Last Friday night I was on stage at BAHfest, explaining how cats should be considered a fundamental state of matter. Before I began, though, there was something I’d been dying to try. What would 1,400 nerds cracking their maybe 10,000 individual knuckles at once sound like? In a word: gross.
In more words: The sound of a few thousand knuckles cracking sounds like a softer group clap, but with people’s bones. Watch my video below to hear it yourself:
I got 1,400 people to crack their knuckles at once during my keynote tonight. You're welcome. pic.twitter.com/Xd2clGRSQ2
— Kyle Hill (@Sci_Phile) October 29, 2016
I immediately regretted my decision, but loved the experience. The cracking sounds like soft clapping, but because you know in reality it’s a simultaneous contortion of hand bones, the sound is intensely satisfying and disgusting.
We only recently learned what the popping sound from a knuckle crack is. It’s not tendons rubber band-ing over bones or bubbles popping in the fluid between our joints, as scientists have thought for 40 years. Tribonucleation is the culprit, what happens when two surfaces submerged in fluid are suddenly pulled apart. Just last year, Gregory Kawchuk and colleagues demonstrated that as the bones in the fingers are separated by the knuckle cracking motion, a tiny bubble forms, which causes the distinct and satisfying “pop.”
And in case you were wondering, we’ve known for awhile that cracking your knuckles doesn’t cause any long-term health problems like arthritis, so crack away.
What did you think of the sound? Horrible? Awesome? Let us know in the comments below, because you can bet that the next time I get in front of a crowd I’ll be posting it again.
Featured Image: Jaysin Trevino