Thursday, January 24, 2013

Did You Hear That Snow??

A look at the acoustic properties of snow

Snow capped mountain above rocky mountain trees and fields
Snowy Mountain Valley View
  Snow... Snow... Snow...

A favorite line from the memorable song, "Snow" popularized in the 1954 movie, "White Christmas", sung by Bing Crosby along with movie cohorts Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. How I looked forward to watching that flick during the holiday season as a child. Made me want to ski in snow-covered mountains of Vermont myself... Well... At least it did till I discovered skiing was NOT a forte destined to lend me bragging rights!

Just the same... Though living at an elevation that enables me to enjoy distant snowflakes tightly stacked atop snow-covered mountains without having to trek through their depth myself, I still get kicks watching those clean gentle flakes trickle through the air whenever the temperature falls to a snow-producing level in my neighborhood. Always a thirll... it is... viewing the soft icy droplets that float onto my lawn and trees and surrounding areas. Always a joy... Always a wonder when this freshly falling miracle unfolds...

Those among us who truly enjoy snow's special wonder, no matter how many times we witness it falling from the clouds, continue to find stepping onto snowy fields exhilarating and inviting. Many also find ourselves wondering how such delicate miniscule flakes can manage to exert so much noise beneath our footsteps.

As it turns out, snow noise has to do with its acoustical properties. That's right... Despite its gentle, near weightlessness, snow posesses the ability to create acoustics that allow it to produce sound; and these acoustic properties play roles in snow ’s ability to escalate as well as to redirect sound. Now... Who would have thought those precious little flakes had the ability to do all of that?!

Unlike raindrops that can be quite noisy when falling on rooftops, umbrellas, and sidewalks, snowflakes produce much lighter softer sounds. As snowflakes fall from clouds and make their way to earth, they float along in unhurried fashion, swaying hither and there, as if savoring their descent. This gentle floating, in contrast to rushing raindrops, adds to reasons why falling snow acoustics lean toward quietude.

Despite the lightness of individual snowflakes, however, as flake after delicate flake falls atop one another while landing on any given surface, they form snow layers that alter their sound. The deeper the layers become, the more altered their sound becomes. Snow's ability to alter its acoustics is a major reason passersby can spur snow noise beneath their feet as they tramp across the layers. Of course... most people do not refer to snow in terms of layers; but rather, how deep it is or how their shoes sink into it.

A good way to envision snow altering its sound is to picture it in this manner: When snow falls to the ground, each snowflake that follows the one before it leaves a minute space between itself and its predecessor flake. Compare this act to dropping a deck of playing cards onto a floor, one by one. As the cards flip and fall, they likely will land near or on top of one another when dropped in the same area. However, they do not land exactly atop one another but they do leave microscopic spaces between each other that holds pockets of air.

Now imagine that the cards are snowflakes-only with different shapes... Well... Individual snowflakes do not fall directly on top of other flakes, just as playing cards do not fall directly on top of other cards-only there is a difference. The fact is that parts of snowflake “bodies ” are likely to fall on top of more than one flake; just as with dropped playing cards, however, spaces between snowflakes are likely to harbor more air pockets than playing cards.

The difference that enables snowflakes to harbor more air than playing cards is that unlike cards, snowflakes do not all have the same exact shape. For this reason, even if they did fall directly atop one another, they would not fit together perfectly such as playing cards would fit if you stacked a deck. Now... If you could capture millions of snowflakes, without disturbing their makeup, perhaps you could create a stack with like shapes... For now, simply gather that the inability to fit together increases snow layer air capturing ability.

But wait... Shapes and spaces do not determine snow acoustics on their own... In addition to spaces left between multi-shaped piles of snowflakes providing opportunities for snow to make acoustical sounds is the ice factor.

As everyone knows... Snowflakes are made from frozen water, otherwise known as ice... Likewise, everyone knows ice can be quite noisy! With these facts in mind, it should be no surprise that snow's icy makeup contributes to its ability to produce sound.

Indeed... Each snowflake's’ ability to float from clouds in quietude has to do with its appearance following its conversion from ice to flakes. Were it not for this conversion, snow would likely sound just as loud, or even louder when it hits the ground, as sleet and hail does.

Another interesting note about snow acoustics is its ability to absorb sound...

That's right... Since falling flakes do not fit perfectly atop one another when they land the spaces between layers that entrap air also acquire the capacity to absorb sound waves. When footsteps disturb ground snow, or children fall on fields of snow to make angels, contact pressure forces trapped air to squeeze from the flakes. The released air, filled with sound waves, causes ground snow to make acoustical sounds.

If you've ever made a snowball, its accoustics likely filled your ears. If you've ever made a snowman, or otherwise rolled forever-growing snowballs along the ground, you likely noticed the sound elevate with each inch the orbs grew-that is... if you were in a field of deep snow because as it turns out, the loudness level at which snow sounds when disturbed depends on the thickness its layers. This is because thicker layers trap more air and thus are likely to have louder acoustics than thinner counterparts.

One other fascinating snow acoustical fact...

In addition to creating acoustics by forming air pockets, and absorbing sound, snow also reverberates sound.

Sound reverberation, or reflection, occurs when snow gets hard. Snow gets hard simply by lying on the ground, hanging onto trees, or sprawling across rooftops. Factors that contribute to snow hardening include aging, temperature decreases, and wind.

Aging Snow

Snow hardens as it ages because it loses its suppleness.

Freezing Snow

Snow hardens as temperatures decrease because cold temperatures causes it increase its “freezing  capacity".

Winded Snow

Wind affects snow layers by smoothing out their surface areas. This smoothing out causes snow layers to become ice-like. The icy state aids snow ’s ability to reverberate sound.

Next time you encounter a showing of these delicate flakes, take a closer look at their icy makeup as you lift a million pieces from the ground or catch a few floaters from the air. Enjoy the sound they make should you decide to smash the miraculous flakes together. Yes... Listen closely... Enjoy the wonder of their acoustical sounds.... and did you know...?

Snow acoustic properties also present when snow lands, such has been shown by research when snow lands on water.

Other studies, currently underway, aim to use snow acoustics to predict when avalanches are about to occur.

Snow... Snow... Snow...

Oh! The wonders of snow...

When you DON'T have to shovel it! :}

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The PayCheck—Mightier Than the Potty Mouth Sword

Paid to the order of internet cursing...
A post I read in December of last year (2012) that likened social media behavior to that of the legendary Sword of Damocles keeps cropping into my head—it was about internet cursing—you know—potty mouth. Having been subjected to a few online unpleasantries may be the reason this topic stuck with me…as if beckoning… coaxing… beseeching me to respond by writing on the subject myself. Thus… Here goes…

As a Virginia youngster, I remember living on a street where everyone knew who everyone else was. I recall walking along the sidewalk saying, “Good morning” or “Hello” or speaking some form of salutation to neighborly women sitting on their porches—perhaps in outdoor rockers. I also recall passing by one house on a day my mind ventured elsewhere [possibly on candy I hoped to purchase at the store] causing me to fail to speak. One elderly woman exercised her authority to point out my rude behavior. Immediately, I said hello and zipped passed her house as quickly as I could hoping she would not tell my mother I had been disrespectful.

Can you believe that? A four-year-old showing disrespect simply by not greeting porch-dwellers!? [Why was I walking the streets alone at age four? You might wonder… Short answer… The neighborhood was safe enough to allow me to go solo to the store around the corner. But that’s another story…]

Anywho… When the internet anti-cursing article struck me again this morning, I began to consider the fact that too many people, in general, living in the United States seem to believe they have licenses to act any way they please, toward anyone they please, and to have no qualms about it. From what I read and hear in the news, this problem appears to exist in other countries as well. Why is this so? I asked myself. How did things change from the days during which I was expected to behave as a polite little girl; and eventually… a respectful young lady? What became of the days wherein, along with my harmonizing siblings, we covered our lips and cried, “Ooo!! He said a bad word!” in response to, then, uncommon bleeps sounding from television speakers.

Young people today may not realize that a time ACTUALLY EXISTED wherein children were EXPECTED to do what they were told… and it mattered NOT what adult was doing the telling. Wherein they had a place… and they stayed in their place unless allowed by an adult to venture from it… They were seen but NOT heard as it was called.



Those days are >>>long >>>gone!

Today… children are not only both seen AND heard—but many—far too many—are right up in adult business!  This fact is evident if you listen to their conversations.

Many amongst us believe things would be better were it not for outside influences such as racy music… television… websites… movies… FAST poorly raised kids next door or at school… and virtually ANY outside influence one can muster up as an excuse for the fact that (sorry but) many parents fail to properly raise their children. But then… Proper to one parent may not mean the same thing as it does to another… One parent may think adult swearing in the home while children are present is okay—but the kids had better not repeat those words! While another parent finds comfort in practicing what they preach...

Contemplating the issue, my perspective tells me the baby boomer generation is largely responsible for this dilemma—at least in the US.

It seems to me that during the time of drugs, sex, and alcohol… the period of letting it all hang out… It’s your thang do what you want… boomers either began or accelerated the notion that no one tells their children what to do… That their children did NOT have to listen toor obey some other adult’s disciplinary instructions… and in fact, many of these parents would curse out other adults and tell them to mind their business for stepping in when a parent was unavailable!

“If my kids wanna run into the street when speeding trucks are coming… That’s their prerogative!”

Okay… Perhaps that was a bit over the top but when children are not required to respect authority… regardless of what adult lips from which authoritative language speaks… why wouldn’t they willfully put themselves in danger if their immature little brains lacked good sense?!

The point is that when children jump the rungs from delicate little souls enjoying the innocent beauties of life to overgrown little adults unrecognizable by their own parents who nourished them to be that way, the end result should not be unexpected!

So many parents take children to PG movies when G rated shows would suffice and R movies when PG flicks would be enough. Despite precautionary measures devised to protect browsing youngsters, many parents forego parental settings while at the same time placing unmonitored computers—complete with internet availability—at children’s disposal…often times… locked behind closed doors of tender-minded bedrooms… In addition, many parents eagerly provide their children cell phones from which many speak in codes most adults cannot interpret… and… Let’s not leave out the many proud parents among us who provide infinite satellite television channels along with their refined speaker boxes from which youngsters’ eyes and ears and minds and psyches feast upon at will…

But then…

Who can blame parents for wanting their children to HAVE EVERYTHING!!?

To be IN!?

To NOT to be deprived!?

After all—No one wants squares for kids!

No one wants their children picked on because they don’t have their own cell phone or laptop or [these days] tablet for crying OUT LOUD!! These are necessities of life; and attending R rated movies—complete with adult material including cursing of course—at age eight may be MANDATORY in a kids’ life! Besides—why should it be a BIG deal if EVERY other HIP elementary school kid has already seen that racy flick anyway!!


What’s a parent to do???

What’s society to do???

Perhaps we should do what so many parents who manage to spoil their children with today’s necessities, and yet, are still able to raise respectful, responsible human beings, that are less likely to hide behind internet [in]security when it comes to their online interactions do.

Not wanting my children to find solace in acting out if only adults other than their parents were available to realign them, I taught them to do as adults told them except under certain circumstances—resist immoral and illegal commands…of course… If at any time my children felt they were wronged… singled out… unfairly called out, they were to let me know. I am the parent. Dealing with disciplinary mishaps is MY job NOT theirs!

Following my own belief that it is wrong for children to be seen but not heard… I adopted my own philosophy that children should be observed and intellectually acclimated. I believe that arming children with intelligent ways of expressing themselves lessens the chances they will stoop to using four-letter-words, both on and off the internet. So far as I can tell, this mode of raising children has worked for ALL FIVE of my kids—and yes… I do check their online posts and TELL them of ANY that appear even remotely offensive!

Life is always shifting…

Ever-changing societal rules—written and instinctual—play hard and fast in efforts to continually modify the game…

Technologies—past and present—persist in dictating human behavior…

Offspring to this world we call Earth—provided to them by their parents… at whatever state the climate when each child enters it, learns to mow their chosen path…

In closing...

Regardless of the circumstances in which we arrive on this great planet, we all, at some point in our lives, decide for ourselves whether to remain on a road or cross over to the other side; and in the end—when it comes to our flaring usage of language—whether we appear as pigs acting like swine or notables behaving like scum swayed by behind-the-screen internet temptations to partake in potty mouth, awaiting and defying the sword of the Damoclean Pot is totally up to us—individually—so we may assume—for—as many of us understand—there exists a catch 22 attached to the act of assumption—instituting the possibility that consequences, or lack thereof, may really depend upon our bosses should their swords lead NOT to blood—but to our paychecks!!

That's my view... and I'm sticking to it!!