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Monday, January 28, 2008

Stall Tactics

Before you click away in disgust, please stop. I know what you must be thinking. Wait, scratch that. I imagine you could be thinking just about anything at this point. If you've read the word stall and seen the restroom sign, you might be expecting to read some sick brand of bathroom humor. Before your mind starts filling in the blanks on its own, let me assure you that this is a completely sterile brand of bathroom humor. It's not gross. It's not disgusting. It's not vile in the least.

It's actually scientific, musical even. Wait, now, there you go again thinking the worst. Stop doing that and trust me for just a moment. I'm going to teach you a simple way to have fun with noises in public bathrooms. Don't snicker! This is serious.

If you've ever studied acoustic resonance, you might already be one step ahead of me. You'll know that at a certain fundamental frequency (and at odd-numbered multiplications of that frequency) sound waves in a tube (or rectangular box as the case may be) open at both ends will feed off the strength of its own sound wave modulations, resulting in a very grand and pure sound. And perhaps the equation pictured herein will look completely familiar to you. If it looks like just about any other mumbo jumbo, fear not. You won't need to memorize it, it won't show up on a quiz, and you won't find it at all useful for engaging in the fun I'm about to describe. I place it here for no other reason than to add academic credibility to the post. Now, on to the fun.

The next time you find yourself in the stall of a public restroom, try this out. If it is the typical enclosure with walls that don't go all the way down to the floor or all the way up to the ceiling, you're sitting in the perfect spot for a real-life science experiment that can drive people a little crazy. All you have to do is hum.

Now, it's important that you hum quietly, inaudibly for anyone but you. Start with the lowest note you can hum. Then slowly work your way through your do re mi scales. Each time through, bring the scale up a half a step. Slowly, carefully, quietly, keep humming. If you're somewhere close to on pitch, eventually the soft tone of one of your hums will resonate loudly and strongly . . . it just might scare you. Fortunately, if it scares you really bad, you're in the right place.

But once you've found that note, you'll find that even the slightest vibration at that pitch will produce a very large, droning, ringing noise that completely fills the room. And since the room is a restroom, the resonance is multiplied by the extremely loud porcelain and marble-laid acoustics typical of such establishments. And no one, except readers of this blog, will know the source of the disturbance. They might think it's the vibration of a remote industrial engine. They may think aliens are invading the building or that a tornado alarm is sounding in the distance. But the sound is unlike anything else one would normally hear in a bathroom.

There. You know my secret. Try it out and perfect it alone. Then use it to frighten your friends and scare off strangers. In a public restroom, the options are endless. Hey, now, don't let your mind go there. I'm talking about resonance here, people!

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