Brains from the BBC

3 BBC News items on brains

Is this what thoughts sound like?

University of California psychology and neuroscience professor Bob Knight explains how computers are being used to decode imagined speech.

World premiere of brain orchestra

Brain waves from thoughts of sounds used to move cursor

Moving a computer cursor by thinking about a series of vowels.

Archaeoacoustics around the world

The Landscape & Perception project of Jon Wozencroft & Paul Devereux is conducting ongoing research in "Archaeoacoustics."

Previously mentioned here by Gordon, ancient sites with acoustic "ringing rocks" have been discovered all over the globe. Of note is research conducted by the L&P team with ICRL fellows ( lead by Robert Jahn, formerly of PEAR ) whose paper "Ancient Architectural Acoustic Resonance Patterns and Regional Brain Activity" appeared in Time and Mind, March 2008.

Percussionist Z'ev has played on lithophones in Carn Menyn, Wales ( see the bottom of the sidebar here for photos and a sampling of the sound ).

The Sound Machine

Roald Dahl's "The Sound Machine", first published in the September 17, 1949 issue of The New Yorker, proposes a device that can pick up high frequency sounds and convert them into the range audible by humans. The inventor of the machine first hears shrieks of roses being cut by a neighbor. Taking an axe to a beech tree the next day, he is surprised to hear "a harsh, noteless, enormous noise, a growling, low-pitched, screaming sound..."

A radio dramatization of the story is on in MP3 format.

Several short films have been inspired by the short story. Two on YouTube are embedded below.

Scans of the original issue of The New Yorker are available via one-time payment or subscription at their site.


Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution have joined forces to develop a series of electronic field guides. Their first effort, Leafsnap, uses visual recognition algorithms to identify trees via photos of their leaves. Their species list is currently limited to trees found in the New York City and Washington D.C. areas, but will soon grow to cover the continental United States. Leafsnap is available as a free iPhone app at the iTunes App Store. ( Via Kottke and Garden Design )

Singing Mice

Featured in the May 2011 issue of Smithsonian magazine is an article about the vocalizations of different species of mice. Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, biologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, is a behavioral ecologist with expertise in how animals use sound. While working a California field site in 2004, she used an ultrasonic recorder ( analogous to Gordon's Bat Box ) to capture nighttime sounds, some of which she suspected to be those of mice she was studying.

Bringing the recordings into the computer, Matina's team noticed a fairly loud four-note song that turned out to be from a deer mouse. A slowed down recording of the mouse song sounds eerily akin to whale song. Have a listen.