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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Interactive Gallery: Seeing Sound
20 February 2014 2:00 pm
It may seem like abstract art, but this image encapsulates 8 months of sound from the Australian countryside. Such feats of scientific synesthesia are a trademark of the emerging field of soundscape ecology. Thanks to networks of tough, automated recorders and powerful sound-analysis software, scientists are looking for patterns of sound to describe ecosystems and track how they change over time. To create the image above, computer scientist Michael Towsey of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, assigned colors to three acoustic indices—numbers representing characteristics of a recording, such as the timing and frequencies of sounds present. The result reveals morning bird choruses (blue) throughout the Australian spring and early summer (October through December). Horizontal green streaks indicate heavy rainfall in January and February. Cidada activity (green) around dusk (right curve) fades as winter approaches. Such acoustic overviews are built by vertically stacking 24-hour recordings, which Towsey can also visualize in sharper detail:
Scientists hope to use images like these to assign a unique acoustic signature to an ecosystem. Changes in that signature can indicate how an environmental threat—such as the gradual effects of climate change or increasing levels of human noise pollution—disrupt animal communities. Sometimes, such degradation is obvious in the soundscape: