Stonehenge acoustics enhanced music and speech, driving quickly is best on bumpy roads – Physics World


Tis a magic place: scale model of Stonehenge showing (A) outer sarsen circle; (B) outer bluestone circle; (C) inner trilithon horseshoe and (D) inner bluestone oval. (Courtesy: T Cox, B Fazenda and S Greaney/Journal of Archaeological Science)

It may look like something from the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, but this 1:12 scale model of Stonehenge was built by researchers in the UK to find out how speech and music would have been affected by the stone circle. The model represents how archaeologists believe the monument appeared about 4200 years ago on the Salisbury Plain of southern England – and was studied inside a semi-anechoic chamber.

Trevor Cox and Bruno Fazenda at University of Salford and Susan Greaney of English Heritage found that reflections from the stones made someone speaking inside the monument sound louder to others inside. This, they suggest, could have been engineered by the ancient builders to improve communications during rituals and perhaps boost the status of speakers.

Wooden pipes and animal horns

The trio also found that music played inside the monument would be enhanced by reverberations from the stones – however, the reverb is much less than that engineered into modern concert halls. Nonetheless, they say that it would affect the sound of bone flutes, wooden pipes, animal horns and drums that are likely to have been used in Neolithic Britain.

They also looked for focused echoes in the monument that could enhance sounds at certain locations – something suggested by other researchers. However, they found no evidence for this.

You can read more about the study in an open access paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“Driving at low speed on a bumpy road is dangerous” is something you might expect to hear from a petrolhead like Jeremy Clarkson – but it is the conclusion of Kazem Reza Kasyzadeh and colleagues at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia in Moscow.

The researchers developed a computer model that describes vehicle body damage that is caused by fatigue failure. They used the model to calculate the damage to welds in a car moving at 5, 10 and 15 km/h over a very bumpy road. At the slowest speed, the model predicted that 100 spot welds would be damaged, whereas 40 and 50 were predicted for 10 and 15 km/h respectively.

You can read more about this counterintuitive result in this press release.

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