[FOUNTAIN]The sounds and the fury

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[FOUNTAIN]The sounds and the fury

The invention of technology to record sound led to the question, "Why does my voice sound different on a recording?"

Of all the questions involving recorded sound, that was the one that scientists solved most easily.

Voice results from sound waves traveling through the larynx. Some of the waves go through the mouth and are carried to ears through the air, which is the voice others hear. It is also the voice recorded on tape.

But some of the sound waves also pass through bones, cartilage and muscles in one's head. For one thing, the larynx is made of soft tissues and is filled with fluid. The inner ear and middle ear are encased in some of the hardest bones in the body. The inner ear consists of tiny fluid-filled canals. The middle ear is normally filled with air. The inner ear and middle ear are under constant pressure fluctuations. Sound that passes through the air sounds different from sound that passes through liquid and solid substances, and recording and playback adds more distortion; therefore, a recorded voice does not sound "as usual."

There are other mysteries about sound that scientists have failed to answer. One of them is why the screeching sound made by chalk on a blackboard makes you shudder. Getting gooseflesh is a pretty common phenomenon. When you feel cold or scared, muscles at the bottom of hair follicles contract. The question is why does the screeching sound irritate.

A hypothesis that the screeching sound unnerves people because of the high pitch turned out to be false. In 1986, researchers at Northwestern University eliminated the highfrequency from the screeching sound, yet people still got gooseflesh. The research team theorized that the memory of surviving battles in primitive society that is imprinted on us makes us shudder when we hear that sound. This is based on the fact that the blackboard screeching is very similar to the sound Japanese monkeys make when they are terrified.

Choi Gyu-seon, the central figure in a scandal that has touched the family of President Kim Dae-jung, reportedly made tape recordings of his meetings with politicians. The political community is divided over what to do with the tapes. Some want the tapes to be thoroughly investigated; some argue such a move would be absurd. The prosecution drew the fire of the opposition Grand National Party when it publicized the statement of another figure in the scandal. I would rather listen to the screeching that reminds me of my school days.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Roh Jae-hyun

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