When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

9 Responses

  1. I fell for it! It must have been the French, they seem so assured. I feel some­what sheep­ish now.

  2. IndyJones1967 says:

    A couple of years back a TV show here in the States, “CSI”, had a major plot twist when it used a clay pot that the vic­tim had been turn­ing on a wheel at the time one of the other char­ac­ters had been speak­ing to him to amaz­ingly recover that con­ver­sa­tion in the grooves of the clay. Oh yes, I called ze bull­shit on that one.

  3. moon says:

    do you think it is none sense?
    is there any pos­sib­il­ity it has real value? because it seens amz­ing should it be true!

  4. alun says:

    Reasons I’m scep­tical, apart from the webpage by the writer of the film say­ing it’s a hoax, are down to how vinyl works. The needle bounces in the groove over a bumpy sur­face. It’s this tiny bumps that encode the sound. This causes prob­lems because:
    The needle has to be a pin point.
    You can’t do that with steel, a steel blade cut­ting a groove would have to be quite thick. This means the bumps would have to be lar­ger and the pot spin­ning at a high speed. If the sound comes from one groove then the pot is spin­ning at less than 1 rpm, because the sound clip is slightly longer than a minute.
    The arm hold­ing the needle has to be rigid.
    It’s the needle bump­ing up and down that sends the sound (even­tu­ally) to the amp­li­fier on a hi-fi. If the arm isn’t rigid then the sig­nal will be lost in the noise of the arm tremors. A hand held needle wouldn’t be rigid enough.
    The sur­face of the vase isn’t what was gouged.
    After the pot­ter scratches the groove, the pot is then prob­ably going to be glazed or else dipped in a slip. This will coat the sur­face of the pot. Unless the slip or glaze is com­pletely uni­form over the groove those bumps will be erased.
    The pot was fired.
    Vinyl was moul­ded or pressed into shape. The pot, after it’s been coated in a glaze or slip would be fired. The heat would trans­form the sur­face of the pot to it’s shiny appear­ance. It would also expand under the heat. These aren’t major dis­tor­tions of shape, but they’d be big enough to erase any sound.I’m sure there are plenty more prob­lems that other people can spot. It is a shame because it would be nice to hear a voice from the past, but there are simply too many ways it couldn’t work to take it seriously.

  5. A says:

    The thing is that it is true that sounds can be recor­ded on tapestry. So why not pot­tery. We have just not figured out how to tune in to the fre­quency. It not sci­ence fic­tion but science.

  6. Rand Careaga says:

    The fre­quency you’d need to tune would be the one that the CIA uses to beam instruc­tions into the tooth fillings of sham­bling urban derelicts.

  7. alun says:

    The thing is that it is true that sounds can be recor­ded on tapestry.
    I’ve spent some time search­ing and I can’t find how sound could be recor­ded onto tapestry. Can you give an example?
    So why not pot­tery?
    It’s a very dif­fer­ent mater­ial. Clay is not homo­gen­ous. Also, unlike tapestry, it’s not coated in other lay­ers of clay or glaze after being shaped and it’s not heated to hun­dreds of degrees cen­ti­grade to change its phys­ical prop­er­ties.
    We have just not figured out how to tune in to the fre­quency.
    What is being pro­posed in the Belgian piece is a mech­an­ical record­ing. There is not a car­rier fre­quency, the sound is based on the rota­tion of the car­rier mater­ial, in this case the pot. If the pot is spun twice as fast the sound is twice as high in frequency.

    An exper­i­ment you could try is cov­er­ing a 7″ single with a thin layer of resin. Leave the resin to harden and then play the record to a friend and see if they can recog­nise the tune. This is the prob­lem we have with glaze on the pot.

    I really don’t think yelling at a lump of clay will leave a meas­ur­able impres­sion on its sur­face. If this impres­sion is dampened by passing through a human arm and a knife first it will make even less of an impres­sion. The clunk of the kiln door shut­ting or roar of the hot air swirl­ing round the pots would be far noisier.

  8. Mike says:

    People keep quot­ing this is a April Fools Joke and link to the site but no where on the site does it men­tion “April” “Fools” or “Joke“
    Where are you get­ting the quote of some­thing in french trans­lates in to April Fools Joke?
    Just curi­ous.
    Thanks Mike

  9. alun says:

    It has changed since I linked to it.

    If you view the source code of the page you’ll find a sec­tion of text marked ecrits_secrets secret writ­ings. This reads:

    Du son datant de deux mille ans découvert par des archéo­logues?! La com­mun­auté sci­en­ti­fique est en émoi. “Vases son­ores”, une réal­isa­tion de Bilge Sehir. Poisson d’avril de journal télévisé — mars 2005


    Sound going back to two thou­sand years dis­covered by archae­olo­gists?! The sci­entific com­munity is in uproar. “Sound Vases”, a pro­duc­tion of Bilge Sehir. Television News April Fool (Poisson d’avril lit. April Fish) — March 2005.

    When I vis­ited Poisson d’avril was in big let­ters on the page. I can see how now it’s more dif­fi­cult to spot.