Today’s guest post is from long-time commenter Happy Hubby.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of being given an informal tour in Eyring Science building at BYU in Provo.  Even though I studied business in college elsewhere, I have always been quite a nerd at heart.  I was eating up the tour and asking tons of questions while my wife politely smiled and said an occasional “hmm” while nodding her head in an attempt to look interested.  I remember 3 really cool things I was able to see.  Actually “hear” would be a better word as they all dealt with sound.  One was a pair parabolic sound mirrors in the lobby (as seen in many science museums). {picture of such mirrors}

I was just at BYU and was able to take a picture of this.  Not sure about the use of this.  In fact where in the heck do all the W&T authors get all the pictures they use?  They are often very good, but I assume these are not copyrighted images.  I know to make this more interesting I need a few more pictures. Here is the picture from BYU.

The other two were sound chambers.  One was an anechoic (“anti-echo” for us lay people) chamber while the other was a reverberation chamber.

In the lobby of the building I was able to converse in a normal voice level with one of my kids that was quite a distance away.  I just faced into one of the parabolic sound mirrors while my kid was some distance away in front of the opposite mirror.  It is surprising how the focused sound waves can clearly make it across a somewhat long distance and still be heard – even when other noise was coming from many locations.  After we played with that a few minutes, we got to go to the good stuff.


First we went to the anechoic chamber.  This is one of those rooms that have funky looking foam spikes along all the walls.  This room went way beyond what you might have in music recording studios as it even had a “floor” that was an open wire mesh.  After we went in, the door was closed.  My family could still talk to each other, but it was amazing how muffled it sounded and how we had to speak loud just to be heard.  You could clap your hands and it didn’t seem to make nearly the noise it normally would.  After only about a minute it started really being rather bothersome and I quickly found it increasingly irritating.  I had heard of sensory deprivation could even be used as torture and I understood that a bit more even after only 2 minutes.  This experience made me less interested in floating in a sensory deprivation tank – especially when I read that many people start hallucinating in them.[1]  We then moved on to the reverberation chamber.  This was a square room with very flat/smooth walls.  I was told that the room sat isolated from the building on huge rubber supports.  This was so that things like a truck driving down a near street wouldn’t transmit vibrations into the room.  You could clap in this room and it was loud and the echo would just go on and on surprisingly long.  The tour guide said that quite a bit of the sound was being absorbed by us being in the room.  The really interesting thing that the guide showed us a neat way that sound waves bounced around the room.  They had a sub-woofer in the corner and a sound wave generator hooked up where they could create specific frequencies.  Certain frequencies would create an effect where in one spot in the room you wouldn’t hear much of anything (the waves at opposite phases bouncing off the walls canceled each other out), but then you move just a foot or so over and you could hear the sound quite loudly (the waves bouncing off the walls were in the same phase and would amplify each other).  At certain low frequencies (think low bass notes) you could stand in one spot and not hear much, but by moving about 2 feet over you felt like you were between 2 low-riders both trying to show their car stereos pumped out more bass.

So many of you might be thinking, is Wheat and Tares turning into a nerdy science blog?  Well no.  These curious sound conditions made me think of some parallels.

The first is how there have been a few times in my life that someone else was really of the same mind and we could communicate with such ease.  It reminded me of the parabolic sound mirrors.  When having those conversations the conversation was fast paced and fully understood – even though there were conversations going on around us.  We were both so focused we could easily ignore all those around us.

But I find even more interesting parallels when I start thinking about the 2 sound chambers.  I found that I really didn’t like being deprived of sound.  I think this parallels how people are by nature gregarious.  It is almost considered a mental defect if you actually desire no contact with other humans.  We crave interacting with others.  I read of an experiment where a single mouse was put in a cage with one drink that was just water and another drink that was water laced with cocaine.  The mice in this experiment tended to get hooked on the cocaine water [2].  That was interesting, but even more interesting was when this was replicated with a group of mice in a cage instead of an isolated mouse.  In the group setting the mice generally ignored the drugged water, presumably because they enjoyed being with other mice more than getting a fix of drugs.  We have an innate need for connecting with others.  Our scriptures even say, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  This connection with others isn’t as strong for just anybody – we of course want to be with and be validated by others LIKE us much more so than others that are quite different from us.  It is almost cliché how you hear of stay at home moms just craving some time with adults after being with kids all day long.  I can remember at times coming home to my wife that was a stay at home mom at the time and thinking, “why is she so frustrated?”  Of course I was smart enough to keep that thought to myself and just try and help.  But I distinctly remember watching the kids for 3 days solid when she took a trip and I couldn’t figure out how she had not gone insane.  I WANTED to get back to work just to talk with others.

So it is with blogs like Wheat and Tares.  Many (most?) of us congregate here because we see things generally(-ish) the same way.  We receive validation that our thoughts and beliefs are not THAT strange.  We love how someone else is tuned into the same conversation – somewhat like in the parabolic sound mirrors.  In this vast internet, someone gets us.  Just as when I was in the anechoic chamber, we find it uncomfortable when we are around others that see things very differently and don’t reflect back any of our views (and often proclaim their view as THE only correct view).  It is comforting to know you are not alone and share how each of us deal with issues.  On various blog I have read over and over how when an individual finds a blog that resonates with them, they are just ecstatic.  Just to find someone else that has the same point of view – even on just one topic – can be very satisfying.  Now of course we don’t resonate with every blog around.  There are some that like to “troll” and agitate blogs where they disagree – somewhat similar to opposing groups protesting at the same location both trying to yell louder than the rival as if this will settle the conflict.  Even more infrequent are the individuals that truly enjoy looking at alternative points of view and have a rational discussion even if they are not in agreement.  Some only lurk and just read.  Others come to have the opportunity to delight in just clicking “like” or comment “I couldn’t agree more”, while others come to fight for ideas.

Image result for people not interactingI have seen many comments about how our current technology and culture are creating echo chambers.  FaceBook algorithms selectively presenting what we see along with behaviors of only watching one specific news show, or reading only selective blogs, and even where we choose to live all create much more of an echo chamber effect than past generations.  I heard a podcast talking about the history of news in the US and they mentioned that when there were only 3 national TV news shows, the news teams felt the need to TRY and be impartial and balanced as they didn’t want to lose viewer.  Some news channels now specifically target a specific audience.  These many factors create a higher probability of a situation where we mainly are exposed to the views that are similar to our own – or as it is more commonly called – an “echo chamber.”  I personally agree with others that this is driving the polarity we see in the US on so many topics.  I have heard many long-term political commentators say that in places like the US congress and senate there used to be at least a few Republicans that were more liberal than some of the few more conservative Democrats.  These commentators says that today they don’t see this and instead there are 2 camps and seldom is there a sincere reaching across the aisle.  It is also mentioned that in the past the 2 parties would socialize with each other, but that seems to have all but ended.  If all day long you only hear/see others saying how great we are and how bad the other side is, it is hard for most people to think about how they may be wrong as they just seem SO right there is no argument to be made other than the one they hold.

Image result for people interacting

Need some pictures of a group of people seeming to really be interacting.  Maybe another one of 2 very different sets of people both in separate groups not talking with each other?

  • So are we creating echo chambers where we shout, “We are right!” and just listen to the echoes that reverberate?
  • Does this and other blogs contribute to the echo chambers?
  • Does our church culture suffer from some “Echo chamber” effect?
  • Do you branch out, at least occasionally, to a wide variety of blogs or viewpoints?
  • How do we balance the need to feel some sort of community, but at the same time be listening to other points of view?



[2] They also seemed to enjoy Eric Clapton songs for some reason.  OK, not really – or at least that wasn’t part of the experiment.