April 23, 2004 - Ed’s New Toy
The dedicated staff of edhat.com broke-out our new toy yesterday. And, we made a lot of noise about it. Or, at least we knew if others were making noise about it. In case you didn’t hear, our new toy is a noise meter. It listens to things and quantifies the volume in decibels (dB). The Sight and Hearing Association provides the following definitions to help us understand the Dewey Decibel system:
Pleasantly quiet (Under 65 dB)
Can talk easily (65-70 dB)
Talking somewhat difficult (70-75 dB)
Talking only with raised voice (75-80 dB)
Too noisy for normal conversation (80 dB and above)
A train whistle at 500 ft away is 90 dB. Physical pain begins at 125 dB.
Yesterday, the dedicated staff tried out our new toy in four locations we deemed to be potentially loud – a freeway over-crossing, the waves at the beach, a school playground, and a bowling alley. Specifically, we chose the top of the new Micheltorena Bridge over the 101 freeway, Leadbetter Beach, Roosevelt Elementary School at lunchtime (2nd and 3rd graders), and Zodo’s Bowling Alley.
On the bridge we waved our noise meter at the oncoming traffic like we were starting the Indy 500. Our meter flashed as the cars whizzed below us. The readings were high 70’s / low 80’s, but when the big trucks went by the dB’s would blow past 90. Our highest reading was 95.
The soothing sound of waves smashing against the shore is the sound of poetry and romance. But, it is also very loud. Standing at the point where our shoes would not get wet, we measured a consistent stream of low 80 dB. Sitting near us on the beach was a man wearing a bright pink shirt. We pointed our noise meter at him, but our new toy was unable to measure that type of loudness.
The playground presented us with a new experience. With the exception of bank managers thinking we were robbers, when we only wanted to test their pens, the dedicated staff has done a very good job of blending-in during our data collection activities. But, then again, we had never tried to collect data in an ocean of 8 year olds. Our hand-held electronic device proved to be a powerful magnet that could pull kids away from tetherball, basketball, and jungle gyms. They swarmed around us with unrelenting curiosity.
“What is that?” “What are you doing?” “Can I see?” “Can I see?” “Can I see?”
When we told them it was a noise meter, they didn’t miss a beat and immediately began screaming right at us as loud as they could - pushing our meter to 100 dB and beyond. The dedicated staff figured we should remove those bursts from our data. The ambient noise from the playground was mostly high 70 dB.
Zodo’s was quite busy. Each time a ball was flung down an alley our noise meter would spike. The manager at Zodo’s told the dedicated staff that they had super-duper noise control at the alley. He even lamented that there was not another bowling alley in town to compare our readings to. Well, we compared it to the freeway and it was quieter. There were lots of mid 80 dB readings when the ball was in play. We even got a 90 (strike?) once. But when the ball wasn’t smashing into the poor innocent pins, the bowling alley was no louder than the beach.
Here are our results with average dB readings:
84.5 – Freeway Over-Crossing
82.9 – Bowling Alley
82.8 – Waves at the Beach
78.1 – School Playground
As we did our survey, we figured out that often what we recognize as loud is pitch. Waves are low and grumbling, kids are high and defiant.
In our contest, most people stuck to the beach as the quietest place. Only 6 people came up with the proper loudest and quietest. Their names are SuperHawk, Looooow, SbSurfer, EdSailor, To8HW, and Sunshine. The lucky winner of the lunch for 2 at Buenos Aires Café is SbSurfer – a person who obviously knows how loud the ocean is.
Thanks to the Buenos Aires Café for donating today’s prize!
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