Friday's Theme: Hushaboom

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Friday's Theme: Hushaboom

Postby xkcd_n00bz » Fri Aug 31, 2007 5:25 pm UTC

Hushaboom- from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. "A silent explosive featured in the 12-segment Banana Formula episode. Boris Badenov, disguised as a fruit peddler, steals the formula and writes it inside a banana." (wikipedia)

Explain how the phenomenon of an explosion might possibly occur in the really real world without making sound. Use any mishmash of physics, quantum theory and whatnot.

Best I can come up with:

A standard explosion is created through conventional or nuclear means. There is a device triggered concurrently which creates an intense, although very temporary, gravitational force. As the explosion moves outward in a shockwave, the gravitational force is equal to (and in the opposite direction of) the expanding shockwave. Eventually the momentum of the shockwave is slowed and overcome by the temporary artificial gravitational force, and at the moment that the expanding shockwave would reverse and collapse, the gravitational force evaporates. Anyone just outside the sphere of destruction can see the explosion, but feels and hears nothing.
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Postby crazyjimbo » Fri Aug 31, 2007 5:30 pm UTC

A bomb falls in a forest and nobody hears it. It doesn't make a sound.
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Postby squark » Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:04 pm UTC

What about some kind of antimatter bomb? It's not really an explosion, but wouldn't the annihilation of matter and antimatter be destructive and completely silent?

Also, Rocky and Bullwinkle was an awesome show. I remember that episode.
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Postby zenten » Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:24 pm UTC

squark wrote:What about some kind of antimatter bomb? It's not really an explosion, but wouldn't the annihilation of matter and antimatter be destructive and completely silent?


No, it would be very noisy, because of all the superheated air and whatnot resulting from it.
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Postby Zake » Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:49 pm UTC

No ones said this already? Have the explosion (of whatever sort) in space, or other vacuum.

Otherwise, it'd have to be a pretty weird explosion, to not cause ripples in the air while exploding... perhaps an explosion of neutrinos, or some other non-interacting particle?
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Postby xkcd_n00bz » Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:04 pm UTC

crazyjimbo wrote:A bomb falls in a forest and nobody hears it. It doesn't make a sound.


Cheater.

:p
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Postby bippy » Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:11 pm UTC

Zake wrote:No ones said this already? Have the explosion (of whatever sort) in space, or other vacuum.

Otherwise, it'd have to be a pretty weird explosion, to not cause ripples in the air while exploding... perhaps an explosion of neutrinos, or some other non-interacting particle?


These were my two ideas :( THOUGHT THIEF!
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Postby crazyjimbo » Fri Aug 31, 2007 9:11 pm UTC

xkcd_n00bz wrote:
crazyjimbo wrote:A bomb falls in a forest and nobody hears it. It doesn't make a sound.


Cheater.

:p


Okay okay okay, what about an infrared bomb. When let off, it releases an enormous amount of infrared radiation, thereby heating up everything around it to super high temperatures. Sure, things might explode, but that wasn't the bomb that made the noise :P.
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Postby xkcd_n00bz » Sat Sep 01, 2007 12:10 am UTC

crazyjimbo wrote:Okay okay okay, what about an infrared bomb. When let off, it releases an enormous amount of infrared radiation, thereby heating up everything around it to super high temperatures. Sure, things might explode, but that wasn't the bomb that made the noise :P.


But, isn't that what a nucular bomb does? As matter is converted to an incredibly intense heat, expanding rapidly.. hence the boom.

Any kind of rapid release of energy anywhere in the electromagnetic spectrum would have a tendency to heat the surrounding air creating an outwardly expanding pressure wave.
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Postby xkcd_n00bz » Sat Sep 01, 2007 12:22 am UTC

Zake wrote:No ones said this already? Have the explosion (of whatever sort) in space, or other vacuum.

Otherwise, it'd have to be a pretty weird explosion, to not cause ripples in the air while exploding... perhaps an explosion of neutrinos, or some other non-interacting particle?


Vacuum- not a bad thought, but I am going to disqualify this on a technicality. The original problem presumes that the explosion take place in an environment where the normal transmission of sound can occur.

Neutrinos- Curious. Explain. I thought they passed right thru matter, so what explosive force could they impart?
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Postby dryfire » Sat Sep 01, 2007 4:00 am UTC

Using m-w.com:
Main Entry: ex·plo·sion
2 : a large-scale, rapid, or spectacular expansion or bursting out or forth <the explosion of suburbia> <an explosion of red hair>


An explosion does not need to cause any damage or produce a large impulse to be an explosion. Perhaps, you should strictly define explosion if this is not what you're looking for.

I suppose in the same vein a photon bomb could do the trick as well.
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Postby Macbi » Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:20 am UTC

Zake wrote:No ones said this already? Have the explosion (of whatever sort) in space, or other vacuum.

No oxygen for burning.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:53 am UTC

Macbi wrote:
Zake wrote:No ones said this already? Have the explosion (of whatever sort) in space, or other vacuum.

No oxygen for burning.

That's not really an issue since most real explosives either contain an oxidizer along with the fuel, or get their energy from a physical rather than a chemical process. They will still explode despite the lack of oxygen in space.
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Postby drosophila » Sat Sep 01, 2007 8:54 pm UTC

A neutron bomb comes to mind to me, even though it's not completely relevant. One, it still has an (huge) audible explosion and two it kills with radiation rather than shrapnel. It comes to mind because in the Vonnegut book Deadeye Dick, a neutron bomb wipes out a small town essetially invisibly and inaudibly. But that's just fiction.
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Postby bigglesworth » Sat Sep 01, 2007 11:09 pm UTC

Suitcase black hole. Like a suitcase nuke, but a small black hole. The sound doesn't escape, but it takes a while to work.
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Postby grythyttan » Sun Sep 02, 2007 7:48 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Suitcase black hole. Like a suitcase nuke, but a small black hole. The sound doesn't escape, but it takes a while to work.


But isn't a black hole sort of the opposite of an exploion? It causes matter to rapidly move inwards, towards a singularity instead of outwards away from it.

Or are we just talking massive destruction with no sound? because then the answer obviously is: Ninjas!
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Postby OneLess » Mon Sep 03, 2007 8:42 pm UTC

I still like the vacuum idea. Elegant, and simple enough to fit on the inside of a banana.
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Postby orangeperson » Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:41 pm UTC

'Scuse my crummy physics, but if you set off another bomb a little bit after so that the sound waves were 180 degrees out of sync, wouldn't the interference be destructive and thus silent?
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Postby evilbeanfiend » Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:31 am UTC

1. create a force field around the thing you want to explode
2. detonate conventional bomb inside force field
3. ???? (<- you can't hear what happens here)
4. profit


step 1. is left as an exercise for the reader
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Postby ThorFluff » Tue Sep 04, 2007 11:12 am UTC

orangeperson wrote:'Scuse my crummy physics, but if you set off another bomb a little bit after so that the sound waves were 180 degrees out of sync, wouldn't the interference be destructive and thus silent?


all though that would probably only work in a Zero G - homogenous gas enviroment.
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Postby evilbeanfiend » Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:09 pm UTC

it would also only work in certain locations - in other locations you'd get constructive interference and so extra noise - much like the two slit experiment
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Postby ThorFluff » Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:12 pm UTC

forgive me, an absolutly silent Zero G, homogenous gas eviroment.

Like a ball of pure helium far from the gravitational pull of any celestial body.
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:38 pm UTC

dryfire wrote:I suppose in the same vein a photon bomb could do the trick as well.
What is a photon bomb? I've never heard of one before. It sounds like something which would release an awful lot of photons, which would tend to heat up the surrounding air and create a shockwave.

evilbeanfiend wrote:3. ???? (<- you can't hear what happens here)
4. profit
I was going to say something like that in response to:

xkcd_n00bz wrote:There is a device triggered concurrently which creates an intense, although very temporary, gravitational force.
I thought we were working within the laws of physics :P
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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:53 pm UTC

evilbeanfiend wrote:it would also only work in certain locations - in other locations you'd get constructive interference and so extra noise - much like the two slit experiment

That would be the case for two explosions in slightly different places. He has two explosions in the same place slightly after each other, so the second cancels out the first. Of course, the first explosion would cause the pressure to drop very much, so the second explosion would sound very different, and the waves would not cancel.
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Postby zenten » Tue Sep 04, 2007 12:59 pm UTC

skeptical scientist wrote:
evilbeanfiend wrote:it would also only work in certain locations - in other locations you'd get constructive interference and so extra noise - much like the two slit experiment

That would be the case for two explosions in slightly different places. He has two explosions in the same place slightly after each other, so the second cancels out the first. Of course, the first explosion would cause the pressure to drop very much, so the second explosion would sound very different, and the waves would not cancel.


What if you had the second explosion take that into account, and sound differently in the right way?
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:26 pm UTC

I seriously doubt it would be possible to engineer the explosion to alter the resulting sound that precisely.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:35 pm UTC

Well, the problem is the second sound would propagate differently because of the altered conditions. I imagine it would be theoretically possible to get the sound to cancel at a precise distance (assuming the explosions were perfectly spherically symmetrical) but not over a range of distances. Also, there would be a short burst of sound because of the difference in time between the two explosions, and getting an explosion to precisely match a given pressure wave function and a gajillion decibels is probably impossible.
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 04, 2007 5:07 pm UTC

Which is what I was driving at. I assumed this was meant to be a practically workable solution, even if it was only practically workable "in principle".

That wasn't very well-explained, so here's an analogy to what I mean. If a target state is in a potential well with a much higher potential than the current potential, it may not be practical to achieve that state, but in principle it would be possible to achieve it, with sufficient energy. If, however, the target state was a potential hill, then achieving it would be theoretically possible but practically impossible, even in principle, because fine-tuning the position of the object to sufficient precision would not be possible in practice.
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Postby crazyjimbo » Tue Sep 04, 2007 5:15 pm UTC

What about a bomb that vibrates at a very high or low frequency, with a huge amplitude. We wouldn't be able to hear it, but perhaps it would destroy buildings and such?

Or a regular bomb that is followed in by another bomb which explodes upwards. The second bomb would suck air up and push it skywards, thus sucking back in the shock wave of the first. The second bomb would effectively channel all the noise upwards where it wouldn't be heard.

I have no idea if either of these would work, but I look forward to being told why they wouldn't :).
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Postby Robin S » Tue Sep 04, 2007 5:59 pm UTC

I think the second might not work because of issues to do with the speed of sound. As for the first,

perhaps it would destroy buildings and such?
Doesn't that qualify as making noise? If not, then this is certainly a possibility. I read in a book by Ian Stewart (The Magical Maze) that the man who discovered resonance came close to inadvertently causing the destruction of several nearby buildings in this manner.
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Postby Strilanc » Wed Sep 05, 2007 1:43 am UTC

Your bomb explodes, but all of its matter just happens to pass through all other matter until it clears the solar system.

Somewhat like walking through a closed door. Quantum physics says it could happen, with very small probability.
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Postby Robin S » Wed Sep 05, 2007 4:50 pm UTC

I think the probability of everyone in the room actually being deaf would be considerably greater :P
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Postby schrodingersduck » Wed Sep 05, 2007 6:16 pm UTC

I'm thinking a small incendiary bomb wrapped in layers of thick, tough, but flammable, sponge. The sponge could absorb the shockwaves of the explosion, but the flames could still pass through (by burning) and do the same damage.
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Postby Fieari » Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:13 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:I think the second might not work because of issues to do with the speed of sound. As for the first,

perhaps it would destroy buildings and such?
Doesn't that qualify as making noise? If not, then this is certainly a possibility. I read in a book by Ian Stewart (The Magical Maze) that the man who discovered resonance came close to inadvertently causing the destruction of several nearby buildings in this manner.


That would be Nikola Tesla. He took a sledgehammer to his machine before it actually did damage though. Most (if not all) buildings/building materials today, however, are designed with this effect in mind, and resonant frequencies can no longer work on them (as demonstrated by the mythbusters)... too much interference. Similarly, you can't use Tesla's "earthquake machine" to break apart the planet, or even cause actual earthquakes.
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Postby oxoiron » Thu Sep 06, 2007 2:19 pm UTC

orangeperson wrote:'Scuse my crummy physics, but if you set off another bomb a little bit after so that the sound waves were 180 degrees out of sync, wouldn't the interference be destructive and thus silent?

Assuming you could get perfect destructive interference, this still wouldn't work, because the speed of sound in a medium at a given temperature is fixed. Therefore, the first sound wave produced by the first bomb will always be ahead of the sound from the second bomb. This first sound wave (i.e. pressure front) will produce a momentary sound :(, although we will get the desired explosive damage :D.
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Postby Ahab » Thu Sep 06, 2007 8:33 pm UTC

I've been reading... and all I can think is...you guys are trying to design something that is "silent but deadly." :lol:

I'll let the juvenile minds run with that one.
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Postby skeptical scientist » Thu Sep 06, 2007 9:19 pm UTC

Joke's been done already:
grythyttan wrote:Or are we just talking massive destruction with no sound? because then the answer obviously is: Ninjas!


Also, you might want to write an intro post; we have a thread for that purpose, and the moderators appreciate it because it helps them detect spambots.
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Postby Robin S » Thu Sep 06, 2007 9:29 pm UTC

I never wrote an intro post, but that is because I am a spambot and such practices are beyond my capacity.

While we're on the subject, how'd you like to buy some cheap viagra?

[ontopic]I still fail to see how any sort of "explosion" by standard definitions (shockwaves etc.) can fail to produce sound, when sound and shockwaves are practically synonymous.
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