A duck’s quack has no echo!

I read somewhere a list of “little known facts” that included a duck’s quack has no echo, and no one knows why.

Surely that can’t be true? Well I took five minutes out to have a search and found an article by the University of Salford Acoustics Dept .

“A duck’s quack doesn’t echo” is a much quoted scientific myth. In spring 2003 it was quoted on Home Truths on BBC Radio 4 and Shooting Stars on BBC 2. You can listen to our sound files on Home Truths by going to the BBC4 web site and “listening again”. Recently, Salford Acoustics was the source of the story being presented in the national and international media when we proved that a duck’s quack does echo as part of the British Association Festival of Science.

Duck & Microphone

Its a nice article, explaining what an echo is and the experiments they did to show the echo, and summarised this all as:

So a duck’s quack certainly echoes around our reverberation chamber, so a duck’s quack does echo. Which leads to the most interesting question, why did the myth arise? The are a few possible explanations that I can think of:

  • The quack does echo, but it is usually too quiet to hear. When you want to hear an echo, you usually make a very loud noise to make sure the reflection can be heard. But a duck quacks too quietly, so the reflection is too quiet to hear.
  • Ducks don’t quack near reflecting surfaces. You need a large reflecting surface, a mountain or building for the sound to reflect off. Maybe ducks don’t hang around reflecting surfaces.
  • It is hard to hear the echo of a sound which fades in and fades out.

I think its because they never keep quiet long enough for you to hear any echo.

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