Skip to main content

Can you hear this silent gif bouncing? Here’s why

Can you hear this silent gif bouncing? Here’s why

/

The phenomenon may be more common than we think

Share this story

GIF by HappyToast

Look at this GIF. There’s no sound, but most people who see it hear a “thudding” in their head each time the bouncing structure hits the ground. Why?

The answer has to do with how our senses work, says Christopher Fassnidge, a doctoral candidate in psychology at City, University of London. This illusion is an example of synesthesia, or when the senses — like hearing and sight — get crossed in the brain, he explained in an email to The Verge.

Up to 20 percent of people could experience this phenomena

Going through the world, at every moment we are surrounded by movements that are logically associated with sound: we see a ball bouncing, and we expect to hear the bouncing. Because evidence suggests that so-called synesthetic pairings can be learned when we’re small, Fassnidge says, it makes sense that many people can develop synesthesia for very common things. Other examples are a bit more unusual. Take, for instance, the pianist Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who experienced different musical notes as colors. The two are rarely linked in everyday life, and so his ability is notable for that very reason.

Synesthesia is likely what’s happening with the “noisy GIF” phenomenon, which Fassnidge’s lab calls the “visually-evoked auditory response,” or vEAR for short. (His lab is running a survey on vEAR, if you’d like to take part.)

Though movement-hearing synesthesia isn’t well-researched, one of their lab’s recent studies suggests that up to 20 percent of people experience vEAR — which is much higher than the 2 to 4 percent number for other forms of synesthesia, says Fassnidge. And, as with all forms, some people are more susceptible to the illusion than others, depending on how our brains are wired.

It’s possible that many of us experience vEAR without ever noticing, Fassnidge says. Maybe we think a sound is real when it isn’t, simply because the sound makes sense. The very commonness of vEAR could mean that we don’t notice until it’s brought to our attention by these noisy GIFs. The GIF above isn’t the only example; there are plenty more in this subreddit.

The bouncing powerline GIF itself has an interesting history. Twitter user HappyToast first made it in 2008 as part of a weekly Photoshop challenge, he told The Verge in an email, and it was included in the BBC3 TV series The Wrong Door, a sketch show set in a parallel universe. There are over a thousand different hosted copies on the internet, he says, but last weekend was the first time people actually paid attention to the audio illusion — and discovered that the senses aren’t quite as separate as they maybe believed.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 25 Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.