Jun
14
2010

Vuvuzelas VS The World

I'm sure there's a lot of jokes I could make about stereotypical tensions between nerds and jocks, but there's science to be had at the World Cup, and I'm never one to back down from an exercise in applied physics.
Vuvuzelas: Fans raise their vuvuzelas in celebration of soccer season
Vuvuzelas: Fans raise their vuvuzelas in celebration of soccer seasonCourtesy Manuguf

If you've been watching any of the matches on TV or have any friends that are, you may have heard about the controversy centered around a popular fan item - the vuvuzela. Vuvuzelas are plastic trumpets used by soccer fans in South Africa to cheer on their team and goad the opponents. When blown, they can achieve decibel levels upwards of close to 130 dB. That's as loud as a loud rock concert or a jet at take off.

It's gotten to the point that referees and coaches want the horns banned, and fans at home are complaining that the noise is drowning out network commentary.

Now for the science. Editors at the German blog Surfpoeten have pointed out that because the horn has a simple acoustic fingerprint (tones at 233, 466, 932, and 1864 Hz), very basic filtering software can remove the vuvuzeula drone from broadcast media (original German link). This may not prevent the players on the field from having to endure the noise, but it could at least help out the estimated 125 million people watching at home (per match).

This same idea may be in use in technology you own. Noise cancelling headphones have been around for a while. They sample ambient audio around you and play an opposing wave to cancel it out. Much like with the vuvuzelas, monotone sounds such as lawnmowers and airplane engines are the easiest to block.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JR327's picture
JR327 says:

I'm new. great site. I want one of those horns!

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 5:41am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

This is good to know....I was afraid there were like "super mosquitoes" in South Africa buzzing near the soccer stadiums.

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 10:06am
Sarah's picture
Sarah says:

This article has some suggestions for adjusting your stereo's equalizer settings for getting rid of the vuvuzela sound:

http://www.fastcompany.com/1660044/world-cup-hack-a-simple-fix-to-elimin...

So, if you run your TV audio out through a stereo, this could help. Some TVs have EQ settings built-in, so I'd imagine the same fix could apply there.

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 10:45am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

I seem to be in the minority, but I love the vuvuzela sound.
I love all the craziness that goes along with soccer games. I like the singing, chanting, drumming, AND the buzzing.

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 10:54am
Aram's picture
Aram says:

They are so inescapable this soccer season and even technology cant block the blare of these vuvuzelas

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 12:25pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I'm with Liza—I wouldn't want to try to fall asleep to the sound, but it's just about the world's biggest sporting event, without all the international dignity of the Olympics, so, you know, people should go nuts. I went to a baseball game in Japan once, and there were giant flags, and a horn section, and thousands of people chanting a complicated routine in sync. It was awesome. Vuvuzelas sort of fall into that category with me (even if they are a bit more bombastic and chaotic).

Also, I'm afraid to say "vuvuzela" out loud.

posted on Tue, 06/15/2010 - 2:14pm

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