But if you really want to know if a smile is real or false, look at the eyes. In a false smile they don’t change. Eyes are important in other ways, too. When you feel good, your pupils get larger; when you feel bad, they become small.
Laughter: the best medicine
In 1964 an American journalist called Norman Cousins developed a serious problem with his back. It turned out that he had a dangerous illness which was extremely painful and incurable. He was admitted to hospital, unable to move, and prescribed a course of strong pain-killing drugs. Cousins knew that negative emotions could make you ill, and began to wonder whether positive emotions – and particularly laughter – might make you better.
He stopped taking the drugs and moved out of the hospital into a hotel room, which was not only a more cheerful place to be but was also much cheaper. There he hired a lot of comedies and started to watch them. He found that every time he laughed, the laughter acted as an anaesthetic and gave him relief from pain. And the effect lasted some time: 10 minutes’ laughter could give him around two hours free from pain.
More important, he found that he was slowly getting better, and eventually recovered completely from the illness.
For many years, the medical profession refused to take Cousins’ claims seriously, but now things are changing and some American hospitals have “laughter rooms”, where patients can watch videos or read joke books, instead of sitting around feeling depressed.
Laughing for money
A Frenchwoman, Jullie Hette, works as a professional laugher. For a fee, she will come and laugh non-stop for you. Her record is 90 minutes. She guarantees that you will soon be laughing with her – even though you might not know what you are laughing about.
I. Put the paragraphs of the article in the right order to make a text.
A. Others have used this technique as well. Vic Tandy, a lecturer at Coventry University, suggested that the frequency 19 hertz was responsible for many ghost sightings. He was working late one night alone in a supposedly haunted laboratory at Warwick, when he felt very anxious, and saw a grey blob out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to face it, there was nothing there. The following day, he was working on his fencing foil, with the handle held in a vice. Although there was nothing touching it, it started to vibrate wildly. Further investigation led him to discover that the fume hood fan was emitting a frequency of 18.98 Hz, very close to the resonant frequency of the eye also given as 18 Hz in NASA Technical Report 19770013810 by the way. This was why he believed he saw a ghostly figure, believing it was an optical illusion caused by his eyeballs resonating. In addition, the room was exactly half a wavelength in length, and the desk was in the center, thus causing a standing wave which was detected by the foil. Vic investigated this phenomenon further, and wrote a paper entitled The Ghost in the Machine. He carried out a number of investigations at various sites believed to be haunted, including the basement of the Tourist Information Bureau next to Coventry Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle. There is just one problem with Vic’s consensus. If his eyes were at resonant frequency, he would have still seen the ghost when he looked at it straight on. So the question remains, how do we measure infrasound?
B. The precision measurement of Infrasound is an expensive proposition. The trick here is it requires a special microphone and a special preamp. Most consumer electronics and even pro application electronics in the audio field have a frequency response falling somewhere between 20 Hz and 20 KHz, well beyond the realm of infrasound. One site talks about Vic Tandy’s infamous discovery concerning Infrasound and “haunts” then casually explains how a seven hertz signal generated by ocean waves was the cause of the Flying Dutchman/Mary Celeste type of crew disappearances. Sounds believable until you realize that 7 Hz is the pivot frequency of our own brainwaves, and also very close to the Schuman resonance, the most prolific frequency on the planet.
C.Scientists accidentally discovered that the spinning core or vortex of a tornado creates infrasonic waves. When the vortices are large, the frequencies are lower; smaller vortices have higher frequencies. These infrasonic sound waves can be detected up to 100 miles away, and are used to provide early warning of tornadoes.
D.It has long been realized that infrasound may cause feelings of awe or fear. Since it is not consciously perceived, it can be used to make people feel that supernatural events are taking place. In a controlled experiment published in September, 2003, people at a concert were asked to rate their responses to a variety of pieces of music, some of which were accompanied by infrasonic elements. The participants were not aware of which pieces included the infrasound. Many participants (22%) reported feelings of anxiety, uneasiness, extreme sorrow, nervous feelings of revulsion or fear and chills down the spine which correlated with the infrasonic events. In presenting the evidence, the scientist responsible theorized that the results witnessed suggested that low frequency sound can cause people to have unusual experiences even though they cannot consciously hear it. Some scientists have suggested that this level of sound may be present at some allegedly haunted sites and so cause people to have odd sensations that they attribute to a ghost. Horror movie makers have used this for years. Alfred Hitchcock used infrasound to produce unease or disorientation in the audience in some of his film soundtracks.
E. Concerning behavioral patterns of animals and the infrasonic effects of natural disasters, it is to be noted that animals can also recognize the infrasonic waves emitted from such natural disasters and can use these as an early warning. A recent example of this is the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Animals were reported to flee the area long before the actual tsunami hit the shores of Asia. It is not known for sure if this is the exact reason, as some have suggested that it was the influence of electromagnetic waves, and not of infrasonic waves, that prompted these animals to flee. Elephants have been known to hear infrasound from two and a half miles away.
F. Infrasound is sound that is subsonic, or essentially frequencies too low to be detected by the human ear. The study of these waves is sometimes referred to as infrasonics, covering sounds from the lower limit of human hearing (about 16 or 17 hertz) down to 0.001 hertz. This band of frequencies is also as mentioned above the same ones used by seismographs to monitor earthquakes. A rather unique aspect of Infrasound is its ability to cover long distances and get around obstacles with little dissipation. It is generally held that the first observation of naturally-occurring infrasound was in the aftermath of the Krakatoa eruption in 1883, when concussive acoustic waves circled the globe seven times or more and were recorded on barometers worldwide.
G. Infrasound has a military history as well. It was used by Allied forces in World War I to locate artillery; the frequency of the muzzle blast from firing was noticeably different than that produced by the shell’s impact explosion, allowing the two sources to be discriminated and located geographically. One of the pioneers in modern infrasonic research was French scientist Vladimir Gavreau, born in Russia as Vladimir Gavronsky. He became interested in infrasonic waves during an experience in his lab during the 1960s when he and his lab assistants experienced pain in the ear drums and shaking lab equipment, while no audible sound was detected by his microphones. He postulated that it was infrasound and began a series of experiments to map out the phenomena. One of his experiments was an infrasonic whistle.
II. Fill in the gaps with the vocabulary units from the article:
- ______ the process by which a substance, a feeling or energy gradually disappears by becoming less strong.
- ______ It is believed/ considered that...
- _______ as a consequence of...
- _______ the end of a gun barrel where the bullets come out.
- _______a weapon consisting of a metal container filled with a substance that explodes, fired from a large gun.
- _______ the tools, machines, or other things that you need in a laboratory (informal).
- _______to plan in detail how something will happen.
- _______a powerful spinning current of air or water that pulls everything down inside it.
- _______caught by a tool used for holding an object firmly while you are working with it.
- _______not carefully enough, in a relaxed/ light-minded fashion.
1. What special properties of infrasound do you remember?
2. What natural phenomena can produce infrasound?
3. What are the spheres of its use? Can you think of any more ways of using it?
4. What is known about the pioneers in infrasonic research?
5. What does the controversy of Mr. Tandy's research consist in?
6. Why is it so hard to measure infrasound?
7. What is the overall tone of the article? What can you say about the style? Where could it possibly be published?
IV. Debate. Can you justify the use of infrasound to produce unease in the audience in film soundtracks?