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Penn State's Football Stadium: Now 50% Louder!

DiscoblogBy Darlene CavalierMay 7, 2010 9:22 PM


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Penn State's college football team has a new trick in its playbook--courtesy of acoustical science.

Penn State graduate student Andrew Barnard's acoustic mapping research illustrates how the relocation of 20,000 student-fans in Penn State's Beaver Stadium could lead to more wins for the Nittany Lions football team.

Last year, during three homes games, Barnard recorded and measured crowd noise at the stadium using a series of strategically placed acoustic meters. He found when the Nittany Lions had the ball, the crowd noise reached 75 decibels on the field. But when the opposing team played offense, the noise climbed to 110 decibels. As a result, the visiting quarterback's calls could only be heard within about 18 inches from him.

Barnard wondered whether he could make it even tougher for visiting QBs. So when the stadium was empty, he used a loudspeaker to create noise in various seating locations and measured the sound intensity on the field. According to Gizmodo, Barnard zeroed in on the stadium's acoustical sweet spot, where the loudest fans could be the most effective against opposing teams:

When the stadium was empty, he searched for the best spots for an audible assault by carrying a noisy speaker around to 45 different seats and measuring how loud it sounded on the field... For seats on the sidelines, closer was better. Students sitting in the highest rows contributed very little to the overall sound. But the situation was reversed behind the end zone. Higher seats could be heard better than field-level seats because of a trick of the stadium's architecture, said Barnard.

As a result of this study, Penn State will move 20,000 students to the southern end zone next season, which Barnard's models suggest will make the noise on the field almost 50 percent louder. The move is expected to cut an additional six inches off the range of the quarterback's voice, presumably leading to more false starts and penalties for the visiting team.

Barnard presented his acoustic mapping data at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in Baltimore.

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Image: flickr / reivax

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