The Sciences

What Would You Sound Like on Venus?

DiscoblogBy Veronique GreenwoodApr 3, 2012 4:40 PM


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Venus, once an ocean world like Earth, is now a hellscape. (Credit: NASA)

First consider what, exactly, you'd be doing here.

Like a Smurf with a bass voice, according to Tim Leighton, a professor of acoustics at University of Southampton who has made it his mission to figure this kind of thing out, using physics and math combined with data about otherworldly atmospheres. Venus's atmosphere is much denser than ours, so vocal cords would vibrate more slowly there, yielding a lower voice---the opposite of what happens when you inhale helium. The speed of sound, though, is a lot faster on Venus than it is here, Leighton explains in a press release

. He says that this can mess with how big we imagine the speaker to be: "This tricks the way our brain interprets the size of a speaker (presumably an evolutionary trait that allowed our ancestors to work out whether an animal call in the night was something that was small enough to eat or so big as to be dangerous)." So we might interpret that deep bass rumble as coming from a diminutive form. Interesting! Keep in mind, though, that any vocal cords vibrating on Venus won't belong to a living human: the atmosphere is poisonous, the pressure is crushing, and the heat---well, don't get me started on the heat. Humans sitting around flapping their meat together while breathing Venusian air is pure fantasy. For the purposes of entertainment, however, Leighton has recorded a number of sounds and manipulated them to mimic how they might sound in the atmospheres of various planets and moons, including Mars and Titan, for a British planetarium

. Here's what the same recording of a waterfall would sound like on Earth and on Titan: A waterfall on Earth

A waterfall on Titan

For more acoustical hijinks, check out previous publications from Leighton, including "How can humans, in air, hear sound generated underwater (and can goldfish hear their owners talking)?


Image courtesy of NASA

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