“Sound is the forgotten flavor sense,” says experimental psychologist Charles Spence. At his lab at Oxford University in England, he manipulates sound in ways that transform our experience of food and drink, making stale potato chips taste fresh, adding the sensation of cream to black coffee, or boosting the savory, peaty notes in whiskey.
We know human screams are jarring. They’re loud, occasionally shrill, and tend to make us feel stressed, or even fearful. What’s unclear is why they elicit anxiety. But a new study suggests this response may have something to do with the acoustic quality of human screams, and how they trigger the brain’s fear response.
It’s a sound/frequency we do not experience in normal, everyday settings.
I remember a friend remarking about knowing the difference when her kids would scream, to tell when things were really bad or they were faking. Another instance I remember was someone telling me about knowing when they were hearing a “death rattle”, in rural areas where a given animal got injured bad enough. We communicate a lot through sound – say one thing, but our tone infers another.
Advances in sensors and communication systems, such as those pinpointing the amount of water and fertilizers needed in just one corner of a plot of land, are allowing farmers to use technology to produce more food. Now there’s a surprising new tool to add to the precision agriculture arsenal: sound.
The fact that plants hear is nothing new, but the idea of using sound to trigger their defense mechanisms is. While there’s the benefit to agriculture (and subsequently our health), I have to figure that the trade-off will be taste, nutrition, and possibly resources (more defense would mean more water/etc).