Taxonomy term


Why meteors snap, crackle and pop

Keen-eared observers sometimes report hearing popping, whistling or buzzing at the same time they see meteors pass far overhead, a perplexing phenomenon called the electrophonic effect. What causes the effect — or if it’s even real — has been discussed for centuries; famed astronomer Edmond Halley is said to have dismissed it as a figment of people’s imaginations. In a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers suggest that not only is it real, but that it is caused by radio waves induced by meteors and converted to sound waves near Earth’s surface.

17 Aug 2017

Source of Red Sea's mysterious cannon earthquakes revealed

For decades, people living along Egypt’s Red Sea coast have reported hearing loud blasts accompanying the small earthquakes that regularly jolt the Abu Dabbab region. And there is evidence the sounds have been occurring for much longer: Abu Dabbab means “the Father of Knock” in Arabic, hinting at a tectonic mystery at least as ancient as the name of the long-inhabited coastal region. Now, scientists are offering a novel explanation for the uniquely noisy seismic events, and their discovery is revealing new information about the underlying structure of the Red Sea region. 
08 Oct 2015

A terribly low voice for a new terror bird

A recently discovered fossil skeleton is giving paleontologists a nearly complete look at a new species in the family of big-beaked giants known as “terror birds.” Thought to have grown as tall as 3 meters, these flightless birds roamed South America as apex predators before going extinct about 2.5 million years ago.
12 Aug 2015

Ice (Re) Cap: June 2015

From Antarctica to the Arctic; from polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and from burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.
14 Jun 2015

Of temperature and tone: Has climate shaped human languages?

Humans today speak more than 6,500 languages, and thousands more dialects once spoken have gone extinct. Understanding how and why so many languages have evolved over human history has long been the work of linguists. Recently, however, the emerging field of geo-phonetics has begun looking into how geography — and perhaps climate — affects language. In a new study, researchers suggest that humidity and temperature, which can impact our ability to craft certain sounds, appear to have influenced the evolution of tonality in languages in different parts of the world.

20 Apr 2015

Of sounds and cetaceans: Quieting a noisy underwater world

Marine mammals live in a world of sound. In the open ocean, whales and dolphins depend on sound waves, using echolocation to navigate, find food, attract mates and communicate. But their clicks and calls are not the only noises underwater: Oil and gas exploration, seafloor mapping, and ship and submarine navigation have increased dramatically over the past few decades, making the world’s oceans noisier than ever.

18 Mar 2010

Musical magnetic reversals

Although Earth’s magnetic field currently points toward the North Pole, the planet’s magnetic dipole flips direction every few hundred thousand years or so. Engebretson tracked the last 85 million years of these magnetic reversals, with higher pitches representing shorter polarities (a period of time when the direction of the magnetic field stays the same), and lower pitches longer ones.

22 Sep 2009

Earth tides in A major

Earth experiences small, millimeter-sized tides, called Earth tides. Using a dataset from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California from A.D. 1600 to A.D. 2200, Engebretson calculated the net gravitational force of the sun and the moon at particular intervals and then mapped them onto the A major scale.

22 Sep 2009

Putting Earth's history to sound

Geophysicist Dave Engebretson of Western Washington University in Bellingham has struggled with his eyesight since birth. But when his vision took a serious downturn in 1996 — today he has difficulty recognizing faces up close — Engebretson grasped for the world of sound. He has made a considerable hobby out of audifying scientific data — taking numbers from datasets and setting them to sound frequencies to create seconds-long clips at his home studio.

21 Sep 2009