What’s the worst sound in the world? There’s lots of noises that can send your hands rushing to cover your ears, but only one can be the most horrible! Fortunately, one brave acoustic scientist named Trevor Cox decided to find out, by asking hundreds of thousands of people to rank the worst of the worst. It was one of the first online sound experiments - and the result was a lot of fun!
Note: This episode features sound effects, and if you’re sensitive to sounds, you may want to skip it.
MEET TREVOR COX
Trevor Cox is an acoustic scientist and science communicator. He's also been called "Professor Whoopie Cushion" - with good reason! He built the world's biggest whoopie cushion. (Or "Whoopee" if you're British.)
He also recorded a whoopie cushion in glorious slow motion.
Trevor doesn't just study silly sounds. He's also written books, hosted radio shows and podcasts, and created educational materials for teachers. His website is a great resource for engaging science.
THE WORST SOUNDS IN THE WORLD
Trevor's Horrible Sounds study is a "pyschoacoustic" study. That means it explores how people respond to sounds. He chose horrible sounds because they get a big reaction.
We really like this video that explores the process of science through this study.
You can Trevor's current pyschoacoustic studies on this website: Sound 101.
In our episode, we held off playing ALL the most horrible sounds. But if you want to know how the study played out, watch this video. (Or for the sound sensitive, read this article.)
Read the full scientific results in the paper, "Scraping Sounds and Disgusting Noises."