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Humpty-Dumpty Effect: Acoustically, people resemble large eggs

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11:58am, November 12, 2003

Using a sound-based scanning technique to determine the shapes of moving creatures and other objects, an international team of scientists has found that the human form bounces sound waves as if each person were a huge, elongated chicken egg.

This new acoustic portrait of people as a hard ellipsoid may aid designers of concert halls and other venues where acoustics are of paramount concern, says Stéphane G. Conti of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif. Until now, no one had measured the absolute acoustic profile of the human body–that is, how the body scatters sound waves independently of where it happens to be.

This new acoustic description "should have application everywhere a human is embedded in an acoustic soundscape," comments acoustics specialist Vincent Gibiat of the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, France.

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