Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Where does a seashell’s ocean sound come from?

June 30, 2014

Shell Bowl | UncommonGoodsAs kids, it made perfect sense for a tiny ocean to be contained within the confines of a beautiful shell. What else would explain that soft whoosh-ing sound you heard when you held it up to your ear? It was obviously the same magic that brought stuffed animals to life when you left the room. Though we’re still convinced that teddy bears have feelings, science has taught us that there is indeed reasoning behind any phenomenon. So if it’s not the ocean inside that shell, what is it? Turns out it’s just good old fashioned ambient noise, which you wouldn’t normally hear on your own. However, the shell’s hard and curved internal surfaces act as a resonator, reflecting different sounds depending on the shell’s size and shape. The fact that the noise sounds like an ocean is just a romantic coincidence—put an empty glass up to your ear with your hand cupped over it and you’ll hear the same sound. Be that as it may, nothing beats re-living a day spent at the beach than listening to the soothing sounds within a beautiful conch shell.

Shell Bowl, $50

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