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Old 03-18-2005   #1
PhilC
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Lightbulb If a tree falls in the forest....

If a tree falls in the forest, and there's nobody there to hear it, does it make sound?

I keep seeing that question around the forum so, since I have nothing better to do right now, I thought I'd give an answer. Ok, so it's boring, but I'm going to bed in a minute and you'll be rid of me.

The answer is, no, it doesn't make a sound. Sound is a process that only occurs in the ear and brain. There is no sound in the outside world.

It's like illumination. We imagine that, during daylight, our part of the world is all lit up, but it isn't. It's pitch back - just like in space. Illumination is a process that only occurs in the eye and brain. If light intrinsically illuminated its environment, then the whole of space would be lit up, because the whole of space has light waves moving through it - but it isn't lit up.

I'm off to bed
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Old 03-18-2005   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilC
If a tree falls in the forest, and there's nobody there to hear it, does it make sound?
Phil - I thought you were going to ask whether, if a phrase ranks on Google, but no one searches for it, does it really rank?

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Originally Posted by PhilC
It's like illumination. We imagine that, during daylight, our part of the world is all lit up, but it isn't.
Having studied physics for a bunch of years, I think I'd argue this one if I were in the mood, but I'm about to go to bed too. Sound and light have physical manifestations, whether we're appreciating them or not. It gets into a semantic argument, I supposed, about what you mean by "lit up," and that's too head-of-a-pin for me.

On the other hand, those phrases that rank #1 but are never searched... there I think I might go along with the importance of an observer.
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Old 03-18-2005   #3
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Sound and light have physical manifestations, whether we're appreciating them or not.
The SE/WWW world moves on with cause and effort that is happening every minute and will impact eventually, whether we see it or not.
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Old 03-18-2005   #4
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We wouldn't hear the sound of one hand clapping, but there might just be a sound anyway if a tree fell:

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A sound wave, on the other hand, is a longitudinal wave. As the energy of wave motion is propagated outward from the center of disturbance, the individual air molecules that carry the sound move back and forth, parallel to the direction of wave motion. Thus, a sound wave is a series of alternate increases and decreases of air pressure. Each individual molecule passes the energy on to neighboring molecules, but after the sound wave has passed, each molecule remains in about the same location.
MSN Encarta Search

Wouldn't the vibrations still exist with th emovement of the molecules?
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Old 03-18-2005   #5
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I like the "if a phrase..." question

Yes, both sound and light have physical manifestations. Sound is caused by pressure waves in the air, and light consists of light waves in the electro-magnetic field. But sound only becomes sound, in the sense that we mean, when those waves cause parts of the ear to vibrate, and the brain interprets the vibrations. So what we think of as sound (noise) isn't created until the pressure waves in the air reach the ear. When the tree falls, there's no big >>CRASH<< in the forest. There is only a big crash when there are ears to be vibrated and brains to interpret the vibrations.

So when a tree falls, yes, it creates pressure waves in the air, but unless the waves hit some ears, the noise that we think of as sound doesn't exist.

Similarly, light doesn't intrinsically illuminate its environment. Illumination only occurs (in the brain) when eyes look at part of the environment. The light waves act on the retina, and the information is passed to the brain. It's an odd concept, isn't it. You're in a room with the light turned on, and you are facing in one direction. The walls in front and at the side of you are illuminated because you can see them, but behind you is pitch black until you turn around and look.
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Old 03-18-2005   #6
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So when a tree falls, yes, it creates pressure waves in the air, but unless the waves hit some ears, the noise that we think of as sound doesn't exist.
Um ,yes it does, we just don't personally experience it - it doesn't mean it doesn't exist .
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Old 03-18-2005   #7
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Oooooooh no it doesn't

The pressure waves exist, but that's all they are - pressure waves. Until those waves cause vibrations in someone or somethings ears, then the noise that we think of as sound, doesn't exist.
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Old 03-18-2005   #8
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ooohhh.. ok.. you win BUT - You must concede that the *potential* of the experience of sound exists and is available, you just didn't hear it.

How about... you are stone deaf and the person next to you has sharp hearing. They hear the tree fall, but you don't - would you still swear it cannot be, just because you didn't experience it?
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Old 03-18-2005   #9
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The potential for sound definitely exists as long as the pressure waves exist, so we are in agreement there

If I was deaf and stood in the forest when the tree fell, no sound would have occured, because my ears and brain couldn't create it. But if a hearing person stood next to me, there would have been a sound, but only in that person's head - not in the environment. Sound is never in the environment.

On the other hand, if I stood in the forest, with a radio turned on, and an Oasis song came on the radio, there would be no sound - because I'd turn the darned thing off!!!

Last edited by PhilC : 03-18-2005 at 08:17 AM.
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Old 03-18-2005   #10
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Is this an other blackhat versus whitehat there?

Phil, I didn't know you were such a philisopher...

I also love the "if a phrase..." question, very clever within the context.
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Old 03-18-2005   #11
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Is excell a blackhat???
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Old 03-18-2005   #12
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you must be hearing voices
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Old 03-18-2005   #13
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You could be right
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Old 03-18-2005   #14
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Besides
Quote:
the pressure waves
may be a reality on a level that is quite beyond our limited ear drums. Many different frequencies beyond our knowledge and experience may register in dimensions & "worlds unknown" due to the very same wave that triggers the ear to hear a sound.
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Old 03-18-2005   #15
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If someone blows a dog whistle, we can't hear it but the dog can. Did the dog whistle make a sound?
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Old 03-18-2005   #16
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Originally Posted by excell
Besides may be a reality on a level that is quite beyond our limited ear drums. Many different frequencies beyond our knowledge and experience may register in dimensions & "worlds unknown" due to the very same wave that triggers the ear to hear a sound.
hehe... nice

But just as time and events before the big bang are discarded because they can have to meaning or relevance in our universe, so must theoretical dimensions and unknown possibilities be discarded because they are theoretical and/or unknown.

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Old 03-18-2005   #17
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How many miles does a whale song travel? Does it hold meaning? If so, who is the audience?
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Old 03-18-2005   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcia
If someone blows a dog whistle, we can't hear it but the dog can. Did the dog whistle make a sound?
Yes it did, but only if there were suitable ears for the waves to cause vibrations in.
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Old 03-18-2005   #19
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Originally Posted by excell
How many miles does a whale song travel? Does it hold meaning? If so, who is the audience?
2,307.5 miles.

I think that most whale songs mean that it's time to come in for dinner, and the audience is the whale's family.
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Old 03-18-2005   #20
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Yes it did, but only if there were suitable ears for the waves to cause vibrations in.
My point exactly! So, if a...
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