English and More of the World’s “Weirdest” Languages

Using information from the World Atlas of Language Structures, researchers surveyed the features of 239 languages to determine which are “weirdest”—meaning in sound, the number of features and sentence construction. Out of 239, English ranked 33rd. Citing its abnormally high number of phenomes (most languages have around 25, but English has 44) and the odd way English-speakers assemble questions, the study unbiasedly shows how English …

Supersonic Aircraft’s Shockwaves Shot by NASA

The first-ever images of two shockwaves interacting, taken by NASA, appeared online this week. These photos—shot using a 150-year-old German technique—are some of the first of supersonic flights in the air and not in a wind tunnel. Seeing how the shockwaves interact with one another and on their own, NASA may be able to reduce the noisiness of sonic booms—the result of pressure changes when …

The Principals’ Sound Journeys

Using field recordings documented by Chris Watson (the guy behind all of David Attenborough’s intoxicating wildlife documentaries), Brooklyn-based design studio The Principals recently created an interactive journey that guides visitors through the sounds of the natural world. Participants walk through three distinct aural zones—forest, canyon and sea—as sound elements like winds gusting across Norwegian islands or seals singing in Antarctica play with one’s sense of …