If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?

Apple Genius

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 24, 2009
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I thought there was some special event or whatever going on over at Microsoft today? Something to do with uh... what was it called... you know the "Worst OS Ever"... Visa or something like that??? Oh, I remember! It was something about mousepads...

Hmph... No, that wasn't it either.


Whatever it was, no one seemed to care. :eek:
 

sammich

macrumors 601
Sep 26, 2006
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Sarcasmville.
If the tree fell over, it would be converting it's potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of momentum. But once it reaches the ground the kinetic energy will mostly be transferred to the ground, some into heat, and a small portion into vibrations, which is sound.

What were we talking about?
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
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If the tree fell over, it would be converting it's potential energy into kinetic energy in the form of momentum. But once it reaches the ground the kinetic energy will mostly be transferred to the ground, some into heat, and a small portion into vibrations, which is sound.

What were we talking about?
sound is the interpretation of those vibrations

without an interpreter, there is no sound

then no, a tree does not make a sound if there is nothing to interepret those vibrations

however, we all know intuitively there is a sound that we would hear if we were present
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
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Actually those vibrations are sound waves. So yes, it makes a sound whether anyone hears it or not.
sound is merely an interpretation of those "sound", or more accurately pressure waves by a device (such as an ear) that intreprets those waves and converts them to a form our brain understands

from wikipedia
The production of sound requires 3 things: A source, a medium, and a receiver. The source, through vibrations called "compression" and "rarefraction", creates a series of pressure waves that vary in frequency and amplitude. These pressure waves propagate through various mediums including water, air and solids. The receiver collects and converts these pressure waves into electrical impulses. If you remove any of the 3 requirements for sound, there is no sound.
emphasis mine
 

Tilpots

macrumors 601
Apr 19, 2006
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Carolina Beach, NC
You're referring to the perception of sound. If a deaf person saw the tree fall, there would still be a sound, the deaf person just couldn't hear it.;)
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
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5045 feet above sea level
You're referring to the perception of sound. If a deaf person saw the tree fall, there would still be a sound, the deaf person just couldn't hear it.;)
lol im referring to what constitutes sound. There is no sound if you cant interpret the pressure waves


using your example, if a deaf person can't hear it, there was no sound to him obviously as he cant interpret it

if you were standing next to him, you can interpret it aand thus there is a sound
 

Apple Genius

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 24, 2009
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Actually those vibrations are sound waves. So yes, it makes a sound whether anyone hears it or not.
You're right- That why Beethoven could still play when he went deaf.

Oh, and I finally remembered what the celebration at Yahoo was for... They closed Geocities.
 

iOrlando

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
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you could answer that question so many ways its annoying.
theres no fundamental correct answer. both sides have logical answers.
 

chown33

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Aug 9, 2009
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Pumpkindale
from wikipedia
Quote:
The production of sound requires 3 things: A source, a medium, and a receiver. The source, through vibrations called "compression" and "rarefraction", creates a series of pressure waves that vary in frequency and amplitude. These pressure waves propagate through various mediums including water, air and solids. The receiver collects and converts these pressure waves into electrical impulses. If you remove any of the 3 requirements for sound, there is no sound.
Interesting definition. Flawed, but interesting.

If a person has a cochlear implant, it can be directed to produce electrical signals that the person perceives as sound, but which are not actually originating from a series of pressure waves. There is also no medium through which the pressure waves propagate. The signal is generated and propagated as an electronic signal, not a pressure signal.

The definition would also classify as sound a microphone that converts incident pressure waves as producing sound, even if there is no observer of the electrical signal, nor any recording of it.

I'm also wondering how to classify tinnitus. If you have a person with tinnitus in a perfectly quiet room (no pressure waves), but they perceive a tone or "ringing", is that a sound or not? The definition says no, but the observer will say they hear something. Through a testing process, they would probably even be able to tell you what frequencies they perceive it to be.
 

djellison

macrumors 68020
Feb 2, 2007
2,228
4
Pasadena CA
then no, a tree does not make a sound if there is nothing to interepret those vibrations
Does the wind stop blowing if there are no anemometers. Does the ground stop shaking if there are no seismometers. Does a tree disappear if there are no eyes or cameras.

It MAKES a sound. That no one is there to hear it, is irrelevant. The sound still exists.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
Interesting definition. Flawed, but interesting.

If a person has a cochlear implant, it can be directed to produce electrical signals that the person perceives as sound, but which are not actually originating from a series of pressure waves. There is also no medium through which the pressure waves propagate. The signal is generated and propagated as an electronic signal, not a pressure signal.
not all electrical signals are sound. however, all sound gets converted to electrical signals for us to decipher it

The definition would also classify as sound a microphone that converts incident pressure waves as producing sound, even if there is no observer of the electrical signal, nor any recording of it.
you are missing the last requirement, the receiver aspect
I'm also wondering how to classify tinnitus. If you have a person with tinnitus in a perfectly quiet room (no pressure waves), but they perceive a tone or "ringing", is that a sound or not? The definition says no, but the observer will say they hear something.
from wikipedia
Tinnitus (pronounced /tɪˈnaɪtəs/ or /ˈtɪnɪtəs/,[1] from the Latin word tinnītus meaning "ringing"[2]) is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external sound.
as there is no source (by the definition of Tinnitus), there is no sound, merely the perception of sound, which is what the wiki describes

Does the wind stop blowing if there are no anemometers. Does the ground stop shaking if there are no seismometers. Does a tree disappear if there are no eyes or cameras.

It MAKES a sound. That no one is there to hear it, is irrelevant. The sound still exists.
We only know that since its obvious that if we were there we would hear it. If nothing is there to record the pressure waves and interpret it, then by definition is not a sound, although it would be one if one was there to interpret the waves

your comparison to wind and earthquakes isnt the same

heres why:
sound = pressure waves that have to be recorded (by our ear) and then converted to electrical signals so our brains can understand them

without our ears, there is no sound (obviously as you couldnt hear anything with no ears) as you would lack the means to interpet those waves

however, the pressure waves are still there...they just arent manifested in the form of sound to the person in question
 

MasterDev

macrumors 65816
Sep 14, 2009
1,037
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if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, will it make a sound?
Tree: are you kidding? Jake fell over and he hasn't shut up for about a week.

Jake: oh yeah, stand there and laugh, is anyone gonna help me up?

</family guy>

Okay, I don't remember the original quote exactly, but I found this on the interweb and it's similar, so there. :D
 

djellison

macrumors 68020
Feb 2, 2007
2,228
4
Pasadena CA
If nothing is there to record the pressure waves and interpret it, then by definition is not a sound,
No. The pressure waves ARE the sound. They are one and the same. Do you know another name for the pressure waves? SOUND WAVES. That's like claiming there's no light if no one sees the photons.

Sound is a travelling wave which is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations
Any falling tree would make such travelling waves, and thus, make sound. That no one would be there to perceive it is irrelevant.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
No. The pressure waves ARE the sound. They are one and the same. Do you know another name for the pressure waves? SOUND WAVES. That's like claiming there's no light if no one sees the photons.
pressure waves are only sound if you have the instrument to decipher those pressure waves.....if not, those pressure waves are just pressure waves

i am not denying the fact that there are pressure waves at all

once again, your analogy falls flat as all i am saying if you dont have a means to interpret those waves, it cant register as sound

i am not arguing there is not light, just like i am not arguing there is no pressure waves

for instance: if we all had NO ears, we couldnt hear any sound as we lack the tool to interpret those pressure waves. That however, does not say those pressure waves dont exist but it isnt sound as we cant interpret them

from wiki again..
Sound is a traveling wave which is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas, composed of frequencies within the range of hearing and of a level sufficiently strong to be heard, or the sensation stimulated in organs of hearing by such vibrations.
emphasis mine
Any falling tree would make such travelling waves, and thus, make sound.
only if there was a means to decipher it....like our ears can it be considered a sound.

otherwise its merely pressure waves.

That no one would be there to perceive it is irrelevant.
thats the entire point. there HAS to be a means to interpret those pressure waves to be considered a sound

from the defintioon of sound
the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
emphasis mine



a more appropriate analogy

1) our eyes only see a certain spectrum correct.
2) we call this light.
3) our eyes lack the ability to see all ends of the spectrum. you follow me?
4) can you see infrared with our eyes? no
5)therefore to us, we can not interpret those wavelengths. my argument is not to say those wavelenghts do not exist but rather since we do not have the ability to see those wavelengths, we dont interpret it as light just like the sound argument
6) however, say we have infrared goggles, a means to interpret those frequencies. we can now see infrared since we have a means to interpret those wavelengths

In summary
Everything that vibrates the air creates the potential for sound, regardless of what conscious being is there to perceive it in the first place. If there is nobody is there to perceive it occurring, then it could not exist as sound, only vibration.

Sound is a subjective interaction with matter. All that sound is, is vibrations through a medium, without humans to perceive it, those vibrations that we call sound, when the tree fell, would make vibrations, but "sound" as we know it, couldn't exist, since no conscious being was there to interpret those vibrations.
 

djellison

macrumors 68020
Feb 2, 2007
2,228
4
Pasadena CA
sound1  [sound] Show IPA
–noun
1. the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
2. mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 ft. (331 m) per second at sea level.
3. the particular auditory effect produced by a given cause: the sound of music.
4. any auditory effect; any audible vibrational disturbance: all kinds of sounds.
5. a noise, vocal utterance, musical tone, or the like: the sounds from the next room.
6. a distinctive, characteristic, or recognizable musical style, as from a particular performer, orchestra, or type of arrangement: the big-band sound.
7. Phonetics.
a. speech sound.
b. the audible result of an utterance or portion of an utterance: the s-sound in “slight”; the sound of m in “mere.”
8. the auditory effect of sound waves as transmitted or recorded by a particular system of sound reproduction: the sound of a stereophonic recording.
9. the quality of an event, letter, etc., as it affects a person: This report has a bad sound.
10. the distance within which the noise of something may be heard.
11. mere noise, without meaning: all sound and fury.
12. Archaic. a report or rumor; news; tidings.
A sound doesn't stop being a sound just because no one is in earshot.

of a level sufficiently strong to be heard
Not saying it must BE heard, just that it POSSIBLY for it to be heard. (although if you ask me, that's a definition of audible, not 'sound' )

Dukebound - I'm not sure how or why you think a sound needs to be perceived to exist.

An MP3 isn't a sound - it has to be played to make a sound.

But a sound IS a sound and perceived or not - it remains a sound.

If a flash goes off in a forest but nobody sees it - does it make light. (answer yes).

There is NO difference. None.

This has to be the weirdest argument I've ever heard. Are you sure you're not just being a flaming troll about this?
 

eawmp1

macrumors 601
Feb 19, 2008
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If MacRumors posters are shouting at each other through cyberspace, do THEY make a sound?
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,052
1,183
5045 feet above sea level
A sound doesn't stop being a sound just because no one is in earshot.
if nothing can interpet those pressure waves, then all it is are pressure waves

sound is the interpretation of the pressure waves. in order to interpret it, you must have an instrument to achieve it

Not saying it must BE heard, just that it POSSIBLY for it to be heard. (although if you ask me, that's a definition of audible, not 'sound' )
i agree as you are proving my point

if there are no means to interpret the pressure waves, it cant be a sound. however, once you have a way to interpret the pressure waves to something you can understand (aka noise) it is a sound

Dukebound - I'm not sure how or why you think a sound needs to be perceived to exist.
i am not saying that

i am saying that to be classified as a sound, you need a means to interpret the pressure waves

if there are none, then its not a sound, only pressure waves

An MP3 isn't a sound - it has to be played to make a sound.
i agree

a sound consists of 3 things
1) source
2) medium
3) reciever

a mp3 if played has the device as the source, the air as the medium and our ears as the reciever

this situation in question has the following

1) source (the tree falls down and causes vibrations in the air)
2) medium (these vibrations travel in the air)
3) receiver (there is none to interpret the pressure waves)

So the scenario has conditions 1 and 2 met but not 3. As a result, the vibrations are not interpreted as sound as there is nothing around to interpret them. As a result, the vibrations remain as vibrations that have not been interpreted
But a sound IS a sound and perceived or not - it remains a sound.
without a receiver (such as ears), its merely vibrations in the air

a sound is the interpretation of those vibrations
If a flash goes off in a forest but nobody sees it - does it make light. (answer yes).
i do not think you understand.

if a tree falls down, it makes vibrations in the air which is obvious

to be a sound however, you need something to pick up those vibrations and interpret it


There is NO difference. None.
yes there is as i am not arguing light doesnt exist just as i am not arguing when a tree falls down, vibrations in the air dont exist...they do

however to be a sound, you need a receiver
This has to be the weirdest argument I've ever heard. Are you sure you're not just being a flaming troll about this?
yes im dead serious

i really am baffled why you are having a hard time grasping this concept

once again, to be a sound, you need to have a receiver

Example 1:
a deaf person cannot hear as they lack the means to interpret the pressure waves so there is no sound to them

however, if you are standing right by them, there is a sound as you have the equipment (ears) to interpret the pressure waves


Example 2
: a dog whistle

Can humans hear a dog whistle? as in does blowing a dog whistle create a sound for humans? No

why?

The human ear lack the ability to intrepret the pressure waves created by the dog whislte and as a result, to the human, there is no sound, merely uninterpreted pressure waves

However, if you had a dog with you he could hear it. Why?
The dog can hear it as he as the ears with the ability to interpret the pressure waves as sound to him


It is all about the reciever aspect and its ability to decipher the pressure waves. Otherwise they are vibrations in the air that go uninterpreted as shown in my 2 examples

Note: I am not denying the existence of the pressure waves as your examples try to correlate to (with flashes and light and what not)


if you dont understand that, then i do not know what to say:confused:

for your defintion
sound1  [sound] Show IPA
–noun
1. the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
you need the means to interpret the pressure waves. EXACTLY what the definition says
2. mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 ft. (331 m) per second at sea level.
vibrations. exactly as sound waves ARE vibrations in the air.

However, it is only a sound when you have the means to interpret the vibrations. otherwise, they remain soley vibrations in the air if there is no means to interpret the waves



I am not saying that if a tree falls down there are no vibrations in the air. Just that to be considered a sound, you need a receiver
 

velocityg4

macrumors 601
Dec 19, 2004
4,602
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Georgia
If the qualification for sound is a receiver and the question is "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?".

Then what if a recorder was there to record the sound then played back later. The sound did exist even though no one was around to hear it. As it can be reproduced later.

The receiver could also be an animal. It is not a person but if the tree fell the sound would be heard by a nearby animal likely spooking them.

In either instance even though no one was around to hear the tree fall. There is a receiver to hear the sound. Thus all qualifications have been met.

Source, medium, receiver