31 December 2007

2007 in Review - Audio-style

It's 31 December and I thought I'd bLog a quick review of some (IMO) notable happenin's in the world of music, audio, and acoustics in 2007:
I may add more later if I think of them. Happy New Year! <<8^)

28 December 2007

Sunshine State Song

I read today that Florida wants residents to vote for a new state song. The three finalists are "Florida - Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," "Florida, My Home," and "My Florida Home." I started thinking about what songs may have been runners-up:
"I Can't Drive 55"
"Air on a G-string"
"Blowin' in the Wind"
"Rock You Like a Hurricane"
"When I'm 64"
"The Heat is On"
Also today - and eerily related - a friend sent me a link to the dumblaws website. Here's an entry from the list of dumb laws in Florida:
"It is illegal to sing in a public place while attired in a swimsuit."

27 December 2007

Ma Gray?

The late 19th and early 20th century years were rife with innovation. The automobile replacing horse-drawn carriages; the phonograph putting Puccini in the parlor; Einstein telling us speed is in the eye of the observer; the list goes on and on.
As most history books, encyclopedias, and almanacs tell, it was during these years that Bell gave us the telephone and Marconi gave us the radio. Besides audio, these two life-changing inventions now apparently share something else: Controversy.
In the case of radio, it has been known for quite a while that Marconi most probably, um, "borrowed" the idea from Tesla. PBS has a nice little page on this.
Well, it would now seem that Marconi may have just been following Bell's lead. Personally, I can't wait for the book to come out; I'm a sucker for a good Whodunnit...Geek Style! Of course, I hope this doesn't mean a new sound level unit...the dG?

12 December 2007

Airport? What airport?

Got this Popular Science article emailed to me from a colleague. For those of you who like percentages when considering sound (I don't), this new jet would be roughly 99.999998% "quieter" - in terms of sound pressure - than most of the existing jets out there. Just think of how serene our surroundings would be if similar sound sources were equally reduced - in terms of sound pressure.
  • I could stand 50 feet from a garbage truck and never hear it.
  • I could get my leaf blower out, blow the leaves around my yard, and look like Luke Skywalker out there clearing a path using nothing but the Force.
  • There'd be nothing but the sounds of people walking and talking (screaming) into their cell phones along our cities' busy streets.
  • "Stealth" technology would take on a whole new meaning.

Interesting stuff to consider, to say the least... ;^)

11 December 2007

Fresh Take on an Old Question

I just finished reading David Brin's monumental tome, Earth. It's a near-future book, written in the late '80s with the action taking place in the year 2038. Brin's view of a future that is now 30 years hence is, in spots, far-fetched, but (IMO) he exonerates himself in the end by explaining that he did, indeed, take quite a few liberties with some elements. (It's simply hard to believe Miami will be underwater in the next 30 years. But hey, it could happen...)

Anyway, I just had to share one little gem with the 10*bLog(p²) faithful. A character in the novel having a pensive moment considering quantum theories, Heisenberg, and philosophy had this to share:

"Without observers, not only is a falling tree without sound...it's a concept without meaning."

Anyone in the acoustics biz has no doubt had to face the, "Well, what's your take on the falling tree?" question from inquisitive strangers / friends / family. Next time I get hit with that one, I have a new answer! :^)

04 December 2007

Sound Objectivity

My good friend over at Cross•Spectrum commented on yesterday's blog, and also opined on his own blog today.
The points that herb makes are excellent. (I wish I'd made some of them myself, particularly the one about the ANSI S12.18 standard...)
In repsonse, I'd first like to point out that my Baby/Bathwater blog should not be interpreted as my being in opposition of "nuisance"-style noise ordinances. Indeed, I believe that both objective and subjective ordinances are necessary. If the neighbor's loud party is keeping you awake at 1 a.m., I agree that there should be no need for the officer to have to dig out his sound level meter in order to issue a citation to the offender(s). Common sense should prevail.
But there are myriad instances where lack of an objective ordinance can hurt more than help, just like eliminating speed limits would hurt more than help.
My main point is that objective sound level limits should not be thrown aside simply because motorcycle noise is difficult for a law enforcement officer to measure. This is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Also, most people these days can operate a digital camera. IMO, the best way to support a noise citation for a loud motorcycle is simply to photograph the offender's exhaust when the citation is being issued. Since straight pipes or modified exhausts are illegal, it should be an easy enough thing to prove without any sound level measurement whatsoever! "It was excessively loud, and here's a picture of the offender's exhaust with the manufacturer's noise control measures having been removed."
If the offender really wants to fight the citation, a standard "pass-by" test can prove violation beyond a reasonable doubt. I would gladly offer up my services to conduct this test for my local law enforcement agency for a modest and reasonable fee. (Certainly less than the amount of the fine that would be incurred.) Further, I could probably be convinced to volunteer to train one or more law enforcement officers as to the proper methods to conduct the test, thereby saving them future costs. Measuring sound is difficult, no question. But a simplified version of the "pass-by" test - one that can prove violation without having to prepare a 20-page report (or follow an 18-page standard to the letter) - doesn't require an advanced degree in physics to conduct.
And once the word got out that the local police are able to perform a test that proves violation beyond a reasonable doubt, the loud pipes would begin to go the way of leaded gasoline.
At least, IMHO...but maybe I'm just too idealistic...

03 December 2007

Baby? Check. Bathwater? Check.

It seems several communities in Colorado just don't get it. To me, this clears the way for some smart aleck to propose that the objective speed limits should also be done away with on the roads in their communities. Since equipment and training for measuring vehicle speed is expensive and imperfect, it should be left to the law enforcer's judgment as to whether someone was driving excessively fast. Right?


Let the rant ensue...

Along the lines of the specific noise source in question, I must admit that I am having trouble understanding why motorcycle noise, of all things, is making an unwelcome comeback. It certainly seems to be in my neighborhood. But, the USEPA took care of this years ago. Putting aside the fact that excessive noise from motorcycles and modifications to a motorcycle's exhaust system are often prohibited by state and/or local laws, it's a violation of federal law to modify manufacturer-equipped noise control measures on motorcycles. IMO, that our country is seeing a resurgence of excessive motorcycle noise is a simple case of what happens when laws are not enforced.

  • If your motorcycle is excessively noisy, you are probably breaking the law. At the very least, it is your responsibility to make sure you aren't.
  • If you modify or replace your motorcycle's exhaust with anything, other than to replace the manufacturer's original equipment with its equivalent, you're breaking the law.
  • Straight pipes are illegal.
  • "Mufflers" designed to amplify exhaust noise are illegal. (And - btw - they are not "mufflers"; they're "amplifiers.")
I'm not one to impose my personal preferences on people. If you like to ride a motorcycle, be it for pleasure or otherwise, I think that's just fine. But you are not allowed to break the law while you're doing it. It's that simple.

If I have to wear a seatbelt, keep my vehicle maintained to a condition of roadworthiness, observe the posted speed limits, wear the proper corrective lenses, signal when turning, and generally obey the law when I drive my car, so should it be for you when you ride your motorcycle.

I was taught that driving is a privilege, not a right. IMO, this goes for motorcycles as well.