Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Tiger's Roar Can Paralyze

Wild Sumatran tiger
© Arddu (via Wikimedia Commons)
This tiger almost looks like he's trying to paralyze you with his mind. Even though he can't do that, many people have reported being "frozen" or "stopped in their tracks" by a tiger's roar!

Of course, there are people out there who scoff at this. Those who say anybody who believes in the power of the roar is "giving tigers magical powers." However, it's not magic. It's science. It's no secret that sound can have physical and psychological effects. You've experienced this if you've ever winced when nails scraped against a chalkboard or felt pain when you heard a loud, high-pitched sound. It's why sound and music have been used as a form of torture, and how real sonic weapons work. It's why listening to music can be good for your health

Bioacoustics is the study of sound and biology, and how they relate to each other. A researcher in the field by the name of Elizabeth von Muggenthaler has extensively studied sounds tigers make. She and her colleagues discovered that tigers can produce sounds below frequencies of 20 hertz. This is called infrasound, because it's below the human range of hearing (we measly humans can hear frequencies between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz). Von Muggenthaler believes it's the low frequencies and high volume that can cause paralysis. Infrasound can travel long distances, and tigers use it to communicate as well as to hunt. It can also pass through solid objects, including bones, which is why people such as wildlife researcher and professor Mel Sunquist have reported being able to feel the roar. Infrasound has been shown to produce chills, stress, and even sorrow. Some people even think it could explain reports of ghostly experiences. In any case, infrasound is one more weapon in the tiger's arsenal, and yet another reason these cats are among the world's top predators.

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