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Paleoacoustics

Search for acoustic traces in ancient lava flows -- and play them back like phonograph records.
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Picture it: several million years ago, an erupting volcano is scalding itself with hellish lava, choking ash, deadly gases and whatnot. Local critters are in big trouble -- Dante's Inferno- style...nay, Hieronymus Bosch-style. Saber-tooth tigers are bellowing in death throes; parrots chatter in fear; miniature horses are stampeding; you get the picture. And, in one nook of the proceedings, a smooth lava flow -- cooling to just near its freezing temperature -- moves past a sharp 'needle' of melting-resistant rock. Local ambient vibrations -- rocks sputtering and shattering, thunder rolling, animals shrieking -- are recorded as wavers in the fast-freezing lava as it flows past the needle.

Now fast-forward to today; an enterprising geologist finds the lava flow in question, dusts it off, and notices the strange wavy trace in question. (S)he hauls it back to the lab, cues up her old skool mixing turntable (ok, actually just a straight conveyor belt), and eases the trace past a sharp diamond needle in light contact, transducing the resulting vibrations into an electric signal. Voila: a crackly, low res recording of the sounds of a hellish scene several million years before. Talk about a rare bootleg (no rock puns, please...).

n-pearson, Jun 17 2003

Sonification http://www.bcca.org/ief/dquin00c.htm
of radar, ice core records, various geo-measurables [badgers, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Stalacpipe organ. The only way I've heard to make music from solid rock. http://luraycaverns.com/
The worlds largest musical instrument. Link lets you hear it as well. [2 fries shy of a happy meal, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Sounds recovered from crisp bags and plants http://www.gizmag.c...l-microphone/33222/
[bigsleep, Aug 11 2014]

Archaeoacoustics http://en.wikipedia...ki/Archaeoacoustics
[hippo, Aug 12 2014]

Planetary Record Planetary_20Record
[theircompetitor, Aug 12 2014]

[link]






       Yep, one for the Other:[general] category here.
bungston, Jun 17 2003
  

       I'm no geologist, but how many rocks are actually 'scored' this way?   

       Since a lava flow is not a constant speed, how would you know how fast to play the recording back?
Cedar Park, Jun 17 2003
  

       I doubt any are. It's an interesting hypothesis, however. But unfortunately there'd be no way of knowing if sounds are recorded geologically, and no way of knowing how to replay them even if we did.
waugsqueke, Jun 17 2003
  

       //rock puns, please...//
So I can't even say "rock songs"?
  

       There was an article in a science magazine, a few years ago, about clay pots. The theory was, if a person was spinning clay, and someone spoke or a dog barked, the vibration could be embedded in the finished piece. But it's likely that the clay "sound" would be smoothed over as the artist worked on it, and that the lava would buckle & fold.
Don't take the volcano home. Take 3D scans of lava, and have software interpret any sounds.
Amos Kito, Jun 17 2003
  

       If you can make it work, pure genius. But I would think that the allignment of the rock with the Earth's magnetic field would drown out any acoustic variations. I don't know crap all about it, though, so it might work. + for the innovation.
sambwiches, Jun 17 2003
  

       I saw an article on this only two days ago (the goal there being to use stalactites to play back the sounds of our caveman forebears; they sort of overlooked the fact that caves were likely just as quiet then as they are now: one whispered conversation every five years is going to be a mite tricky to pick out of the background noise). Shame no one's got any real idea how to extract the information.   

       I'd label this one magic, but I'd really like to see it done.
DrCurry, Jun 17 2003
  

       Wouldn't be a half bad premise for a sci fi.
Time traveling aliens facing certain death, leave a message for themselves in the cooling magma of the prehistoric Earth, only to have mankind discover it first, eradicating any hope of success for the aliens and dooming them to repeat the same time loop.

Where did I put Spielbergs' number?
  

       Actually, it sounds like something Data would pull out of his hat to solve an arcane Star Trek plot.
waugsqueke, Jun 17 2003
  

       Its ok, I've got Rodenberry's wife’s number too.   

       [Rods] - that sounds much like regelation that occurs on ice under pressure. Perhaps the track from an olympic figure skater's blade could be analyzed to see if it recorded the music?
lurch, Jun 18 2003
  

       Gary Kilworth had a short story on this theme I read TEN years ago. Recorded the voice of God speaking to Moses, or something
arfbaked, Jun 20 2003
  

       Somebody did this quite recently - not with lava, and not to recreate palaeo-sound, but as a visualisation technique for seismic records I think. I'll have a scout and see if there's a link...
badgers, Jun 20 2003
  

       Also heard of the clay pot thing. + for you, even though I usually get boned for bizarre audio technology.
mr2560, Nov 02 2003
  

       I saw something about this on the history or sci-fi channel (what's the difference?) as an explanation for ghosts and hauntings. Ancient vibrations in the rocks that get played back.
mystic2311, Dec 03 2003
  

       Isn't the lava much to soft to actually record minute vibrations? I think that a glacier would be a much better method of recording. I wonder how old the oldest glaciers would be...
KLRico, Dec 19 2003
  

       +Good thinking, [n-pearson]. Just a note, not about lava, but similar idea: New Scientist, 2/6/1969 Daedalus column suggests trowels, pottery could have recorded sound. Also see Proceedings of IEEE(Vol.57(8), August 1969, p. 1465 Article by Richard G. Woodbridge, III in which he describes picking up sound from painting brushstrokes. Is that the one you saw, [Amos Kito]? Above info from The Inventions of Daedalus, 1982, by David E. H. Jones, W.H. Freeman and Company, Ltd, p. 26.
flypaper, Dec 19 2003
  

       //August 1969//
It was probably a more recent article, unless, of course, I read it in a doctor's waiting room.
Amos Kito, Dec 20 2003
  

       I've read and re-read this idea a few times and, like other correspondents, I'm unsure whether this could work, I sense it could be magic, but it'd be rather splendid if it did work.   

       Rocks are covered with scratches, dents and other markings which may have been created in the manner described. I'm not sure that "playing" these scratches would recreate the noises of the lava. Does "playing" the scratch on a car replay the noise of the key moving down the bodywork?   

       Basalts (the primary rocktype formed by solidifying lavas) degrade fairly quickly - you just need to look at the post-eruption landscapes of Monserrat with trees and shrubs growing through for the evidence of this.   

       In conclusion, if it were possible to play the rock, I doubt it would replay the noises of the lava. If any noise was recoverable, you could only use this method on relatively recent eruptions - recent enough for a geologist to have heard the eruption themselves.
jonthegeologist, Dec 21 2003
  

       As a child I kept trying to make recordings on vinyls with a pin. What always happened was the music was replaced with a rough nasty sound. More recent research suggests that it might have worked if the pin was hot. (Occasionally trying to "recycle" AOL CD's).
mr2560, Dec 22 2003
  

       More than a little off topic [Link]. The stalacpipe organ.   

       a couple points here...1st...as for the turned pottery thing...it has been done and sounds HAVE been recovered...I've heard them...human voices? maybe...   

       2nd..it's the million monkeys on a million typewriters analogy...(though that's been proven wrong mathmatically too.) If you could scan just one lava flow in every direction, in every frequency, in every scale...your samples would be in the (b)millions. The likelyhood is that you would hear SOMEthing resembling something recognisable..   

       That's where the 'idea' fails. We, as humans are trained from birth to see patterns. We see faces in rocks, animal shapes in clouds, etc, etc... And we could hear sounds in noise....   

       Ever see the faces in TV snow? Ever hear a word spoken from an infant or dog or cat or the wind? We have...I have... Bottom line...if ever in the history of earth..if ever it happened that a sound was perfectly recorded under perfect circumstances....you could never find it...and if you did...you would never know if it was real...given the trillions of samples you would have to listen to.   

         

       whew...
Dently, Dec 23 2003
  

       I seem remember this idea in the form of an urban legend or April fool's joke about scientists discovering audio recorded in the striations in ancient plaster. Dragging a needle attached to audio equipment along them supposedly played back the sound of the plasterers singing in ancient Greek.
ConsultingDetective, Jan 31 2004
  

       read somewhere about the wireing in a building and magnetism in the rocks recording sound but that was a few years back so could be missremembering
engineer1, Feb 14 2004
  

       The lava idea won't work for several reasons. First, the sound doesn't travel over the lava like a stylus; it would vibrate the lava's surface like the skin of a drum (or the membrane of a microphone). Second, lava doesn't "set" instantaneously; its final shape would be influenced by all the sound it experienced over several seconds, minutes or hours.   

       However.   

       As for the clay pot idea, the situation is muddied by a hoax which was perpetrated a while ago. However, I think it's quite likely that it could work, under very fortuitous circumstances.   

       I think you'd need something more complex than a regular stylus to hear the sounds - you'd probably need to scan the surface at very high resolution, and then computationally extract periodic waves at audio frequencies from the background of surface roughness. But doable - I think so.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 05 2014
  

       Those MIT guys crack me up. They are now recovering sound from empty crisp bags using video [link]. Things are quite normal until the end of the video so you might want to watch the whole thing where it diverges from HS Video and special equipment.
bigsleep, Aug 11 2014
  

       This is apparently called archaeoacoustics (see link)
hippo, Aug 12 2014
  

       Pronunciation can be deduced from cross language philology and etymology, including through study of the written word, tracing ancient sounds and conversation all the way back to the last days of prehistory and first days of history. We can also deduce the sounds of animals in those far away days.
pashute, Aug 14 2014
  
      
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