Cognitive Daily

This video (QuickTime required), captured last week by fellow ScienceBlogger Tara Smith, demonstrates a rarely seen visual and auditory effect:

When you watch this video of me singing the Men Without Hats one-hit-wonder “Safety Dance,” it appears as though can I neither dance nor carry a tune.

I wonder if any of our commenters can offer an explanation.

Perhaps of more interest to the scientific community: a first — Greta and I are finally photographed with Professor Steve Steve!



  1. #1 Katherine Sharpe
    August 22, 2007

    Well I, for one, am completely flummoxed.

    Good times, good times.


  2. #2 Freiddie
    August 22, 2007

    I’m not any scientist here, but I think the “background” noise and the jiggling of the camera could cause this effect.

  3. #3 Glenn
    August 22, 2007

    Yes, appearances can sometimes be deceiving… and then again, sometimes, not so much. 😀

    (“One-hit wonder”! I doth protest!)

  4. #4 kristi
    August 22, 2007

    Obviously there is a wrinkle in the space-time continuum that distorts our perception of sight and sound. Just like when I sing and dance.

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    August 22, 2007

    Glenn, you may be right. I had that whole album back in the 80s, and it had some pretty good songs. Living in China, Antarctica, I Got the Message, and so on, were all fun songs. But I’m pretty sure Safety Dance is the only one that made it on the charts.

  6. #6 Mike P
    August 22, 2007

    I’m pretty sure it’s something along the lines of the McGurk effect.

  7. #7 Jeremy
    August 22, 2007

    Yeah, the US Navy claims their new vomit ray uses electromagnetism to induce gastric distress, but that’s all just to make it sound science-y. Now I know how the device really works.

  8. #8 Massimiliano Di Luca
    August 23, 2007

    I think that the two effects you noticed, out of tune and out of rhythm, can be created by the video camera used, which may create distortions in the audio recording and in the synchronization of audio and video streams. Low quality mics and a/d encoders create a shift of sound in the frequency domain, that affects especially the harmonics of complex sounds, giving the impression that you are out of tune.
    The same encoder also causes a shift in time (a delay or an anticipation) of the auditory stream, which is the one primarily used for the perception of rhythm. As a consequence you appear to dance “with a delay”. If you try to turn off the sound and tap the rhythm of dancing and than turn the sound back on you’ll notice this asynchrony.

  9. #9 Jeremy
    August 23, 2007

    Really funny. You’re a good sport to post yourself singing the Safety Dance.

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