Fireball Saying of the Day
Be strong, I whispered to my WiFi signal.
Yanny vs. Laurel
I hear Lauel! In the tremendous rush to understand the single greatest topic of conversation since that time nobody knew whether a dress was blue and black or actually white and gold. Popular Science has taken up the cause. Brad Story is a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Arizona, and he did a quick analysis of the waveform. That first waveform is of the actual recording, which features the primary acoustic features of the “l” and “r” sounds. That leads Story to believe that the voice is really saying “laurel.” The fuzzier image below shows that the recording is of the third resonance of the vocal tract. As your vocal tract changes shape to form different sounds, it produces specific resonances, or natural vibrational frequencies. It’s these resonances that encode language within a sound wave (and thus how you can analyze a waveform and determine speech sounds). He also recorded himself saying both words to demonstrate how the waveforms vary. You can see (though maybe only with the added arrows and highlighting) that the acoustic features match up between the actual video recording and the recording of Story saying “laurel.” It starts relatively high for the “l” sound, then drops for the “r” and goes back up high for the second “l.” Story explains that the “yanny” sound follows a similar path, just not with quite the same acoustic features. That wave also goes high-low-high, but the whole thing is shifted into the second resonance—not the third. Britt Yazel, a researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain, agrees. “I honestly think after looking at the spectrograms and playing with some filters that this is just the word “Laurel” with some high frequency artifacts overlaying it,” he says. At first he thought it was two overlaid voices, but then he started cleaning up the audio a bit. Now he thinks that the overlaid frequencies above 4.5 kHz are what sound like “yanny” to some people. So what started off as just a fun thing has degenerated into just way way too much information.