Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Make it Stop

The Brits have done it again. They have taken the scientific method to the next level. They have done the painstaking research, set up the control groups, spent hours developing complete databases and analyzing scores of intricate data. The results are, in a word, really astounding. As reported in the USA Today of the UK (better known at The Guardian) earlier this week, they have managed to publish a list of the world's 10 worst sounds. Without further ado, let's take a peek. Where do your favorites come in?

10. Tasmanian devil
9. Mains hum
8. Argument in a soap opera
7. Whoopee cushion
6. Poorly played violin
5. Squeaky seesaw
4. Train scraping on tracks
3. Wailing babies
2. Microphone feedback
1. Vomiting

After studying this scientific-looking data, I am left deeply confused about two of the entries. What is a "Mains hum"? Maybe this is some charming little British-type expression like cheeky bugger. As for "Argument in a soap opera", all I can say is "huh"? I should think any dialog in a soap opera rates as terribly annoying. Reading a bit further into the research, it is clear that the scientists involved in this work spared no expense to reproduce the sounds to their test subjects. For the sound of vomiting, they found a keen likeness was had by pouring baked beans into a bucket with the obligatory retching sounds made by a professional actor. It's work like this that makes me proud to be a scientist.