That falling Tree

December 10, 2020  •  6 Comments

SequoiaSequoiaYosemite National Park, California Redwoods and Pine
Sequoia National Park, California

So, the answer to the age old question, If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? is, No it doesn't.  As illogical as it 'sounds' the tree only vibrates the surrounding air during its descent and ultimate crash.  Only if a being with an operating tympanic membrane is within 'earshot' to receive the vibrations, transmit those vibrations to the middle ear, then to the fluid-filled cochlea where the auditory nerve feeds said vibrations to the brain will the tree's racket be 'heard.'   Beethoven, while composing his 9th Symphony, probably would not have heard it, so for him it made no sound. Unless someone or some thing is there to actualize the vibrations through their sense of hearing all it is is violently moving air. 

That was Christmassy wasn't it! 

I got to thinking about it while listening to my stereo this morning.  The loudspeakers reproduce sound via vibrating membranes that pulse the air according to the amplitude and frequency driving them.  There is no music until my brain interprets those vibrations. Until then it's just air in motion.  We spend a lot of money to vibrate air in a pleasing way.

Coming in 2021: Conclusive scientific proof on Why the Chicken Crossed the Road.  

See you then. 

Oh, and Merry Christmas! 


I haven't been to see the redwoods in a long time but your photo takes me right back there in an instant. I could look at it all day. Probably TMI, but lately the only air I've put in motion hasn't been all that pleasant. Kind of wish I hadn't been around to experience it.
Todd Henson(non-registered)
And to bring it 'round to photography, our vision is much the same way. Without our eyes to convert the wavelengths of light to something our brain can interpret it's all just vibrations, in this case of light instead of sound. It's fascinating how much of the world we experience is so influenced by our senses, their strengths and weaknesses. I love viewing photos from NASA and other groups that colorize different detected wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. It's a reminder of how much else is out there beyond what we can see and hear.

Can't wait to find out about the chicken!
Monte Stevens(non-registered)
Never seen the Redwoods, only images. Thank you for the answer to this question I've pondered for years.
Alexander S. Kunz(non-registered)
Haha, terrific! Thanks for the laugh. Personally, I always found "if a tree fell on a florist, would he make a sound?" quite entertaining to ponder as well. ;) I'm looking forward to the second part! :)
I'm in awe of Redwood Trees and this image is a nice contrast in both size and color of the Redwood and Pines.

To the tree that falls, our age-old question means little. It still falls, and it still creates those vibrations in the air, for it has no other choice. Our being there to interpret a sound from those vibrations will be brief if, in our scientific curiosity, we find ourselves in the path of said tree. :-)

I had to laugh at your last statement. For I too am listening to pleasant vibrating air as I type this, for which I paid good money. :-)
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