble distinguishing a lemon from a strawberry.

When it comes to sound we have a real challenge when we talk about timbre. Timbre isn't a Canadianized spelling of the word you yell when a tree is falling down or if you're Pitbull (feat. Ke$ha) wanting to make a night you won’t remember or be the one you won’t forget. The timbre we're talking about is pronounced TAM-burr and we know it comes from French but there isn’t a really clear translation for it.

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CYMATICS: Science Vs. Music

One of the coolest music videos ever.

Seen a bunch of these experiments in nifty videos that get passed around online, but this guy puts it all together into a wickedly slick production. Probably need to go back and pay attention to the music now, since I was so transfixed on the amazing things sound can do.

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H is for Headphones (A Guide for the Perplexed Buyer)

You may not like Dr. Dre's music, but you have to thank him for one thing: putting headphones back on the map. Or at least, slapping his name on a product on which people will pay far more for the letter "b" than they would on Wheel of Fortune.

In the last few years, headphone sales have exploded, with Dre's famous Beats headphones leading the charge and soaring past $1 billion in sales. The celebrity endorsements and prominent placement in Apple stores surely don't hurt, but if you step back and consider how radically the headphone market has changed over the past few years amongst non-audiophiles, it's pretty astonishing.

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D is for Decibel

If you've ever seen Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, you'll remember long scenes like this one, in complete and utter silence. Of course, that's because they happen in the vacuum of outer space, and sound is a dance that air molecules do. Air and outer space don't mix.

But life on earth is a constant barrage of molecules dancing this way and that, and the way that we detect these air disturbances is through our ears. And since we human-folk seem to get the greatest joy from naming and measuring the world around us, we shouldn't be surprised there's a whole field of study concerning the intensity of these air movements. 

When we hear of the decibel – a unit of measurement named after none other than Alexander Graham Bell – we tend to think of sound levels...

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