Resonation Nation

by Ann Bartkowski

Due to my current fascination with trying to make halfway decent sounds come out of a guitar, Johannes and I chose to engage the Explainers in further study of Oscylinderscope last week.  One thing led to another and we found ourselves in a dark Cloffice, armed with a only a strobe light, violin, ukelele, guitar, string ray, the advice of Richard Brown, a few concerned staff members, and sheer abandon.  It was there we discovered- as we so often do in science- that our original idea was not only pretty boring, but it was not going to work (mostly due to the wagon-wheel effect and constraints of space-time in only 4 dimensions).  It made intuitive sense that the strobe would illuminate a string’s longitudinal wave when that string was bowed or plucked.  But why was the strobe light showing us vibrations on different strings that we weren’t even playing?  It was at this point, that we became interested in/confused by resonance.

We started discussing sympathetic resonance, harmonics, 5ths, overtones, etc. during study group, so I will cut straight to the good stuff: Resonance in our bodies. 

In infrasound there are frequencies (below 20Hz) that resonate with human body functions.  They can cause changes in respiratory rhythm, sensations of gagging, and blurred vision.  These frequencies have been explored by military scientists in an attempt to find a non-lethal weapon (i.e.- use it for crowd control to make your crowds feel hung-over instead of dead).  They also have been explored by television programming, including but not limited to Mythbusters and South Park. 

I would like to discuss one frequency in particular; that which is alleged to resonate with human bowels, and is heretofore referred to as The Brown Note.  The Brown Note can be found right beside discotheque and helicopter heart attacks on the list of resonance urban legends.  And although they are legendary, according to Richard Brown (Richard BROWN… BROWN Note…suspicious?), they are not entirely out of the question.  Someone should start drafting up an NSF grant to get funding for the research this will require.  Or, if you’re not convinced about The Brown Note yet, this South Park video proves it:

On the other hand, maybe we don’t even need infrasound to make us sick to our stomachs…Ryan J. singing the 1,2,3,4,5,6 Pokeman already seems to have that effect on people.