Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Although I wasn’t initially aware of this myth, a technician in my lab informed me that an oft-quoted scientific myth is that a duck’s quack doesn’t echo. Now, as a student of acoustics, I found that hard to believe. And indeed, a research team at the University of Salford decided to actually test this theory by putting a duck named Daisy in a sound chamber and making it quack.

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After recording the quack (and any echos that might have arisen) they came to the conclusion that a duck’s quack DOES echo, its just usually too soft for most people to hear. Therefore, the myth probably arose that way. Also, ducks don’t usually go quacking around large reflective surfaces which are best for hearing echos.

Listen to the “echoing quack” here.

And here’s Daisy the duck getting into the holiday spirit.

Well, I’m a little curious as to how they made the duck quack right into the microphone. I’m imagining them squeezing poor Daisy like a squeak-toy!

Comments

  1. #1 Rob Knop
    November 4, 2006

    When I’ve heard ducks quack, it usually *sounds* like an echo, even though we’re in an open area. The problem is that there’s this lake, and there’s lots of ducks, and the’re *all* talking to each other.

    Ducks seem to like to quack a lot.

    I guess I’m kinda like them.

  2. #2 MiddleO'Nowhere
    November 4, 2006

    The Mythbusters also tackled this question in an early episode. If I remember correctly, they detected the duck’s echo, but they had a tough time getting the duck to quack on cue.

  3. #3 fullerene_dream
    November 4, 2006

    That “echoing quack” link sure doesn’t sound like a duck’s quack!

  4. #4 Shelley
    November 4, 2006

    I agree, it doesn’t sound much like a quack. But I thought it sounded hilarious, and just the whole situation was so absurd. That sound almost made me fall of of my chair, I couldn’t stop laughing. :)

  5. #5 Dave S.
    November 4, 2006

    Well, I’m a little curious as to how they made the duck quack right into the microphone. I’m imagining them squeezing poor Daisy like a squeak-toy!

    She appears to be in the middle of the room, which would make squeezing a bit difficult. Possibly basic conditioning beforehand where she was given food as a reward for quacking at a microphone?

    I wonder what the hat has to do with it?

  6. #6 Michael Buckbee
    November 4, 2006

    I saw the MythBusters you’re referring to, they couldn’t make a duck quack individually. So Jamie and Adam ended up standing back to back and holding ducks and turning around when they needed to have them quack at each other.

  7. #7 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    November 6, 2006

    Oh when you said quack I immediately thought of this guy.

  8. #8 Ole Blue
    November 6, 2006

    I saw the myth busters episode too. I do like it when common myths that people tend to spoout off as ancient wisdom is debunked.

  9. #9 SGT Ted
    November 7, 2006

    They probably hired the AFLAC duck.

  10. #10 Shelley Batts
    November 7, 2006

    I love that duck!