Listen to audio recorded on Mars, where the speed of sound is slower than on Earth

Originally published at: Listen to audio recorded on Mars, where the speed of sound is slower than on Earth | Boing Boing


I find this pretty amazing. Wouldn´t a slower speed of sound give the sound also a lower pitch?

Would be a lot easier to hear without the background muzak.

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Nope. AFAIK, it would only affect how fast things get where, and how far. For example, the speed of sound in water is about 4.3 times the speed of air, so it travels farther. However, water is denser and behaves differently from air, which our eardrums evolved to hear through. When submerged in water they don’t behave as efficiently, filtering out much of the low-end frequency from the sound.

I’m an audio engineer, not an acoustician, so if anyone better info, please respond,


I’d guess that what we’re actually hearing as the wind is the wind blowing past the opening in which the microphone sits. Did nobody think to include a dead cat?

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Something to think about for outdoor Martian rock concerts.

on Mars, you can’t hear Elon scream


I believe you are correct: the frequency at which a thing vibrates is considered a constant, e.g. a tuning fork set to “A” will still vibrate at “A” whether on Earth, on Mars, or in a vacuum. The pitch will go unchanged in this case. Given the relationship of velocity, frequency, and wavelength (v = fw, where “v” is velocity, “f” is frequency, and “w” is wavelength), the wavelength would actually shrink if the velocity is reduced.

NASA has an excellent page with audio samples demonstrating both this and the incredibly quick drop-off effect on higher frequencies in low atmo, found here.


wow, sounds surprisingly like low-key Philip Glass

but i’ve only listened to the first 5 seconds, let me sample the rest…

This needs testing, just to be sure. First we get him there then we can work out the rest if we’re still into it.


Thank you very nuch!

On Mars I imagine you would hear a very mushy drunken sounding
G-G E-E T-T O-O F-F M-M Y-Y L-L A-A-A W-W N-N-N!!!

In worlds where the speed of sound is higher than on earth, people would sound like mickey mouse and an observed conversation would rather like early Chinese martial arts movies, where the lips continue to move after the sound is uttered.

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A couple of things that raise questions for me:

I have heard (no pun intended) that the higher pitch of a persons voice after inhaling helium is due to the gas being less dense than air and therefore sound is traveling faster through the helium and the pitch is raised.

Also the Doppler pitch shift effect where sound waves are compressed and/or lengthened as the source or listener are moving relative to each other, think of the pitch of a car or siren approaching and then passing by. The Doppler effect also describes the colour shift caused by light frequencies of stars coming toward or going away from us and therefore a way of understanding our position relative to other bodies in the universe.

I guess that in both these instances the pitch of the sound is transformed by the speed of sound, one by the density of the medium and the other by motion of the sound source relative to the listener.

The NASA article is more about volume and fall off of frequencies rather than pitch.

You’re absolutely correct wrt the Doppler effect, but note: in both the case for light and say a siren, the speed of the traveling wave is constant. Therefore if the wavelength is changed due to movement, the frequency must change inversely. You’d still hear a Doppler effect on Mars if something were moving quickly, but that isn’t the case so far here.

For helium (or sulfur hexafluoride, the one that makes your voice sound super low), that does indeed affect the frequencies your vocal box generates, per the sound wave lengths you can generate being held constant (your vocal box doesn’t change in size depending on the fluid you’ve inhaled).

I should amend my previous comment: it depends on the source of sound. If the source depends on resonance of a medium (e.g. a voice box or acoustic guitar), it would theoretically sound higher, though your high-freq dropoff would still be significant. If the source is solely based on it’s own vibrational frequency (e.g. a tuning fork), no change in pitch but the high-freq dropoff still holds.

It has also been many years since I was in any physics classes, so grain of salt is encouraged. I think the best solution here is to send someone to Mars and test it out.

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