The Loh Down On Science

Quack-O

Do duck quacks REALLY not echo?

Does the quack of a duck indeed. . . not echo?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

And with a shout-out to dedicated Loh Downer Patrick, who posed this deep philosophical question. One that, for a long time, has INDEED ruffled quite a few scientific feathers.

Acoustic specialists at the University of Salford, England, finally laid this avian controversy to rest . They placed a duck--her name was "Daisy"--really--into a reverberation chamber. They set up a microphone, and recorded some duck discourse. Sure enough--every quack had a subsequent quack-o.

Then they used their data to simulate the sound of a quacking duck flying past a cliff. This, they thought, SHOULD produce an echo.

But no! The echo was barely discernible.

Their conclusion? Quacks, however annoying, are relatively quiet. And unlike, say, a lion's roar, a quack is not only really short, but fades in time. Thus any slight echo sounds like part of the quack itself.

Not to mention that ducks are typically found in open, echo-resistant habitats, not reverberation chambers.

Talk about research that's truly daffy! And we MEAN that in a NICE way.


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