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Why Fingernails On a Chalkboard Sound Painful

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the enjoy-your-goosebumps dept.

Science 176

sciencehabit writes "Some sounds are excruciating. Take fingernails squeaking on a chalkboard. The noise makes many people shudder, but researchers never knew exactly why. A new study finds that there are two factors at work: the knowledge of where the sound is coming from and the unfortunate design of our ear canals. 'The offending frequencies were in the range of 2000 to 4000 Hz. Removing those made the sounds much easier to listen to. Deleting the tonal parts of the sound entirely also made listeners perceive the sound as more pleasant, whereas removing other frequencies or the noisy, scraping parts of the sound made little difference.'"

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176 comments

My wife's voice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899450)

Is the only sound that is more harsh than fingernails on a chalkboard.

Re:My wife's voice (5, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899986)

Yeah, inflatable plastic makes a balloon-like squeal when punctured.

Re:My wife's voice (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900038)

+1 :D

Re:My wife's voice (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900820)

More surprisingly, they found that the frequencies responsible for making a sound unpleasant were commonly found in human speech,

Re:My wife's voice (-1, Troll)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900880)

[My wife's voice] Is the only sound that is more harsh than fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sexism...

Re:My wife's voice (5, Insightful)

uncqual (836337) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901022)

How is the AC's comment sexist?

It appears that AC is married to someone with a harsh voice. The AC didn't claim that all women, or even all wives, have harsh voices. AC just claimed one person who AC likely spends a lot of time with has a harsh voice.

Although AC could have said "$WIFE_NAME's voice is the only sound more harsh...", that would not have conveyed that AC likely spent a lot of time with that person. For example, if AC had said "Jane's voice is the only sound more harsh...", for all we know 'Jane' could be a checker at the local Walmart and since, presumably, AC doesn't spend that much time with a particular checker at Walmart, the message would have reduced significance.

AC could have used the word spouse instead, but that's rather unnatural and unusual as most people refer to their 'wife' or 'husband' rather than their 'spouse' in normal conversation.

Not all observations or criticisms aimed at anyone but a straight white middle aged able-bodied mail is "racist" or "sexist" or "$GROUPphobic".

Re:My wife's voice (1)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901188)

How is the AC's comment sexist? It appears that AC is married to someone with a harsh voice. The AC didn't claim that all women, or even all wives, have harsh voices. AC just claimed one person who AC likely spends a lot of time with has a harsh voice. Although AC could have said "$WIFE_NAME's voice is the only sound more harsh...", that would not have conveyed that AC likely spent a lot of time with that person. For example, if AC had said "Jane's voice is the only sound more harsh...", for all we know 'Jane' could be a checker at the local Walmart and since, presumably, AC doesn't spend that much time with a particular checker at Walmart, the message would have reduced significance. AC could have used the word spouse instead, but that's rather unnatural and unusual as most people refer to their 'wife' or 'husband' rather than their 'spouse' in normal conversation. Not all observations or criticisms aimed at anyone but a straight white middle aged able-bodied mail is "racist" or "sexist" or "$GROUPphobic".

Hmm. This one isn't irrationally hypersensitive and doesn't make unfounded accusations against the character of others.

Clearly this one needs to be re-educated. You must cater to everyone's overly-emotional sensitivities no matter how irrational, psychotic, and baseless. If a bigot cannot be found, you must create one, Comrade!

Re:My wife's voice (1)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901238)

[My wife's voice] Is the only sound that is more harsh than fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sexism...

Too bad I posted so I cannot mod you down. C'est la vie. I'd rather try to reason with you anyway.

I guess we're all just a bunch of nasty, brutish men who hate women and want to keep them down. When in doubt, and there is no evidence at all either for or against any sort of bigotry, simply interpret everything this way. Right? Seriously, if that's your perception, it would make you the sexist.

Aren't you better than this?

Re:My wife's voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37901324)

[My wife's voice] Is the only sound that is more harsh than fingernails on a chalkboard.

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sexism...

If you can't hear over the sexism, perhaps you should pipe down and be quiet then?

I'm sorry it offends you so much to treat others as individuals, but you need to grow up and learn to do so.

Despite what you think, not all women or even all wives are the same. You need to learn to treat each person as their own individual, like the GP poster did quite nicely.

As long as you hate all women for the actions of one (and no doubt hate yourself too) not only will others call you out for the bigot you are, but you won't lead a very happy life in this world.

Taught? (2, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899466)

Did they test with people who haven't been culturally informed that fingernails on a chalkboard should sound annoying?

From chalk to communism, there are so many, "Why do people find blah disagreeable?" which seem to come down to, "Because that's what mother and the TV say."

Re:Taught? (4, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899544)

Dammit no. I remember being a child and hearing that sound and cringing then finding out AFTER that I wasn't alone.

Some things just plain old suck (like fingernails on a chalkboard and communism).

Re:Taught? (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899594)

I never found it to be that annoying.

Now, silverware scratching on a plate? Gives me the shudders.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899798)

I'd like a more broad study.... don't ask me why but the "glug glug glug" sound you get when you pour a glass of juice or milk or whatever drives me up the walls. I'm the only person I know that it effects me like that. Chalkboard = fine, cutlery+plate = fine, generic alarm clock = FUUUU

Re:Taught? (1)

drkich (305460) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899970)

You know I never thought anyone else was annoyed by the glug glug sound of liquid pouring. We should create a support group so that all of us that are thus afflicted can come out and let the world know that we hate that sound.

Re:Taught? (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900404)

Know what I hate?

The texture of that unrefined pulpy cardboard that McDonald's drink trays are made of. Feeling that stuff against my fingertips just makes my skin crawl. Styrofoam and chalkboards don't bug me at all.

Re:Taught? (2)

Seng (697556) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900492)

Microfiber cotton "terrycloth" wipes do that to me - the kind that kind of snag your fingertips no matter how smooth or clean your fingers seem to be.

Re:Taught? (1)

malilo (799198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899984)

I ALSO HATE the sound of pouring liquids! Yay, there are two of us! (And, it is really weird, an no I have no idea why I hate it)

Re:Taught? (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899978)

I never found it to be that annoying.

Now, silverware scratching on a plate? Gives me the shudders.

Exactly the same for me! "Fingernails on a chalkboard" kinds of sounds never bothered me in the slightest. But if I'm the one scraping silverware on a plate, it makes me shudder exactly like other people do when hearing fingernails on a chalkboard! It's weird, maybe my sense of whatever causes the shuddering is slightly "shifted" compared to a normal person.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900740)

Same for me, Silverware scratching a plate, or wet sand on a tile. (if there is a grain of sand on a wet tile, or glass and it gets rubbed on it).
The fingernail thing is pleasant in comparison.

Re:Taught? (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899638)

Communism, like Capitalism: I am not actually aware of anywhere which have attempted to implement these pure concepts.
Everywhere tends to end up implementing an ad-hoc mish-mash of all three... in varying degrees and proportions.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899876)

Actually, the first settlers to Jamestown in America tried pure communism. They decided they would share all work and pool all property and resources. They quickly discovered that no one had any incentive to work. Google it!

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900356)

Teh internets said it. I believe it. That settles it!

Re:Taught? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900484)

Hutterites have been living in a society of common ownership for over a century and they appear to be functioning fine. Evidently something about their society (probably religious ties, or could be the limits on colony size) allows it to work where it failed for the Jamestown bunch.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900554)

English religious arseholes vs. German religious arseholes.

Re:Taught? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900912)

Yeah, those arseholes, trying to live peacefully in their own way! How dare they not submit to the yoke of capital! Let's liberate them!

Re:Taught? (1)

tycoex (1832784) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901090)

If you choose to live in common ownership isn't it still, basically, capitalism? In that type of opt-in system you still have to choose to give "your" private property to the group.

Actually, I can think of a much more prevalent example, most married couples. My wife and I life in a state of common ownership between two people. But we still have private property, we choose to live in this state.

Re:Taught? (0)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900226)

Dammit no. I remember being a child and hearing that sound and cringing then finding out AFTER that I wasn't alone.

I have the same memory. I remember kids doing that on the chalkboard and wondering how come they could make that noise when it was such an awful sound for me.

(I also agree that communism sucks. It's only trendy talk amongst young hipsters, but it doesn't and can't work, and it's incredibly unfair.)

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899578)

Yes I think it's psychological rather than physical... Then again these guys seem to done some thorough testing.

The way most people react to nails on a chalkboard is the same way I react to the sound of people chewing loudly with their mouths open. The noise converts to pain in my ears.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899590)

Personally, it's never bothered me. Since discovering some people freak out over it, I've always been amused by the reaction.

Re:Taught? (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900480)

I wonder if the aversion is congenital. I would be interested to know if hating chalkboard squeaking runs in families.

Re:Taught? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899612)

From TFA (and alluded to in TFS):

Some listeners were told the true source of the sounds, whereas others were told that the sounds were part of contemporary musical compositions.

The ratings also changed depending on what the listeners thought the sounds were. If they thought a sound came from a musical composition, they rated it as less unpleasant than if they knew it actually was fingernails on a chalkboard. But their skin conductivity changed consistently even when they thought the chalkboard sound was from music and rated it as less unpleasant.

Re:Taught? (2)

JigJag (2046772) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899614)

I agree with you. Fingernails on chalkboard never bothered me and they still don't. I have excellent audio reception btw so it's not a question of being tone-deaf. I hear the sounds but my skin doesn't crawl up.

On a related note, I moved from a place with no skunks to a place teeming with them. To the locals, the odour is unbearable and they have like a flight-response to it. Personally, I don't abhor the smell; It's akin to "burning rubber". When my mother visited, it reminded her of the smell of "roasting coffee". We weren't raised to despise that smell, and we don't when confronted to it. That being said, I never have been sprayed or anything like that. I am talking about the far-off whiff you get in you're downwind from a skunk.

JigJag

Re:Taught? (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899748)

On a related note, I moved from a place with no skunks to a place teeming with them. To the locals, the odour is unbearable and they have like a flight-response to it.

I have seen another distinct entry for your list of reactions. Potheads apparently love the smell. As a non-pothead who grew up in skunk country, it's pretty funny to see people who can't get enough of that vile aroma. Gross!

Re:Taught? (0)

KhazadDum (790345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900036)

I have seen another distinct entry for your list of reactions. Potheads apparently love the smell. As a non-pothead who grew up in skunk country, it's pretty funny to see people who can't get enough of that vile aroma. Gross!

Hmm, let's change around whom and what the object is, but preserve the rest...

I have seen another distinct entry for your list of reactions. Koreans apparently love the smell. As a non-Kimchi-eater who grew up in Korea, it's pretty funny to see people who can't get enough of that vile aroma. Gross!

Put another way, your point?

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900076)

But, but, but, they're potheads. And he doesn't like them. So therefore the fact that their olfactory glands are different than his is funny, and an example of how stupid they are.

Re:Taught? (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900412)

Just adding data points to his collection, that's all. I thought that would be appropriate on a site for nerds.Your contribution is also interesting.

You should perform an experiment (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899920)

Perhaps the odor varies from location to location due to diet or other envrionmental conditions, and possibly by the distance from the point of origin. You should thus perform an experiment for our edification:
  1. Acquire the appropriate eye protection and a sufficient supply of clothing to replace the ruined clothing you will be burning.
  2. Travel to each state and province in North America where skunks are naturally found. Optionally, include locations on other continents.
  3. Start at a distance of 100m from the skunk and provoke it to spray. Record your observations and that of anyone else nearby.
  4. Reduce the distance by half and repeat until either you are located 1m from the skunk or said skunk runs out of spray.
  5. Write a report and post it here so we can evaluate your experience.

Re:Taught? (3, Interesting)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899976)

Isn't that just learning? You have not yet directly experienced skunk spray, so it doesn't have the same effect on you as someone who has experienced it. The area I have always lived in has a lot of skunks. Like you, the smell never bothered me all that much. Then one day our cat got sprayed, and before we knew it he was in the house. Now I absolutely can not stand that smell, no matter how far off it is.

Re:Taught? (2)

Zancarius (414244) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900360)

Isn't that just learning? You have not yet directly experienced skunk spray, so it doesn't have the same effect on you as someone who has experienced it. The area I have always lived in has a lot of skunks. Like you, the smell never bothered me all that much. Then one day our cat got sprayed, and before we knew it he was in the house. Now I absolutely can not stand that smell, no matter how far off it is.

People who've never lived in areas with a lot of skunks seldom appreciate just how potent and horrendous fresh spray is. It doesn't smell anything like the odor of a far off skunk. I had a cat that got skunked once and did the exact same thing. I've heard fresh skunk spray described as an acrid mix of burning onion, garlic, and tire rubber left on the stove to char, and that seems pretty accurate.

Re:Taught? (2)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900166)

I have this great book of marine charts for the Puget Sound which places historical anecdotes in place context.

There is one entry from early European explorers, which indicates that one of the men chased down a skunk having never seen such an animal before. It continues to note that the stench was unbearable, that no amount of boiling would remove it from the clothes, and that in the end, the skunk hunters were forced to destroy their clothing.

I'd quote it exactly but its on my boat. Anyway, close contact with pure skunk essence is not at all like a whiff on the wind -- it really is unbearable even to people who have never even heard about skunks, let alone people like you who are aware of them but have not experienced their power at close range.

Re:Taught? (2)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899616)

More importantly, do they control for whether or not test subjects have actually tried to make the noise by themselves running their fingernails down a chalkboard.

For me the noise meant nothing until it was linked with the disturbing feeling of chalk building up under my nails as they vibrate painfully.

Re:Taught? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899778)

I was thinking the same thing. The noise itself does not bother me, but the thought of my own fingernails doing that gives me the creeps.

Re:Taught? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900080)

A thousand times yes. It's the thought of the feeling of the vibration of my nails that does me in, gets me right in the gut (somehow).

Re:Taught? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899710)

FTFA:

The ratings also changed depending on what the listeners thought the sounds were. If they thought a sound came from a musical composition, they rated it as less unpleasant than if they knew it actually was fingernails on a chalkboard. But their skin conductivity changed consistently even when they thought the chalkboard sound was from music and rated it as less unpleasant.

So yes. They discovered that, even when people said they didn't find it as unpleasant (and thought it was supposed to be music), there was still a physical pain-like reaction in the hearers. Some sounds really are painful.

Of course, I would probably find it even more painful if you told me it was from a modern musical composition. Cannot stand that crap (I'm talking the orchestral-style musical crap, not the Britney Spears-style musical crap.)

Re:Taught? (1)

black3d (1648913) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899740)

Some listeners were told the true source of the sounds, whereas others were told that the sounds were part of contemporary musical compositions.

The ratings also changed depending on what the listeners thought the sounds were. If they thought a sound came from a musical composition, they rated it as less unpleasant than if they knew it actually was fingernails on a chalkboard. But their skin conductivity changed consistently even when they thought the chalkboard sound was from music and rated it as less unpleasant.

So naw.. that theory doesn't really hold much water. Personally, I found the chalkboard sound unbearable well before I "knew" I was meant to. More likely it's simply that some folk don't react the same way to that sound (and likely, have their own quirks, completely unrelated). There's a physiological explanation for this which doesn't involve influence, like how some people absolutely can't stand the flavour of gherkin (or pickle, if you prefer), and some love it so much they'll eat my discarded gherkin slices from my burger. :P There's a lot of subtle differences to how individuals perceive sensory input.

Re:Taught? (1)

black3d (1648913) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900230)

Also, apologies, I did mean to highlight the second part of that, where their skin consistency changed consistently in either scenario. The part I highlighted agrees with what you said - that there is a cultural attitude that fingernails on a chalkboard is an unpleasant sound. However, this seems to not have any effect on the physiological reaction - that being, the physical reaction is the same in either case.

Re:Taught? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900018)

My cats don't like sounds like that either and I never taught them about the evils of communism.

Seriously, who modded that up? Somebody who went to a school where the teacher said "Okay class, here's something else you shouldn't like..."

Re:Taught? (1)

h5inz (1284916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900130)

I haven't been taught that the squeaking of the handling of polystyrene should sound unpleasant, but it still does to me.

Re:Taught? (2)

BluBrick (1924) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900848)

Are you absolutely sure you were never taught that? There are many ways of being taught. Perhaps it was not a conscious lesson, and perhaps it was not even the intent of the lesson. Infants have a tendency to experiment with things that make new sounds. If that new sound is "unpleasant" enough, you can be certain that any nearby adults will exhibit some sort of reaction. That reaction could be irritation, visibly blocking the ears, or even taking away the object that causes the sound. From such a reaction, the infant is bound to learn something from the experience.

Or perhaps the handling of polystyrene sounds very similar to a sound to which you have a learned response.

Re:Taught? (1)

h5inz (1284916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901018)

You might be right about it. Then you could also explain just about everything being learnt that way. Then again may be somebody could re-make the research study using only the people unable to learn from other peoples fear or disgust reactions (they were once called psychopaths but nowadays the antisocial personality is more preferred but also more broader term applying also to a wide variety of not so extreme cases). Good luck for that poor fellow who needs to supervise them during the study.

Re:Taught? (2)

falzer (224563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900206)

It would get very tiresome for everyone to have to explain from axioms and first principles every opinion they held, even if they did reflect upon and study them.
Alternately, do you think people who agree with you on whatever subject have also been "culturally informed" that way?

I am, of course, not talking about capitalism, communism, chalk, or cottonballs, but wearing socks with sandals.

Re:Taught? (1)

Canjo (1956258) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900762)

Yes, in fact this is part of what the research was testing! Here is an official summary of the actual paper: http://www.acoustics.org/press/162nd/Oehler_4pPP6.html [acoustics.org] They either told subjects that this is the sound of a chalkboard, or said it was from a "contemporary composition." Subjects found it more painful when they had been told it was chalkboard, and they found it less painful when they thought it was music. So it seems that the idea of chalk on a a chalkboard is part of what makes it so horrible, and that's probably just learned.

Re:Taught? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900958)

It confirms that the lesson is certainly learnt at some higher (not fully aware) level of mental functioning, but it doesn't go the full way to testing subconscious learned response to stimulus. The moment your mother says EWWW to something while you're in the room as an infant, you'll have a little bit of that EWWW response in you to similar stimulus without realising why.

Just thinking about it (4, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899488)

There's certainly a psychological component. Just thinking about that noise and making the clawing/scraping motion with my hand, right now, made me react as I would hearing it for real.

Re:Just thinking about it (1)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899536)

Shit, me too. Stop it.

Re:Just thinking about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37901112)

Now, think about your breathing.

Re:Just thinking about it (3, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899726)

They also tested Styrofoam squeaks and forks scraping on plates. You are welcome :)

Re:Just thinking about it (1)

mrxak (727974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899932)

Fork-scraping never bothered me. Maybe it depends on the fork and plate, but as I recall, it's usually lower frequency. Styrofoam is annoying, but not shiver-inducing like the fingernails on chalkboard thing. Again, I think the frequency is lower most of the time I've encountered the stuff rubbing against itself.

One octave (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899490)

Since it's a range of doubling frequency, it's one octave. Worst. Scale. Ever.

Re:One octave (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899644)

That doesn't really make any sense at all.

Now You Know... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899508)

You can employ these sounds in your Halloween display!!!

"I just had that horrible feeling I was in 4th period English again and didn't have my book report done! Arrrggghhh!"

They still haven't explained it (3, Insightful)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899548)

They've only narrowed down the class of sounds, but not why we would find those sounds so annoying.

Re:They still haven't explained it (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899818)

The researchers suspect that the shape of the human ear canal may be to blame for the pain. Previous studies have shown that the ear canal amplifies certain frequencies, including those in the range of 2000 to 4000 Hz. A loud screech on a chalkboard could be amplified within our ears to painful effect, the researchers propose.

So, in a sense they did. They didn't prove this is why it is annoying, but it is definitely a possible (and likely) explanation. I personally have noticed those noises appear extremely loud (and hence very annoying.) This may also explain why some people don't find it quite as annoying (as some comments above note): minor variation in ear canal shape would amplify different specific ranges, so certain frequencies could annoy different people more.

Styrofoam (1)

rish87 (2460742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899608)

I would be curious to see if similar frequencies are major components to the sound of rubbing Styrofoam together-a sound I find even more unbearable.

Re:Styrofoam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37899724)

Yes, this is much worse for me (and a few other people I know) than nails on a chalk board.

Re:Styrofoam (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900040)

That and crusty snow.

The Straight Dope ...did it (5, Informative)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899658)

and in 1986 no less (back when "chalkboard" still had some meaning): http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/540/why-is-the-sound-of-fingernails-scraping-a-blackboard-so-annoying [straightdope.com]

What is a chalkboard? (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899752)

We still have chalkboards?

I thought everybody was getting high off those markers? How about why do those give me headaches?

Re:What is a chalkboard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900790)

Apparently schooling has not been a very innovative business for over 150 years in many places. I myself had chalk boards and all that not too many years ago. Kinda sad how ossified some things are.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (1)

hgesser (605301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899912)

(back when "chalkboard" still had some meaning)

Well, guess what most schools still use in the class rooms, at least in Germany... If there was a trend away from chalkboards/blackboards, it would be towards those newish electronic boards running interactive learning/teaching software. But those are expensive so you won't see them too often.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900022)

Well, guess what most schools still use in the class rooms, at least in Germany... If there was a trend away from chalkboards/blackboards, it would be towards those newish electronic boards running interactive learning/teaching software. But those are expensive so you won't see them too often.

In the US, most schools now use whiteboards. However, they usually are mounted over the old original chalkboards, so I guess technically they are still there. And I remember using a Smartboard back in 04 in my advanced Calc and Trig class. Was actually pretty fun to mess around with.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (2)

EXrider (756168) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900756)

Most of the schools around here have Smartboards now... and the average kids that are graduating from said schools around here are still dumb as shit, so much for Smartboards.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900588)

(back when "chalkboard" still had some meaning)

Are you sure? Here in the UK, we called them "blackboards" in 1986. This was before that particular compound noun was made verboten at the insistence of the PC lobby. Strange that society has since been able to revert to such racially charged terms as "whiteboard" and "black marker" without this vocal PC contingent suffering collective cardiac arrest.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901218)

This was before [the word "blackboard"] was made verboten at the insistence of the PC lobby.

Yeah, right. The fact that the rabid anti-PCers (*) keep repeating this "fact" says more about it sounding plausible to their paranoid minds and its appeal to them (and the more you repeat something the more everyone "knows" it's right) and the fact it's a convenient strawman to use against political correctness. But it says absolutely nothing about whether the story's true or not.

I strongly suspect that this is either outright bullshit, or one overzealous person in a minor case that has been magnified a thousandfold by repetition.

(*) I say "anti-PCer", but truth is that the present-day form of political correctness is really just a strawman stereotype created and used by the reactionary right-wingers to justify their own spoutings.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900718)

They quote some research which compared two sounds, found them similar, and concluded one was the cause of the other.

I used to like this idea, but after reading this again it's bunk. They have a hypothesis but nothing to back it up. I like the ear canal idea better, and that leads us the other way around.

In conclusion, monkey shrieks evolved to match our ear canal design because those who were able to warn others were part of a successful coping strategy. And chalkboards just by chance happen to be similar sounding and unrelated.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900750)

At least half the classrooms in my college campus use chalkboards, not whiteboards. Math people especially seem to like chalk a lot more than dry-erase.

Re:The Straight Dope ...did it (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901354)

Erm, blackboards are still used...

Also, why do neither of these articles have the sounds to listen to? Seriously, this is as bad as all those articles about imaging that don't have pictures...

Its not about the sound! (1)

nullnick (1409223) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899690)

At least in my case. When I was five, I did scratch a chalkboard with my own initiative. The skin skin under my fingernails was very sensitive, and I got this weird trembling spreading in my whole body! The sensation did hurt, but it was also very appealing, and I scracthed the board a few more times. After that experience every time someone scratches a chalkboard, I only remember the trembling and the hurt sensation, and cant help not to shudder. This is my experience.

Re:Its not about the sound! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900034)

You will go blind if you don't stop that

Re:Its not about the sound! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900368)

Have you heard of Synesthesia [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Its not about the sound! (1)

matthiasvegh (1800634) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900850)

A very similiar resonance happens in almost everyone, albeit at different frequencies. That trembling spreads around me too, and I almost always want to see if it would happen again. Likewise, if my teeth collide, it doesn't hurt per se, it's just unpleasant, but I keep wanting to try again.

No. (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899804)

It is because it makes me feel as if im doing it, which is very irritating. that dusty blackboard, the nails going against it in the opposite direction.

notice, the feeling is not so irritating if you do it in the right direction - outwards.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900366)

I would agree. Also, scratching any really rusty metal does the same thing for me.

That's Baby Crying Frequency (4, Interesting)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 2 years ago | (#37899950)

Baby crying has a wide variation, and the fundamental frequency is (depending on who you ask) somewhere around 500Hz, but you get strong harmonics and nonlinears up in the 3Khz area. The non-linears are a strong part of the annoyance too. See for example http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/DEA3500pdfs/hearing.pdf [cornell.edu]

And you are designed by millions of years of evolution to find that so annoying you will do anything to make it stop.

Re:That's Baby Crying Frequency (1)

token0 (1374061) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900532)

As an aforementioned 1986 article comments "we might just as plausibly conclude that the reason our hair is brownish is that it enabled our monkey ancestors to hide amongst the coconuts".
Personally the first thing that comes to my mind when I see someone scraping a chalkboard is
- cover my ears
- throw something at the source
Certainly "feed the source of the noise" would not be high on my list on instinctive priorities.
You might also notice that _actual baby crying_ isn't nowhere as repelling.

Re:That's Baby Crying Frequency (1)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901186)

"You might also notice that _actual baby crying_ isn't nowhere as repelling."

You think so? When a baby goes all out screaming I'll take the chalkboard.

But leaving that aside I'm talking about taking an evolved pathway (the 3KHz crying baby zone) and superstimulating it. Like cocaine to your mesolimbic reward pathway.

Damm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900088)

How do i get money to 'study' such amazingly useless and stupid things like this...

Thats what i want to see a story about.

Re:Damm..... (1)

tbird81 (946205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900264)

How do i get money to 'study' such amazingly useless and stupid things like this...

You think knowing about the human response to sound is useless?

Re:Damm..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37901244)

They have discovered that certain frequencies of sound give a definite physical response to people, regardless of where it's coming from.
This discovery may be useful in the following context:
  • - Manufacturers of noisy industrial equipment (e.g. road construction machines, factory equipment, aircraft, etc.), who may be able to optimize their devices to emit less noise in those particular frequencies, thus reducing noise pollution more effectively than if they tried to reduce noise in all frequencies
  • - Musicians, who may be able to decrease or increase those particular frequencies to change listener reaction to music
  • - Manufacturers of anything you might have in your house that generates this sort of noise, by giving them a quantitative indication of what kind of noise to avoid

The only "amazingly useless and stupid thing" here is you.

worse sound (for me) (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900096)

needles into styrofoam. Ugh, makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Worse than fingernails (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900238)

My high school music teacher taught me how to make a stick of chalk squeal on a chalkboard at will.

Hold a fresh piece between your first two fingers and your thumb lightly, with the other end resting against the middle of your palm. hold the tip against the board with a sharp downward angle about the same as a backslash \, and draw a line downward. Don't press too hard or you'll dampen the resonance and get nothing. When you get the hang of it it's very easy to produce a head-splitting screech above 100dB

My theory: A backdoor on humans to control them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37900244)

My theory: Some supra-human beings or extraterrestrials put a back-door on humans in order to control them in case we go to war against them. The back-door, which in essence is a modification of our genome, was introduced in the prehistory, probably when we started to develop tools, and showed signs of culture. The back-door was inserted using a specially designed virus, which spread over the population of the world.

The sound of fingernails on a chalkboard happens to match the waveform designed to paralyze us, just by chance.
The exact paralyzing waveform (whose effect on humans is a lot more strong) is still unknown.

There is no reason we should fell annoyed by fingernails on a chalkboard. In fact some humans do not fell the pain, because the some genes that were introduced by the virus have already mutated.

Thats my own conspiracy theory. I wanted to write a sci story, but Im good enough at it.
Sergio Demian Lerner.

The cringe-worthy sounds... (1)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900310)

Fingernails raking against a chalkboard and chalk squeaking against slate were the most unpleasant sounds from a family of recordings, which also included sounds such as Styrofoam squeaks and scraping a plate with a fork.

Oh scraping a plate with a fork.. *shudder*

Also unpleasant: rub the smooth ends of two drills together.

But I have to give kudos to Shad Clark for a sound that is not necessarily cringe-worthy on its own - but by virtue of its associated visual, makes the hairs on my arms stand on end just thinking about it.
I won't describe it, just let the video in the following URL load...

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadclark/all-i-think-of-is-you [kickstarter.com] ...then skip to 1:33 and hit play :(

Re:The cringe-worthy sounds... (1)

babywhiz (781786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900556)

Or the sound of someone chewing on yarn..... *eeeeeee*

Doesn't bother me... (1)

mrtumnus (1793406) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900348)

Fingernails on a chalkboard has never bothered me. Neither does rubbing a balloon. I wonder what the criteria for having or not having the negative physical reaction they describe is.

Primate warning cries (1)

orchardville (2497560) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900726)

So are they going to give out another Nobel prize [physorg.com] for this?

A little late on this one (3, Funny)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 2 years ago | (#37900868)

You don't need an audiology experiment to figure this out. Harvey Fletcher and W. A. Munson established the lab work back in 1933, resulting in the Fletcher-Munson Curve [slashdot.org] which illustrates how the sensitivity of the human ear varies at different frequency ranges and volume levels, and is most sensitive in the 2-6kHz range. It's fair to assume this range is more sensitive since it is the hardest range for predators to keep silent while stalking prey, i.e. a twig snapping.

It is believed mankind has pre-historic rodents to thank for their advanced auditory system, which developed during the 65 million year period where mammals and dinosaurs co-existed. During this time there was low oxygen content in the air, so mammals had to maintain high respiratory rates, making them easy prey for the much larger dinosaurs, whose respiratory system involved hollow bones to transport air directly throughout their bodies rather than just lungs to deliver oxygen to the bloodstream. (Birds benefited from the hollow bones to fly, but only use lungs for respiration now that oxygen levels are up.) Mammals had to forage at night and depended almost entirely on their auditory systems for defense. 65 million years of that is likely the only reason we can discern music, much less appreciate it.

As a sound engineer I can attest that the 2-6kHz range is of special significance when putting a mix together. It's usually actually more important that the 2-6kHz range of each voice or instrument be balanced against each other than each voice or instrument be of even frequency response themselves. If something is dominant in that range, it dominates the listener's attention every time. If something has a sharp spike in that range, meaning a very narrow frequency band, it will not be pleasant to the ear. If you check out the frequency response graphs of the cheaper guitar speakers by clicking on the options here [usspeaker.com] , you might notice they all have spikes around 2-2.5kHz. That is why they suck.

chalkboard memories (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901108)

In a physics class I asked the instructor is there something in our brain that resonates from chalkboard squeals? He thought probably so, kind of like that Tacoma bridge incident. A math teacher used to get excited when the boards were cleaned by custodian, "Yes! We can now break this in" as he would grab a new piece of chalk to use on that dark green board. Then there were some erasers extra wide so not take too long to wipe the board. What about a pocket defense system that blasts high dB levels of this chalkboard sound against muggers? I used to wonder about rigging up something like that.

Speaking chalkboards, another of those things us old people talk about that 20-somethings ain't got a clue what these are. We now have whiteboards which have their problems (i.e. someone grabs a Sharpie and covers a whiteboard with their discussion. Poor smucks on following meeting get screwed).

Re:chalkboard memories (1)

NoisySplatter (847631) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901332)

I find it interesting that you think 20 year olds don't know what a chalk board is. I'm 27 and currently going to a university in which I have not seen a single dry-erase board. Also, my high school was about 75% chalk and 25% marker.

It doesn't bother you? Mid-range hearing loss. (1)

chuckfirment (197857) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901204)

If the sound of screeches on chalkboards doesn't bother you, you may have some mid-range hearing loss.

This is especially true if you have trouble understanding conversations in a noisy environment, like a bar or crowded party. It's not that you can't HEAR the sound, it's that you can't differentiate between varying tones and can't make out what is said. (It may unfortunately also be sensorineural hearing loss - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_aid#Indications [wikipedia.org] )

New hearing aids can fix this by selectively increasing only a specific frequency range.

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