Experiments

Ancient Voices Recorded Onto Pottery

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Killer Cable Snaps"
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: In 1969, a guy named Richard G. Woodbridge III published a paper in the Proceedings of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, claiming to have played pottery like a brittle clay record.

He believed - as TV shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have since depicted — that sound vibrations can excite a stylus tool on a potter's wheel and imprint wet clay with audible grooves. To listen to those ceramic jams, the '60s scholar supposedly rigged up a tone arm from a record player and hooked it up to an amplifier.

MythBusters Grant Imahara, Kari Byron and Tory Belleci laid down some clay tracks of their own to see whether the myth rang true. They connected a sound-sensitive stylus to a pottery wheel to imprint their voices into the spinning wet clay. Next, using a pair of turntables, Grant constructed a pottery record player similar to the one Woodbridge used. But the playback proved to be nothing more than empty noise.

Even a sound system expert couldn't convert the pottery recordings into discernible sounds, and the busted acoustic myth went down with a snap, crackle and pop.

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