kottke.org posts about acoustics

The solution to the soprano problem

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2009

The soprano problem is the mispronunciation of lyrics by sopranos at the high end of their range. In order to make themselves heard in opera houses, sopranos need their voices to resonate, which they only do when making certain sounds.

Jane Eaglen, a critically acclaimed soprano who has performed Wagner’s works in opera houses worldwide, explains that sopranos must try to find a balance between power and clarity. “It’s really about how you modify the vowels at the top of the voice so that the words are still understandable but so that you are also making the best sound that you can make,” she says.

A pair of scientists have found that the meticulous Richard Wagner may have been aware of this problem and wrote the soprano parts in his operas to minimize the mispronunciations.

Sonic black hole

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2009

Scientists have created a sonic black hole using Bose-Einstein condensates near absolute zero.

Since atoms move between the [Bose-Einstein condensate] clouds faster than sound, any sound wave trying to escape will fall farther and farther behind, never able to escape the sonic event horizon. “It’s like trying to swim slowly against a fast current,” said Steinhauer. “The sound waves fall behind because the current is moving faster than the waves.”

Bose for speakers, Bose-Einstein for anti-speakers. Now, if we could just position one of these holes near the Fox News anchor desk, we’d be all set.