The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World (Book Review)
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Author Trevor Cox is an acoustic engineer with a passion for discovering interesting acoustic phenomona wherever they may be found. From gigantic cathedrals and ancient monuments, to abandoned oil tanks and Victorian sewers, Cox has travelled the world to experience these acoustic wonders. In The Sound Book, he both chronicles these unique sonic experiences and explains the science behind them.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting applications to discuss with my physics classes, and this book gave me ideas I might never have discovered on my own. Here are just a few of the tidbits I learned from this book.
- Frogs amplify their voices with vibrating skin instead of a resonant cavity as humans have. That means that a frog’s voice won’t change if it inhales helium. (Yes, apparently someone has actually verified this.)
- There is a road in Calfornia that uses rumble strips with strategically spaced bumps so that the rumbles will play the first few bars of the “William Tell Overture” as one drives over it. Unfortunately, the spacing was’nt calculated quite right, causing the rendition to be rather out of tune, but it’s still a great idea.
- There’s at least one species of plant whose leaves have a concave shape designed to reflect bat’s sounds. As brightly colored leaves attract bees, these concave leaves ensure that the plants are found by the bats that pollinate them.
- Bach wrote his organ pieces to take advantage of the long reverberation times in the cathedrals where they would be played. But when drapes and wooden galleries were added to reduce the reverberation times, he could then create the spritely, uptempo music that we often associate with Bach and the Baroque period.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a teacher looking for great examples to discuss in class, or just someone who loves interesting science, or even someone who just loves interesting sounds, there’s a great deal to learn and appreciate in Cox’s book. I recommend it for yourself, or for the science lover on your gift list.See this book on Amazon