JF Ptak Science Books Post 1883
- Where in the Density Map of all Noise Ever Made on Earth would human sounds be located?
I've written often (but not recently) about unusual images and ideas that are sky-borne--a Strange Things in the Sky Department. Today's late-ish addition started out being about Halley's Comet (and Halley's comets", though that's for a different post) and the images artists and pundits produced showing the possible devastation that the comet would rend on the Earth in its wake. These are interesting images and there are many of them, the ideas of comet impacting he Earth in negative ways being ancient and plentiful.
But in pursuing a loose-end in this I stumbled onto another very interesting strange-thing-in-the-sky thing, and this time it is a piece of the "sky" itself.
It happens in a short work of scientifiction by Gardner Hunting (1872-1958), called The Vicarion (Kansas City, Mo, Unity School of Christianity, 1926)--a book that started out life I think as a missionary work to non-believers as a profession and support of some sort of faith. I don't know about that part--but the idea that most appealed to me was that in some way, the sounds of Earth were being recieved and embedded in "the aether", and that a machine called the "vicarion" was invented to interpret these sounds writ large and small in the sky.
Its an intriguing idea. For science fiction. This is the place where ideas such as these may flourish, where you can stack up the If if if if if (etc.) Then statements to the sky and back, where you can identify the front of the sky and touch it and come back--this is where these ideas can work. Sort of.
What is intriguing here is not so much that human voices had been preserved in the no-longer-existence "aether" and that this vicarion could reproduce these long-lost sounds. It is, rather, the idea of what this collosally large and deeply impregnated aether must hold besides human voices. I mean, why limit the ability of either the vicarion or the aether to deal with just human sounds?
All things being equal, or at least equalizing location and pitch and timbre and so on, why isn't then all noise a local ambient color, and why isn't all of it being recorded?
And given ths, where in the Density Map of all Noise Ever Made on Earth would human sound be located?
And why if this aetther was recording something in the vast ocean of air--the stuff in which the exchange in the average density of air molecules would bump into one another and indicate "sound" as a pressure fluctuation--as insipid and relatively exceptionally minor in the vast cacophony of earthly noises as sounds produced by human, why wouldn't the aether be recording everything else?
I'm not just talking about, say, the sound of insect antennae (which I guess would be a furious sound/information points for any one second of all of the insects with antenae moving on Earth), but also the sound of the water cycle (evaporation) or the collision of pollen molecules and so on? I imagine that to the aether there might not be that great a distinction in these noises, especially from thousnads of miles away. If you can detect a human voice from 20k miles, then hearing evaporation or photosynthesis or stuff on molecular levels doesn't seem far-fetched.
These speculation were certainly not the objective of The Vicarion--a religious message was meant to be observed and delivered in the page, a call hither-to thee was to be the outcome. But it does make for an interesting series of usually-impossible-to-answer questions, like: what would produce the most noise (audible to human hearing) for any given moment in time at any distribution of equal points on the planet?
Without thinking too deeply, I'd have to give the quick anwer as "ocean waves". This is highly debatable, obviously. And if this sound could have been recorded, I wonder how much storage capacity it would take to have archived every moment of sound produced by water waves since the beginning of water?
And then add into that all of the sound ever produced by ants, and then spiders, and so on. Every sound, ever.
Its a real eyebrow-raiser, and a fun exercise provided by an unusual source.
I'm working on a Density Map of the Audioclasm--I think it may look something like this effort by Botticelli trying to map out the effectiveness of Dante's Divine Comedy (a scary accomplishment, frightening and heavy--you can almost feel the very burden of Hell coming down upon you. Here's a good link for a zoomifying version of this map so that you can see its elements in detail):