Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

 

…does it make a sound?

Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

The most common and convincing contrast between sound and noise is that noise is unwanted. If it were phrased the other way, that sound is “wanted noise,” then maybe we could squeak out a lexical case that sound made when there’s no one there to want to hear it isn’t sound at all. But, given the way the distinction is generally made, it seems more profitable to reform the original question: “If a tree falls, etc., etc., does it make a noise?” That might be an easier question to answer in the negative.

Which brings us to the administration of President Obama, and the question that recent events bring to mind:

If a crime occurs in an administration and there’s no one there to report it, does it make a scandal?

Because it looks increasingly likely that crimes, serious crimes involving abuse of police and intelligence powers at the highest levels, occurred. If true — and the evidence is already compelling even though the serious investigation is just beginning — then there will be scandal, as there should be. At the least, it should darken an administration that basked in the glow of a fawning press. At the worst (and I think we’ll get there), some high-ranking officials of that administration should stand trial for betraying their offices in the service of their party.

Serious stuff, from what we are often told is a “scandal-free” administration.

The press likes to claim to be the noble guardian of democracy and reports daily that “democracy is under attack.” The only evidence to support that claim is the misconduct of the press itself, first in looking the other way while one administration tried to handpick its successor, and then spinning like a dervish in its eager complicity to undo the unfortunate “mistake” of 2016, when the crimes of a scandal-free administration proved insufficient to achieve the expected outcome.

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  1. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge

    Henry Racette: Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

    It is better to say that a sound is something that is potentially perceivable. Sound and noise (vibrations traveling through a medium) still occur, even if they are not heard. Sort of like a book is still a book, even if nobody has read it.

    • #1
    • December 15, 2019, at 10:04 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    If a man expresses his opinion in the middle of a forest with no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

    • #2
    • December 15, 2019, at 10:20 PM PST
    • 19 likes
  3. Zafar Member

    Well it should! Whether nobody bears witness but the other trees or not. 

    • #3
    • December 16, 2019, at 12:08 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If a man expresses his opinion in the middle of a forest with no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

    Need you even ask?

    • #4
    • December 16, 2019, at 5:34 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    If a man expresses his opinion in the middle of a forest with no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?

    Need you even ask?

    Nope. That’s why it is funny.

    • #5
    • December 16, 2019, at 5:35 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. Stad Thatcher

    Henry Racette: If a crime occurs in an administration and there’s no one there to report it, does it make a scandal?

    It’s more like, “. . . and there’s no one to prosecute it.”

    Obama’s scandals are well known. They’ve only been investigated, but not prosecuted.

    • #6
    • December 16, 2019, at 7:15 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Old Bathos Moderator

    A few rogue agents in Cincinnati IRS office, a random anti-Islamic Yout Tube video, a well-crafted ATF effort to give battalion quantities of weapons to Mexican cartels that ended in bad luck and a gosh-darn well-intentioned FBI effort to protect us from Russian involvement in the Trump campaign and administration that everyone else in the Obama totally knew nothing about…

    Why do extreme right-wingers keep trying to pounce on events and outcomes that were clearly well-intentioned, cleverly conceived and disclosed with the utmost transparency and integrity?

    There are only scandals if you choose to see them. Now, how many fingers am I holding up, Winston?

    • #7
    • December 16, 2019, at 7:25 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  8. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette:

    …does it make a sound?

    Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

     

    Uh yeah there is. in order to be a “sound” it has to be perceived. Otherwise it’s just vibration in the air…..

    sound

    noun (1)Save Word

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    Definition of sound

     (Entry 1 of 7)

    1a: a particular auditory impression : TONEb: the sensation perceived by the sense of hearingc: mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (such as air) and is the objective cause of hearing

     

    • #8
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:06 AM PST
    • 1 like
  9. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    …does it make a sound?

    Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

     

    Uh yeah there is. in order to be a “sound” it has to be perceived. Otherwise it’s just vibration in the air…..

    sound

    noun (1)Save Word

    To save this word, you’ll need to log in.

    Log In

    Definition of sound

    (Entry 1 of 7)

    1a: a particular auditory impression : TONEb: the sensation perceived by the sense of hearingc: mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (such as air) and is the objective cause of hearing

     

    Well, you say that….

    But dictionaries are somewhat nuanced things. If you’ll go on and read the entries that are not tagged “1a” in your dictionary, I think you’ll find that not all of the definitions require that someone actually perceive the vibration in the air in order that they qualify as “sound.”

    Most definitions of “sound” that I’ve seen omit the perception requirement; and everything I’ve found that contrasts “sound” and “noise” distinguishes them on the basis of desirability, without making the distinction I’d have liked to find — to wit, that it’s noise until perceived as sound.

    So I’m going to disagree with you.

    • #9
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:10 AM PST
    • 1 like
  10. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    At the risk of stretching the point in the OP, I am still waiting for the sound of chain saws and chippers.

    • #10
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I’m not gonna read through the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it (including animals, including God, etc.), then it creates vibrations

    Sound is only created when vibrations are perceived by a functional mind.

    • #11
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:32 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    I’m not gonna read through the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it (including animals, including God, etc.), then it creates vibrations.

    Sound is only created when vibrations are perceived by a functional mind.

    Kozak made the same assertion in #8, above, and I corrected him in #9.

    Since you didn’t read the comments, your error is understandable.

    • #12
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If a Democrat has committed a crime and there is multiple forms of corroborating evidence and witnesses with direct knowledge does it matter?

    If a Republican is falsely accused of a crime in which there is neither direct witnesses nor even evidence that a crime was actually committed but Don Lemon says it’s the end of Western Civilization will the FBI handcuff his wife at the 4 am house invasion?

    Regards,

    Jim

    P.S. If a banana taped to a wall is art and somebody eats it, will they get indigestion?

    • #13
    • December 16, 2019, at 10:28 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  14. Tree Rat Member

    if a plane is travelling at the speed of sound and there is no one to hear it, does he have to just go at the speed of vibration? 😗 

    • #14
    • December 16, 2019, at 10:48 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  15. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette: Serious stuff, from what we are often told is a “scandal-free” administration.

    The thing is, you shouldn’t listen to those people.

    • #15
    • December 16, 2019, at 4:22 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    if a plane is travelling at the speed of sound and there is no one to hear it, does he have to just go at the speed of vibration? 😗

    If you are travelling at the speed of light, can you see anything?

    • #16
    • December 16, 2019, at 4:23 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. Eridemus Coolidge

    Just for argument, a device used in medicine that nobody can hear is called “ultrasound,” leaving a record of visual images for the informed doctor to interpret, even if the patient cannot. There may be some analogy here.

    Can any corruption that only interested people and experts fathom but the majority fail to grasp, be left as records for historic understanding or does it forever become anything that propaganda machines say it is?

    • #17
    • December 16, 2019, at 5:58 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  18. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Scandals that are not publicized are just unknown events. 

    • #18
    • December 17, 2019, at 5:37 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Kozak Member
    Kozak Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    I’m not gonna read through the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it (including animals, including God, etc.), then it creates vibrations.

    Sound is only created when vibrations are perceived by a functional mind.

    Kozak made the same assertion in #8, above, and I corrected him in #9.

    Since you didn’t read the comments, your error is understandable.

    Uh you didn’t “correct me”. You made an argument, which is in fact false.

    I think you are wrong. The primary, dictionary definition of sound requires someone to hear the vibration.

    Further.

    “In June 1883 in the magazine The Chautauquan, the question was put, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?” They then went on to answer the query with, “No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.”[4] This seems to imply that the question is posed not from a philosophical viewpoint, but from a purely scientific one. Note that, from a scientific perspective, possible listeners would include animals (see earlier phrasing, mentioned below). The magazine Scientific American corroborated the technical aspect of this question, while leaving out the philosophic side, a year later when they asked the question slightly reworded, “If a tree were to fall on an uninhabited island, would there be any sound?” And gave a more technical answer, “Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.[5]”

     

    • #19
    • December 17, 2019, at 5:53 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. Stad Thatcher

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    …does it make a sound?

    Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

     

    Uh yeah there is. in order to be a “sound” it has to be perceived. Otherwise it’s just vibration in the air…..

    sound

    noun (1)Save Word

    To save this word, you’ll need to log in.

    Log In

    Definition of sound

    (Entry 1 of 7)

    1a: a particular auditory impression : TONEb: the sensation perceived by the sense of hearingc: mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (such as air) and is the objective cause of hearing

     

    Well, you say that….

    But dictionaries are somewhat nuanced things. If you’ll go on and read the entries that are not tagged “1a” in your dictionary, I think you’ll find that not all of the definitions require that someone actually perceive the vibration in the air in order that they qualify as “sound.”

    Most definitions of “sound” that I’ve seen omit the perception requirement; and everything I’ve found that contrasts “sound” and “noise” distinguishes them on the basis of desirability, without making the distinction I’d have liked to find — to wit, that it’s noise until perceived as sound.

    So I’m going to disagree with you.

    Modern dictionaries are suspect. Look up “marriage” and you’ll get all sorts of definitions other than one involving a man and a woman . . .

    • #20
    • December 17, 2019, at 6:07 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Stad Thatcher

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Kozak (View Comment):

    Henry Racette:

    …does it make a sound?

    Well, yes. Yes, it does. As much as I wish it weren’t so, there just isn’t a meaningful distinction between “sound” and “noise” that lets me get away with saying that someone has to perceive the former in order for it to have occurred.

     

    Uh yeah there is. in order to be a “sound” it has to be perceived. Otherwise it’s just vibration in the air…..

    sound

    noun (1)Save Word

    To save this word, you’ll need to log in.

    Log In

    Definition of sound

    (Entry 1 of 7)

    1a: a particular auditory impression : TONEb: the sensation perceived by the sense of hearingc: mechanical radiant energy that is transmitted by longitudinal pressure waves in a material medium (such as air) and is the objective cause of hearing

     

    Well, you say that….

    But dictionaries are somewhat nuanced things. If you’ll go on and read the entries that are not tagged “1a” in your dictionary, I think you’ll find that not all of the definitions require that someone actually perceive the vibration in the air in order that they qualify as “sound.”

    Most definitions of “sound” that I’ve seen omit the perception requirement; and everything I’ve found that contrasts “sound” and “noise” distinguishes them on the basis of desirability, without making the distinction I’d have liked to find — to wit, that it’s noise until perceived as sound.

    So I’m going to disagree with you.

    Sound is defined by the pressure wave, not the presence of a receiver. It’s like killing someone in a forest and saying “If no one finds the body, there wasn’t a murder.”

    • #21
    • December 17, 2019, at 6:09 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. The Reticulator Member

    I think you are wrong. The primary, dictionary definition of sound requires someone to hear the vibration.

    Further.

    “In June 1883 in the magazine The Chautauquan, the question was put, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?” They then went on to answer the query with, “No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.”

    Even if there are no human beings on the island, there may well be other organisms with sound-detection apparatus.

    • #22
    • December 17, 2019, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Stad Thatcher

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

     

    I think you are wrong. The primary, dictionary definition of sound requires someone to hear the vibration.

    Further.

    “In June 1883 in the magazine The Chautauquan, the question was put, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?” They then went on to answer the query with, “No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.”

    Even if there are no human beings on the island, there may well be other organisms with sound-detection apparatus.

    Nope. The pressure wave exists whether or not there is an ear to hear it. The pressure waves strikes all objects (ears or not) until it has attenuated away to nothing.

    Of course, any dictionary is going to include the ear thing, and it may not be the first item in each one.

    Personally, I think the “falling tree” proposal is nothing more than a cocktail party discussion starter, one that could end up with blows if we’re not careful.

    Is The Chautauquan named after Lake Chautauqua near Jamestown, New York? Been there twice!

    • #23
    • December 17, 2019, at 8:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Suspira Member

    Definition of scandal: an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.

    No matter the number or gravity of crimes committed, if they are not reported or are minimally reported in bland, nothing-to-see-hear language or are generally greeted with a shrug, then no, there is no scandal.

    This is how the Obama administration can truly be said to be scandal-free.

    • #24
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:03 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    I’m not gonna read through the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it (including animals, including God, etc.), then it creates vibrations.

    Sound is only created when vibrations are perceived by a functional mind.

    Kozak made the same assertion in #8, above, and I corrected him in #9.

    Since you didn’t read the comments, your error is understandable.

    You can disagree all you like. It doesn’t make you any less wrong.

    :-P

    ;-)

    • #25
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:13 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    if a plane is travelling at the speed of sound and there is no one to hear it, does he have to just go at the speed of vibration? 😗

    Yes. The “speed of sound” is a misnomer. It’s actually the speed that vibrations propagate through air at sea level at a temperature of 68°F. The speed limit applies to all vibrations, not just the ones whose frequencies are within human hearing range. For example, an explosion’s shockwave propagates at the “speed of sound”.

    • #26
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:18 AM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy grudgingly (View Comment):

    I’m not gonna read through the comments, so apologies if I’m repeating what’s already been said.

    If a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody there to hear it (including animals, including God, etc.), then it creates vibrations.

    Sound is only created when vibrations are perceived by a functional mind.

    Kozak made the same assertion in #8, above, and I corrected him in #9.

    Since you didn’t read the comments, your error is understandable.

    You can disagree all you like. It doesn’t make you any less wrong.

    :-P

    As loathe as I am to agree with Mg, he is correct here.

    • #27
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:20 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    Richard Finlay (View Comment):

    if a plane is travelling at the speed of sound and there is no one to hear it, does he have to just go at the speed of vibration? 😗

    If you are travelling at the speed of light, can you see anything?

    No, because the only things that travel at that speed are massless particles. If you are travelling at that speed it means that you cannot have a functional vision system, because you are a massless particle.

    The “speed of light” is another misnomer. It has nothing to do with light, specifically.

    • #28
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:21 AM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Also, Noah Webster was an ass, so don’t go quoting dictionaries at me.

    ;-)

    • #29
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:22 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

     

    I think you are wrong. The primary, dictionary definition of sound requires someone to hear the vibration.

    Further.

    “In June 1883 in the magazine The Chautauquan, the question was put, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?” They then went on to answer the query with, “No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.”

    Even if there are no human beings on the island, there may well be other organisms with sound-detection apparatus.

    In such an instance the condition “and there’s nobody there to hear it” is not met.

    • #30
    • December 17, 2019, at 9:43 AM PST
    • 1 like