There's a weird acoustic phenomenon at the "Center of the Universe" in Oklahoma

Originally published at: There's a weird acoustic phenomenon at the "Center of the Universe" in Oklahoma | Boing Boing

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St Paul’s Whispering Gallery is a neat acoustic phenomenon. It isn’t unique, but it is cool.

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If you’re ever passing through NYC, this is a neat one, though it’s a different effect. Plus, you’re already in one of the most gorgeous buildings in America as a bonus!

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I noticed this effect once at a circular concrete structure at my school. And whenever I see concrete in a perfect circle I try it out. It usually works even if it’s just a low circular bench.

Obviously it has to do with the small echoes from every direction getting back to you at the exact same time. That also explains why someone who is slightly off center doesn’t hear the effect. But I am curious if there’s something special about concrete or would it work with a perfectly round wood structure?

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Tulsa, Oklahoma, Center of the Universe? Um, ok if you say so…

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I’ve been to the center of the universe. It’s really not that special.

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Yep, once you’ve seen Newark, New Jersey, ain’t no need to see it again.

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I know this spot! I once had my border collie sit there then hollered “Good Boy!” He went nuts! Like God had just told him how good he was. It took him like ten minutes to settle down.

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Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.

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A similar experience may be had at the Embassy of Canada, Washington DC.
From Wikipedia:
“The “Rotunda of the Provinces” on the courtyard’s southeast corner has a domed roof that is supported by 12 pillars, each featuring one of the crests of the ten provinces and two territories in existence at the time of the embassy’s construction. The seal above the rotunda’s entranceway represents the territory of Nunavut, which was established in April 1999. The rotunda is also an echo chamber; noise is reflected and focused back, though this magnified volume is only appreciated by the person at the rotunda’s centre. Surrounding the rotunda is a waterfall, incorporated by the architect to represent Niagara Falls, the most famous site along the Canada–U.S. border.”

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I played a gig once at an amphitheater with similar qualities. You could hear the audience talking clear as day from stage, even if they were a few hundred feet away. It was startling because it would suddenly sound like someone was talking directly behind you during the spaces between songs.

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It’s a mystery

It’s literally not and is explained in the story. Baltimore science museum has this wonderful setup with two big circular disks across a wide room where two people can stand on either side and whisper to each other because of the reflection of the sound via the disks. It’s marvelous.

But still not a mystery.

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If you’re travelling to China, Beijing specifically, there is a similar wall just outside Temple of Heaven. It’s really trippy! You can whisper and echo’s right back at you. Though there are lots of people around so it’s hard to get a chance to try it, maybe even more so now as I travelled there in 2001.

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The great Foone recently tweeted about a spot in Wallace, Idaho that claims to be the center of the universe, on the grounds that why shouldn’t it have any less of a claim than anywhere else? But clearly it doesn’t have a cool acoustic phenomenon, so that’s one point against.

But does it have a Milliways?

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There’s something similar to this in Portland (OR): the Echo Chamber at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Stand at the center and your voice sounds weirdly amplified, but only to you.

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There’s something like that in my university, but smaller (it can take a dozen people at most)

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I’m guessing you have massively constructive interference in that one spot which turns destructive if you move a couple of feet in any direction.

Reminds me of this place, with the most amazing acoustics I’ve ever experienced in my life. The slightest whisper would reverberate for days.

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