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Science

Why Some People Can Hear Silent GIF (bbc.com) 167

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Some people claim they can hear a thudding sound when the pylon hits the ground and the picture vibrates. Last weekend, Dr Lisa DeBruine from the Institute of Neuroscience & Psychology at the University of Glasgow posted it on Twitter, asking her followers to describe whether they experienced any auditory sensations while watching it. One person who suffers from ringing ears replied: "I hear a vibrating thudding sound, and it also cuts out my tinnitus during the camera shake." Others offered explanations as to why. While another suggested it may have something to do with correlated neuronal activity: "The brain is 'expecting/predicting' what is coming visually and then fires a version of what it expects across the relevant senses. Also explains why some might 'feel' a physical shake."

Why Some People Can Hear Silent GIF

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @04:37PM (#55683373)

    ...is the pylon blue or gold?

  • Brain scan? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @04:39PM (#55683391) Homepage Journal

    Maybe an MRI or brain scan would provide something more conclusive than people self-reporting.

    • It might help explain what's going on, but it wouldn't be more conclusive in terms of whether people can or can't "hear" the thud, which is pretty much only going to be shown by self reporting.

      I'm a little shocked, I went in with skepticism and "heard" it too. I'm intelligent enough to know I'm not really hearing anything, but... my brain certainly thinks I am.

      • I think I experienced something, but I wouldn't describe it as hearing anything. So maybe it's hard for me to relate. I guess I'm looking for some kind of metric to quantify other people's experiences. That's different than looking for an explanation.

        • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
          I'm quite used to changing types of inputs into others.

          When I see something smooth, I can feel its smoothness on my finger tips
          When I hear strange sounds and my eyes are closed, I can visually(with my "eyes") see light patterns that represent the sound.
          When I touch something, I can "hear" its texture
          When I think about difficult reasoning problems, I see(with my "mind's eye") complex many(10+)-dimensional shapes allowing me to see corner cases and other undesirable interactions
          When looking at packet t
        • by Anonymous Coward

          I don't hear it, but i can imagine hearing it and hear the imaginary sound in my head. Are people so stupid they don't know the difference?

          • They absofuckinglutely are. See Bengie's post above.

            These are the people driving the western world into idiocy.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Same. I opened the link expecting something dumb, but it's actually somewhat interesting. It's not hearing per se, but I definitely perceived some sort of "boom" in my head at the point one might expect. It's the same "hearing" as talking to myself with an inner monologue. There's obviously no sound, but somehow my brain is associating a sound with what I'm seeing. Same as inner voice having a sound, when it's just quiet thoughts. Sort of weird.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is about as much of a phenomena as when you read a quote with a person's picture next to it you "hear" their voice inside your head as long as you've heard their voice in the past. I get the same thing when reading emails at work from people that I speak to often enough to know the sound of their voices.

        You're not "hearing" anything, your brain is just filling in missing information the best that it can.

        • You're not "hearing" anything, your brain is just filling in missing information the best that it can.

          ... and your brain is doing it wrong. It the pylon was actually making any noise, there would be a noticeable speed-of-sound delay before the sound of the impact reached your ears.

          Disclaimer: I heard nothing.

          • Ever notice how they make sure to add in the time delay when the big monster comes crashing over the hills?

            Nope, because they usually don't.

            On most everyday scales, that delay is never noticeable. We don't normally see huge things bouncing up and down in the distance, so our brains won't expect a delay.

            So based on previous experience, your brain - if it fills in the noise at all - is doing the best it can.

            (And anyway, if those towers are an integer multiple of, rough guess, 400m away, then you would hear a

            • by nasch ( 598556 )

              (And anyway, if those towers are an integer multiple of, rough guess, 400m away, then you would hear a sound at the same time as seeing the landing)

              Wait, what? Are you talking about the gif, or if it were real? And either way - 400 meters? Where are you getting that?

              • If it were real. There's just over a second between landings, so at 400m or so the sound from the previous jump would coincide with the light from the latest jump.

      • Is it really that much different than other optical illusions that cause you to perceive something that isn't there [wikipedia.org]? The only thing interesting about this is that it's more of an aural illusion. It's almost like watching someone getting tackled or hit really hard and your brain sending some of the pain/reaction response to your body.

        Here's something else that might interest you [youtube.com] as if you do put some stereo headphones on and close your eyes, your brain may similarly use the cues its getting and start send
      • I'm a little shocked, I went in with skepticism and "heard" it too. I'm intelligent enough to know I'm not really hearing anything, but... my brain certainly thinks I am.

        I'm reluctant to speak of my brain in the 3rd person, since I am he and he is me, and we're (I'm) wondering what it's going to take to get a vehicle upgrade from this deteriorating bipedal system we're stuck in now.

        FWIW, I also fabricated a thrumming sound for the whirling electrical cables doubling as a jump rope. All I know for certain is if there was no one here to see this gif, it would not make a sound.

      • So in space they actually can hear you scream, so long as they were sort of half expecting you to?

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        Your vision system is calculating the vertical and horizontal displacements of the picture. It does that to handle motion stabilization in order to reduce image shaking. That's a useful piece of information, so it gets sent to the region of the brain responsible for synchronizing all sensory input before being sent to your consciousness. The human equivalent of a Kalman filter.

        • That's where my thoughts have been heading too. We always presume that the brain's "picture" of reality is based upon source - vision = eyeballs, audio = ears, etc - but it's processing a lot of information, it's certainly not hard to believe that it combines the information it gets from multiple sources.

          • by mikael ( 484 )

            There used to be wiring diagrams of the different regions of the brain for the flow of visual data. Two main paths are what things are seen, and where they are located/moving. The brain does more of a "best match" at recognizing each object and calculating the outlines of each object in order to determine occlusion and orientation. Internally, this is recreated as more of a collage of scaled objects plus a background. That way we can see an object and know all the possible interactions that can be done; tur

    • by zifn4b ( 1040588 )

      Maybe an MRI or brain scan would provide something more conclusive than people self-reporting.

      I get sort of a half auditory sensation like when you're "think talking" in your mind but not actually speaking. It ought to be easy to measure. Just have the subject read slashdot posts in a way such that it would be like Bugs Bunny or Christopher Walken reading them to the subject. It should be very similar areas of the brain in use.

    • "Maybe an MRI or brain scan would provide something more conclusive than people self-reporting."

      You mean cases of Tinnitus or those who hear 'dead people, all the time'?

    • Maybe an MRI or brain scan would provide something more conclusive than people self-reporting.

      Maybe an MRI or brain scan is expensive and should not be considered a first step when the null hypothesis could be excluded by people self reporting.

      Seriously does anyone remember how science works anymore? When did we get so impatient that we expect everything to go from "I have math" to "Full scale multi million dollar working prototype" in one step?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @04:40PM (#55683407)

    At first I couldn't hear anything because my speakers were turned off. Once they were turned on I could hear the vibrating thudding sound.

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @05:21PM (#55683743) Homepage

      I experienced something like that. At first didn't hear anything until I looked at the poll below where it said some people heard the thumping. Then when I looked back at the GIF, not only did I hear it, it sort of felt it in my ears.

      Weird.

    • On some LCD screens when it is quite I can hear the pixels flipping.
      My old Amstrad CPC 1512 which was an XT with no fans would make noise when it was calculating stuff. I can sometimes hear beeps from a WiFi router.

      We are in a sea of low sounds. That a gif in a quite room may be heard by the electronic device, that the person may not have experienced in such quite environment.

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        Magnetostriction. Your monitor, your old Amstrad CPC etc. usually will have some small switch mode DC-DC converters inside them, which will have at least one inductor. The frequency or at least duty cycle of the switching in the DC-DC converter will change as the load it is powering changes - for instance, as a CPU starts processing more complex instructions, or a circuit starts transitioning states frequently (e.g. to change pixel colours) - CMOS circuits draw more power when they go from one state to anot

        • That's part of it.

          It's also very easy to hear large transistors flipping on and off, such as in an unladen solid-state Class AB amplifier. Stick your head inside of one sometime; the sound very clearly eminates from the output devices.

          TFT displays also work by physical distortion of a pixel. Are you sure that this cannot make a sound? (And what of dithered displays, where pixels oscillate in order to achieve certain in-between intensities?)

  • Darn that Intel SpeedStep.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think of the funding within the US gov and mil for that CPU whine and just the right gif no bid contract.
      The spying that could be done.

      Make a staff member to load the special gif movie onto their air gapped network in some other nation.
      That gif could cause just the right CPU whine to transmit data to the waiting collection microphone.
      Years of gif study to create a gif for the most common cpu's. The AV would be looking at changes to the network and OS.
      The resulting CPU whine would not be seen as an in
  • Gestalt Theory? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @04:47PM (#55683489) Journal
    I didn't actually hear anything, but in my mind I was producing a thud every time the pylon hit the ground & the image shook. Gestalt Theory [wikipedia.org], loosely put, says that your mind tries to fill in the gaps of things you experience. It's like when you look at a painting, and your mind tries to imagine what is beyond the frame by filling it out.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      That about sums it up for me too.

      I knew it was silent and I knew I wasn't hearing anything. But I was also subconsciously putting in a thud each time too. I even closed my eyes and I was still imagining the thud at the correct interval.

      Gestalt theory is part of it; i suspect synethesia is another part.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      The condition where people can see color in sound, or visualize time, taste colors etc; a sensory experience in other senses based on the sensory input on another sense. And li

      • Absolutely. And, I know that it must have been my mind because it didn't start until I'd been watching it for about fifteen seconds. Why so long? I was trying to figure out how the pylon was going up and down, but didn't break.
      • I showed this to three men at work and my wife at home. The guys all noticed the sound playing in their head, my wife did not.

        You know I bet we'd get the same effect if we watched a lion roar with no sound. Testing it on the MGM lion... yeah I think it's the same effect. So damned freaky though with that gif, it bugs me still.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • Me too. Nothing auditory, but I could almost sense the thudding.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      It's closer to the fact that the brain does in wetware to compensate for relatively poor sensory instruments it has access to.

      The brain is remarkably powerful, but the human sensory organs are relatively primitive - the eyes have lower resolution than even a modern day smartphone camera, the ears are relatively terrible, and all around as a species, we don't have the greatest senses.

      But to compensate, the brain is remarkably powerful. It has a stupidly powerful sensor-fusion complex (merging multiple senses

    • I had that same experience but after a few seconds I also started noting that the white noise sounds coming from outside my home were going silent at each impact. I'd guess that is a result of the brain attempting to focus towards hearing the sound of impact. The white noise is coming through the open door behind me and the video is 180 degrees away from that.
    • It's hard to explain. It's almost a "thud" feeling and almost a sound but not quite "there", and I cannot explain what "there" is. It's kind of as if part of my mind is running a simulation on the side of what it would be like to actually be there, and in that simulation there is the sound and sensation of a thud, but the rest of the my brain is merely observing the simulation rather than fully buying into it.

      I suspect this is primal in that if for example you saw an actual bear growling at you and showing

    • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

      That must be why I hear explosions in space when I what Star Wars and Star Trek!

    • https://twitter.com/IamHappyTo... [twitter.com] I too got the thud in my head, but didn't hear it. This twitter guy cut out the pylons, says it's all the shake.

    • I was warned, I was in full denial mode, I was convinced nobody despite the suggestions could make me hear anything.
      And though I'm not saying I heard anything, I hate to say it but I definitely experienced a non-visual sensation.
      Send me the analysts.

  • hearing muscles (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    light travels faster than sound. your brain sees something that it knows will make a loud noise and your ears tense up in anticipation. the tensing of these muscles can be perceived.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_reflex

    • The acoustic reflex (also known as the stapedius reflex, middle-ear-muscles (MEM) reflex, attenuation reflex, or auditory reflex) is an involuntary muscle contraction that occurs in the middle ear in response to high-intensity sound stimuli or when the person starts to vocalize.

      So, nope.

    • light travels faster than sound

      That also explains why some people appear smart until they open their mouth.

  • If you notice the rhythm, it's close to that of one's heartbeat, so they're likely hearing their own.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its similar to the gestalt principle. the brain knows what the sound should sound like, so the brain imagines the sound in place of its absence.

    In visual arts the gestalt lets us complete images after only seeing a portion of said image... a simple example is a circle drawn with a dashed line that still looks like a completed circle.

    In typography, the gestalt principle is demonstrated when you cover the lower half of the letters in a line of text. the brain can complete the shapes of the letters based on

    • Its similar to the gestalt principle. the brain knows what the sound should sound like,

      I'm pretty sure my brain doesn't really know what a high voltage electric pylon jumping rope sounds like. Maybe that's why I didn't hear anything.

      For those of you who have seen this phenomenon, did you also hear the whooshing sound of the wire? I would imagine all of those wire moving through the air at those speeds would be quite audible too.

  • by qeveren ( 318805 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @04:58PM (#55683581)

    ...but I do "hear" the thudding in the same sense that I hear my internal monologue. What an odd sensation. XD

    • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
      I was trying to figure out how to describe what i was experiencing, and this is much better than what i was coming up with! Thanks!
    • It wasn't a thud for me but there was definitely something there, like a vibration.
      Well done Slashdot you bastards. I no longer trust my sensations.

  • The visual kind of creeped me out as I wrapped my noodle around what I was watching, but I didn't hear anything.

    • When I opened the GIF, my headphones were hanging on a hook to the right of me. I swear I heard a muffled thump coming from that direction. It only happened for the first 3-4 cycles of the GIF, however. When I actually put on the headphones, I heard nothing.
      • Your brain knew the headphones were off, and so it made up a muffling effect, causing you to no longer hear the thud.

  • by Pascoea ( 968200 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @05:05PM (#55683639)
    The real question to answer, when they say GIF in their head to they hear it with a soft G like Giraffe or hard G like Guilt?
    • When I clicked the link, I didn't have Javascript enabled for that domain, so I only saw a non-animated JPG. (Jay-Peg)
    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      They say it with a GR, like in Graphical User Interface.

      • I found it's more like the G in Graphics Interchange Format

        • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

          Yes, but in honor of my buddy Tim, who was so wrapped up in his argument of how to pronounce GIF he spelled GUI instead, I thought I'd pass it on.

          They're technically the same GR sound anyway, right?

  • That is, I sort of "hear" it. But I'm smart enough to know that it's just my brain "filling in the blanks" for me. My brain wants it to sound like a Pythonesque "thud", but if I concentrate I can also hear it going "boing, boing" or "ah-OOOH-gah, a-OOOH-gah!"

  • The report of the Tinnitis cutting out is a clue.

    Tinnitis - ringing in the ears - sometimes (always?) includes a malfunction of a feedback mechanism where an actuator is shaking the ear's innards. You can pick up the "ringing in the ears" with a microphone stuck into the ear.

    Perhaps the brain is sending the expectation of a loud sound either to that actuator, or to the one that tightens up the eardrum (reducing the sensitivity) to protect the ear's mechanism from loud noises. Either would produce an actua

  • I was able to hear my own heartbeat for a few seconds after the animation started. Your mind is convinced that there will be a sound, you listen intensely, and your habit of ignoring the sound of your own heartbeat is suspended for a few seconds.

  • It would help if the summary actually linked to the .gif. Or if the links in the summary point to pages that actually link to the .gif. GIF! [imgur.com]
  • I note that I feel the same "twitch" in the ears as I do just after using a firearm. I understand there is a muscle there; perhaps it is learned reflex to the visual cue.
  • Am I the only one that hears the pylons tell you to kill the dog, in the voice of your dead grandmother?

  • I grew up near a military base which included artillery and air cavalry training every day. I noticed later in life that I did not actually hear helicopters anymore unless I saw one or noticed someone else looking up.

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @06:41PM (#55684309)

    ... I was to busy laughing. ROTFL.

    Serisously, this is prank, isn't it?

  • Step 1) Download and install a free fequency meter, like the ones from this website: http://www.winsite.com/frequen... [winsite.com]

    Step 2) Turn it on.

    Step 3) Play video

    Step 4) Tell people that if the frequency meter can't detect it, then their speaker can't be making any noise. It is entirely psychological.

    Step 5) When they insist, mute your computer secretly and play the video again. Then show that the computer was on MUTE.

    This is not something hard to do, nor hard to understand. It's barely interesting. You want t

  • Wow. This is my first lead to figuring out something that "bothered" me since I was a kid -- long ago I learned to produce a sort of "rumbling" sound inside my head, by intentionally tensing some muscles. It is really hard to explain as I can't even identify those muscles myself, but I first noticed it when I was doing some silly things with my eyes, like trying to "shake the picture really fast".

    I could not search for something I could not describe and I eventually forgot about it. Until I saw this GIF. At

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @07:01PM (#55684447)

    ... but my mom yelled up the stairs for us kids to quit jumping or whatever it was that we were doing.

  • by brianerst ( 549609 ) on Tuesday December 05, 2017 @11:35PM (#55685659) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure it's acoustic reflex [wikipedia.org] - muscle contractions within your inner ear that dampens your hearing response, caused by anticipation of loud noises, generally your own voice.

    I distinctly experience it as some anticipatory pressure, followed by a tightening, then a release, which creates the "sound". (Yeah, I know that also sounds like the geekiest possible description of orgasm.)

    I feel a little bit of pressure in my eyes as well when the pylon lands, which I'm assuming is also related. It could also explain the tinnitus effects.

  • I wouldn't call it "hearing" a thud, any more than I hear my internal monologue. There was more of a perception of a thud sound, but it was distinct from if there was an actual thud sound. Interestingly if I didn't concentrate on the image, and kept it in my peripheral vision, the timbre of the "thud" would change, for instance it was more of a "twang" if I looked below the image so that it was in my upper peripheral vision.

    With a bit of effort I could make the "thud" go away too, while looking directly at

  • No thudding sound, no interruption of my tinnitus. And yes, my speakers are turned on.

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