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'Brainstorm and Green needle' is the new 'Yanny and Laurel'

18 May 2018

What is the voice saying - is it Yanny or is it Laurel?

The latest this-or-that debate-do you hear Laurel or Yanny?-that's been raging on the Internet this week comes down to a messy sound file and the brain of the beholder, according to two University of Alberta linguists.

The "Yanny and Laurel" debate has become a social media phenomenon in recent days.

Wired magazine solved part of the mystery Wednesday when it revealed the origins of the audio recording in question. If you're still struggling to hear both, maybe take your headphones off, lie down in a nice quiet room, and reconsider what the internet is persuading you to do with your free time. As far as I can tell, it originally appeared on Reddit.

The four-second audio clip of a voice repeating the same name several times was posted on Reddit on May 13.

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She said our brains want to "categorise" the elements of speech when they are ambiguous.

Also, some people are hearing something totally different (pray for them).

"When there is more energy towards the mid and higher frequencies, people tend to hear Yanny", explained Poppy Crum, who is chief scientist at Dolby Labs in San Francisco.

Since the posting of the audio, people have been trying to search for answers online. As the bass is adjusted, the word seems to shift. So while you might originally hear the word "brainstorm" if the tweet tells you that the word is in fact something else you brain could justifiably make the switch.

"And if you throw things off a little bit, in terms of it being somewhat unnatural, then it is possible to fool that perceptual system and our interpretation of it", says Story.

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So chances are, you may have heard a completely different sound or word, had those two options not been available. Well, your ears just might be different.

"One of the biggest things is, what kind of hearing loss do you have?"

Frequency and pitch could also play a role in how the recording is interpreted, others suggest. For example, if you hear the sounds in either "yanny" or "laurel" more in your everyday life, you might be more likely to hear them here. You know it's gotten bad when the U.S. Air Force is making jokes about it from Afghanistan.

Vice President Mike Pence, apparently blissfully unaware of the debate, only says, "Who's Yanny?".

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'Brainstorm and Green needle' is the new 'Yanny and Laurel'