Ah, the little things. A great cup of coffee, perfect change at the drive-through, gleefully figuring out that skipping a stone on a frozen lake makes a laser sound…
YouTuber Cory Williams lives in Alaska and likes to make videos about his experiences. In a recent video entitled “COOLEST SOUND EVER,” he ventures to a frozen lake and discovers, yes, a pretty cool sound:
Aside from the joy of discovering something unexpected, what is going on here? Well, you might expect cracking ice to sound more like a “thunk” kind of noise, but when ice snaps, it indeed produces something that sounds like a bird call/laser mash-up. It’s all about how the sound waves travel through a medium.
Listen to this amazing recording of ice cracking recorded by Andreas Bick. It sounds like a Star Wars dogfight. A composer and sound artist based in Berlin, Germany, Bick figures that the ice makes the noise that is does because it is acting like a huge, frigid drumhead. And thin ice — like the ice Williams skipped a stone on — might even be better for this effect. Bick explains on his blog:
In my experience, thin ice is especially interesting for acoustic phenomena; it is more elastic and sounds are propagated better across the surface. Snowfall, on the other hand, has a muffling effect and the sound can only travel to a limited extent. The ice sheet acts as a huge membrane across which the cracking and popping sounds spread.
Of course, we can’t all live in Alaska, land of laser-sounding lakes. If you want to make your own laser sounds at home (that sound even more like a blaster), all you need is a slinky and a microphone:
I know what I’m trying this winter <scrambles giddily around for rocks>.