This Week in Sound: A Sonic Health Exam from 1857 by Marc Weidenbaum

todayNovember 23, 2022 3

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Note: I’m on vacation this week, so there may not be a TWiS email on Friday, November 25th.

These sound-studies highlights of the week originally appeared in the November 22, 2022, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound:

FINANCIAL HEALTH: In “Coin-Sound, or the Bruit d’Arain of Armand Trousseau,” Dr. Jesse Kraft describes a sonic “diagnostic test” involving coins “to determine whether or not an individual suffers from a punctured lung.” Here’s some detail:

“[A] coin is held flat against the side of the patient’s chest that is thought to be punctured, and tapped with a second coin. … With a stethoscope on the direct opposite side of the patient, if there is fluid or air in the pleural cavity, the practitioner will hear a sound resonate, as opposed to quickly mute. … The sound itself is not produced by the pressure of the air or fluid that has entered the pleural cavity, nor is it the sound from the coins themselves. Rather, the sound comes from tension that is created on the bounding walls of the pressurized cavity.”

The Trousseau reference in the title is the individual credited with having first “observed and described coin-sound,” around 1857. Trousseau (1801-1867) called it “bruit d’arain” which translates as “brazen noise.” Kraft, who earned a PhD in Americana Studies at the University of Delaware in 2019, is the Resolute Americana Assistant Curator of American Numismatics at American Numismatic Society. (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

WAYNE MANOR-ISMS: When I worked in Japanese publishing, my duties and natural inclination involved manga, but I collaborated regularly with the anime side of the business. One thing that always struck me was — due to the industry’s prominence in its country of origin — just how well-known were the Japanese voice actors, stars in their own right. American anime fans — and more broadly animation fans — have steadily raised the profiles of voice actors here, even if few have achieved the national notoriety of their Japanese counterparts in terms of name recognition (putting aside movie and television stars who are hired by studios like Pixar to lend familiar voices to animated roles). One individual who stood high on the list of major talents was Kevin Conroy, who died earlier this month at age 66. Conroy portrayed Batman for 30 years in TV series, feature-length animated films, and video games, starting in 1992 with Batman: The Animated Series. As James Whitbrook notes, “Conroy even went on to play a live-action version of Bruce Wayne in the CW DC TV show crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths.” (And he was great in it.)

ACT NATURALLY: “BookBaby, one of the leading players in the audiobook segment announced it has entered into a collaboration with Speechki to create audiobooks using artificial intelligence-powered synthetic voice narration. … Speechki said they support 77 languages at the moment along with up to 50 synthetic voice actors.”

BAD ROBOT: The FCC has a plan to deal with “ringless voicemail spam” that goes straight to one’s voice mailbox. Writes Jon Fingas: “The Federal Communications Commission has determined that these silent voicemails are covered by the same Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules that forbid robocalls without consent.”

ENTRY LEVEL: Now YouTube has its own start-up cue, or sound logo, developed by the agency Antfood: “The initial idea behind the sound was to have something vibrant, engaging and easily recognizable, so that as soon as you hear it – even if you’re turned away from your TV or device – you know that something’s about to pop up on YouTube.” There’s more detail about the process at the official blog of YouTube in a post by Andrew Lebov.

DEAD RINGER: We’ve pretty much all seen some thriller where a dead person’s eye or fingerprint is used to help the hero (or villain!) access something important. Real life has caught up with fiction, and is generally the case, things aren’t anywhere as easy as they seem. In fact, quote the contrary. Allison Engel writes on the difficulty that loved ones have accessing the accounts of their dead relatives: “Face recognition, voice recognition and fingerprint recognition speed up access when someone’s alive but present tremendous barriers for survivors trying to wind down accounts.” (You can read it for free, thanks to my gift link.)

VOLUME CONTROL: Spotify has continued to broaden its scope by adding audiobooks and podcasts to its app, making the service about more than “just” music. “Now, Spotify is rolling out an update to the dedicated Anchor app on iPhone with a new feature it says can drastically improve the audio of your podcast with just one click,” writes Chance Miller. It’s called “Podcast Audio Enhancement” and it can “reduce background noise and level your audio – supposedly so much so that podcasts can now be ‘recorded in a loud coffee shop, on the subway, or with babies crying in the background.’”

BAD VIBES: Our phones can sense a bridge span’s “unique vibrations” and help reveal “hidden structural problems,” writes Matt Simon. (Thanks, Glenn Sogge!)

Every bridge has its own “modal frequency,” or the way that vibrations propagate through it—then subsequently into your car and phone. (Tall buildings, which sway in the wind or during an earthquake, have modal frequencies too.) “Stiffness, mass, length—all these pieces of information are going to influence the modal frequency,” says Thomas Matarazzo, a structural and civil engineer at MIT and the United States Military Academy. “If we see a significant change in the physical properties of the bridge, then the modal frequencies will change.” Think of it like taking a bridge’s temperature—a change could be a symptom of some underlying disease.

ALL HANDS: “Microsoft has made it easier for users of its video conferencing platform Microsoft Teams to use sign language through a new meeting experience called ‘Sign Language View.’


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