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Scientists Create World's Tiniest "Ear"

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the for-the-little-voices dept.

Science 64

sciencehabit writes "If you've ever wondered what a virus sounds like, or what noise a bacterium makes when it moves between hosts, you may soon get your chance to find out. Scientists have created the world's tiniest ear. The 'nano-ear,' a microscopic particle of gold trapped by a laser beam, can detect sound a million times fainter than the threshold for human hearing. Researchers suggest the work could open up a whole new field of 'acoustic microscopy,' in which organisms are studied using the sound they emit."

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Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38705970)

Woo hi yeah fuck shit fuck hello

Re:Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38705982)

Why do niggers always have sex on their minds? Their pubic hair is on their heads!

Re:Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706042)

THAT'S RACIST

Re:Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707748)

No it's not, but it's wacist.

Re:Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (0)

craigminah (1885846) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712696)

I'd classify the commend as "offensive," not "racist." Racism implies one race is superior, the poster simply pointed out an attribute which one could generalize about a race. Are the movies "White Men Can't Jump" or "The Great White Hype" racist? I don't think so...

Re:Awesome person creates Slashdot's first "post" (1)

craigminah (1885846) | more than 2 years ago | (#38719738)

Reread OP and somehow missed his use of the dreaded N- word. I have to rescind my previous comment about this comment not being racist. Deepest apologies...

What? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38705984)

What?

Finally (5, Funny)

pseudofrog (570061) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706012)

Now someone can hear when I play the world's tiniest violin.

Re:Finally (5, Interesting)

dfay (75405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706104)

And now we can finally hear what this [oddmusic.com] sounds like!

Re:Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38709758)

Problem is that the vibrations would have such a high pitch that we still cannot hear them even if we amplify them by a gazillion times.

Re:Finally (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706422)

Now someone can hear when I play the world's tiniest violin.

Yeah, but no-one would care.

Re:Finally (1)

lsatenstein (949458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710624)

I first thought it was a new crop or family of corn. Where the ears are so small, that from the picking to the canning, there is almost no manipulation to peel off the kernels.

Re:Finally (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712156)

brilliant

Big Deal (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706014)

If I wanted to know what parasitic bacteria sound like, I could just as easily turn on C-SPAN.

Re:Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706266)

Surely you mean 4 Chan

Re:Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707720)

No, the parent is correct.

Re:Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707904)

No, the gp is a fatuous dolt, same as you.

National security (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706020)

Now Homeland Security can spy on all of the creatures within our borders, not just multicellular lifeforms! Surely this will stop the terrorists.

personally, I bet bacteria sounds squishy.

Re:National security (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707182)

No, We'll just end up with 'code red' alerts over 'planned' red-tide [wikipedia.org] invasions.

Re:National security (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38715300)

And we can finally confirm what all those germs [youtube.com] are really saying!

And the first words we hear ... (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706024)

Turn that damn light off, you jerks!

Re:And the first words we hear ... (1)

Patchw0rk F0g (663145) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709030)

Turn that damn light off, you jerks!

...as they flip us the pseudopod...

Noise (1)

tylerni7 (944579) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706032)

How do you deal with noise for something this sensitive? If you're trying to measure the sound of a bacterium, and someone coughs, or walks by the room, or a truck drives by, how do you cancel that out?

I guess I just don't see how their SNR can be high enough with something that sensitive.

Re:Noise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706064)

I believe noise of that magnitude would vibrate both the microphone and the bacteria at the same time, effectively canceling it out. The world of the very small is a strange place

Re:Noise (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706070)

Probably similar to the way that they used to have to prepare samples for the electron microscope, at least to the point of putting it into a special chamber which in this case would be sound proofed. Those noises are pretty easy to cancel out typically and quite well understood at this point.

Re:Noise (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706084)

Possibly by substracting a second signal from a microphone that does *not* capture the sound of a single bacterium? Something like active noise cancellation.

Re:Noise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706610)

That would be plain noise cancellation (there's nothing active about it, unless you want to drive loudspeakers with anti-noise).

Re:Noise (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706902)

Well, there's the word "like" in the post, obviously. But I could have expressed it in better terms, I agree.

Re:Noise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706114)

Put the tiny ear very close to the bacterium, using 1/r^2 to your advantage.

Re:Noise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706324)

While many post gave good remarks on noise cancellation, there is also the fact that this is on a microscopic scale. That means the that noise produced is highly unlikely to produce sound within the same frequency as normal sound. Couple with the fact that the ear audio range probably can't pick up normal sounds either due to it's size.

A good example of this effect is looking at normal microphones. They all list the frequency range it is able to pick up depending on the material and size. Sounds too low or too high are not picked up.

optical tables (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706348)

Optical tables are wiccked expensive noise dapened pieces of equipment which isolate the hardware fro the rest of the world. Given that laser tweesers have been in use for 30yr that peoblemat least is soved

Coupled with a real good microscope.. (3, Funny)

drewsup (990717) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706096)

And a new internet niche is born.. BACTERIA PORN!!!

Re:Coupled with a real good microscope.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706500)

O
oo
O-O
O O

Oh yeah...

Re:Coupled with a real good microscope.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707632)

Now we'll be able to learn about microscopic terrorist plots and we can coerce viruses to confess to being funded and supported by North Korea

Congratulations: (2)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706306)

(applausing very very silently)

I would call it microphone (4, Insightful)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706330)

I would call it a microphone, but maybe that wouldn't prick up many ears.

Re:I would call it microphone (3, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706860)

Seems more like a nanophone.

Re:I would call it microphone (1)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706948)

Seems more like a nanophone.
Has clear implications for the next-generation iPod Nano.

Coming next... (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38710930)

the bananophone!

Re:I would call it microphone (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707706)

Actually it's the world's smallest ear-drum, not ear. The ear includes the laser apparatus.

Is it tiniest as in smallest or tiniest as in most (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38706390)

Is it tiniest as in smallest or tiniest as in most tin like/is low on bass?

Re:Is it tiniest as in smallest or tiniest as in m (1)

jcreus (2547928) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706972)

From TFA:

The "nano-ear," a microscopic particle of gold trapped by a laser beam, can detect sound a million times fainter than the threshold for human hearing.

Tiny ear (1)

machine321 (458769) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706580)

Is it affected by tinitus?

What? No speakers? (2)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706712)

They've made a guitar and a microphone but no speakers? Was this funded by the RIAA?

Old Jim (1)

ksandom (718283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38706982)

had a nack for spotting the next big thing. They say he had a gooooolden eeeeear!

Madeleine L'Engle's micro-sonarscope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707164)

Doesn't this make anyone else think of the micro-sonarscope that Mrs. Murry uses in Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wind in the Door" to listen to the cry of the mitochondria?
http://books.google.com/books?id=ERbzqI6hwc4C&lpg=PA77&pg=PA89#v=onepage&q&f=false

Huh? (1)

pcwhalen (230935) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707222)

Come again? How's that? Say it slower.
Damn thing doesn't work, I can't hear a word.
Turn up the TV.

Listening to a bug hatch. (2)

darkonc (47285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707270)

One night, when I was in my late 20s, I started hearing this weird, tonal scraping sound, but only in the right ear. I obviously considered it unusual, so I went to the hospital to get it checked out. (aside: I LOVE Canada's health care system). The doctor who examined me said that I had a textbook case of a burst eardrum. He prescribed antibiotics, and (since this was a university hospital) he asked if I could come back the next day to get a picture taken of my eardrum for teaching purposes.

When I returned the next day, the first doctor's advisor examined my 'burst' eardrum and realized that it wasn't what it first looked like. It was a hatched bug egg. Apparently a bug egg, had somehow been deposited on my eardrum. What I'd been hearing was the sound of a baby bug hatching.

Re:Listening to a bug hatch. (1)

f3rret (1776822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707616)

Eeeew.

Re:Listening to a bug hatch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38712154)

Apparently I've been hearing the sound of potato's growing.

Re:Listening to a bug hatch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38712692)

OMG.

Re:Listening to a bug hatch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38713944)

Way to half-tell a story. What happened to the bug? Did his bug-mother come back for him? Did he live happily ever after?

Obligatory Monty Python reference... (1)

Krokus (88121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707472)

"And now the sound of a tsetse fly blowing its nose, maginified SIXTY MILLION TIMES!"

*a-choo*

Re:Obligatory Monty Python reference... (1)

Krokus (88121) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707514)

Damn it. I've misquoted Monty Python. I feel so much shame right now, I'm going to put a bucket over my head and I'm not coming out until somebody stands in a fish tank and sings,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-L6TFJL1vA [youtube.com]

Women (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38707672)

Women are naturally equipped with ones that are considerably smaller.

Alien motion detector possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707734)

Cue in obligatory alien movement sensor possibility... (original movie states it's based on "tiny movement of air" - unlike AN/PPS-26 STTW)

A MILLION times? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38707796)

Really, it can hear sound a MILLION TIMES fainter?! Wow, that must be, like, 60 dB less. Truly AMAZING.

Sonic Translation? (1)

Rizimar (1986164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38708560)

I really wish they had some samples of recordings from this microphone. I also kind of wonder what sort of transformation the sound undergoes in being amplified after being received from such a strange and tiny input. Would there be a lot of bass? Would it all be high-end? Whatever comes out of the speaker obviously isn't the same as the sound going in because there's such a difference in size and reception. I also can't imagine a golden particle in a laser beam being terribly accurate for certain frequencies or being able to capture all of the detail of a sound, but the article doesn't specify.

The NSA would like to know... (1)

aaronb1138 (2035478) | more than 2 years ago | (#38709948)

The NSA would like to know if with a single bug with this technology, how much farther into a building could you hear than their current implementations. Also with two or more instances of the nanophone in a single chassis, how well can we use doppler, selective signal cancellation and room modeling algorithms to choose which room we listen.

Seriously, as much scientific use as this has, usage by security services will be very interesting. A significant part of bug planting is frequently getting the bugs into low security areas, such as the lobbies of embassies, with the hope of being able to filter and get phone calls and keystrokes from adjacent higher security wings. Listening on this scale might extend to extrapolating fingerprints from the roll your finger over type scanners as an example.

Also, this form of listening should extend past sound into other frequency ranges fairly easily (radio, light, etcetera). Consider the sensitivity increase for a CCD device where the filtering and threshold apparatuses could be suspended instead of fixed.

You can't stop the signal...

Microsonics were invented by JGB in 1958 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38710030)

short story : "Track 12"

excerpt:

" - You are completely wrong, of course. Remember the cell division series I played first of all ? Amplified 100.000 times animal cell division sounds like a lot of girders and steel sheets being ripped apart - how did you put it ? - a car smash in slow motion. On the other hand, plant cell division is an electronic poem, all soft chords and bubbling tones. Now there you have a perfect illustration of how microsonics can reveal the distinction between the animal and plant kingdoms.'
' - Seems a damned roundabout way of doing it,' Maxted commented, helping himself to soda. 'You might as well calculate the speed of your car from the apparent motion of the stars. Possible, but it's easier to look at the speedometer."

The Sound Of Silence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38711970)

Finally we can hear it...

Brownian noise? (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | more than 2 years ago | (#38712878)

So, how is this going to detect anything other than Brownian noise?

Re:Brownian noise? (1)

neonsignal (890658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38786709)

http://physics.aps.org/articles/v5/1 [aps.org]

They are talking about sound power sensitivity rather than sound intensity sensitivity (this detector is signicantly smaller than an ear drum).

Also, the Brownian motion pressure in water will less than in air.

But yes, the detector does see Brownian noise, and that would be the practical sensitivity limit.

And I thought .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38714058)

Ha - I misread that as tinniest - was thinking - well - if it's that small it's bound to be tinny... :-D

W.

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