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Core of ice ‘pings’ like lasers and then makes ‘heartbeat’ sounds

Core of ice ‘pings’ like lasers and then makes ‘heartbeat’ sounds when scientists drop it down a 450ft hole in an Antarctic glacier

  • Deep hole sin Antarctic ice were drilled to investigate ancient air trapped within 
  • Scientists dropped pieces of ice down there when the experiments finished  
  • The distorted sound as it falls is caused by the Doppler Effect stretching sound 
  • Laser-like pinging is caused by sound vibrating off the walls as echoes upwards 

A viral video has captured the unnerving moment a chunk of ice made bizarre sounds after being dropped down a 450ft-deep borehole. 

In the footage posted on Twitter, the ice core makes an unnerving variety of laser-like pinging sounds and an unusual ‘heartbeat’ as it crashes to the bottom of the hole. 

Scientists were in Antarctica extracting 8,000-year-old ice cores to study Earth’s prehistoric climate when they recorded the video.  

Scientists were in Antarctica extracting 8,000-year-old ice cores to study Earth's prehistoric climate when they had their own piece of fun and dropped the ice core down a deep borehole (pictured)

Scientists were in Antarctica extracting 8,000-year-old ice cores to study Earth’s prehistoric climate when they had their own piece of fun and dropped the ice core down a deep borehole (pictured)

WHAT IS THE DOPPLER EFFECT?  

 The Doppler Effect is a well-understood physical phenomenon which is also seen in astrophysics as the universe expands and creates ‘redshifting’, but is more commonly seen in sirens. 

For example, when a blaring ambulance or police car shoots past with its sirens on, they seem high pitched as they approach you and then lower pitched as they speed past. 

This is due to the compression of sound waves as they come closer, and they then stretch out as they grow more distant. 

A stretched out sound wave has a greater wavelength, and therefore a lower frequency, resulting in an increasingly lower pitch.    

The video was posted by isotope geochemist, John Andrew Higgins and University of Washington Postdoctoral Research Associate, Peter Neff. 

Dr Neff posted a similar video in February 2018 which went viral with more than ten million views.

But a different version surfaced earlier this month and has already received almost 23,000 likes. 

In a the video filmed by Dr Higgins, Dr Neff reveals the ice cores were drilled at Law Dome in Antarctica. 

The research team was taking huge pieces of ice and extracting them in a bid to study their composition. 

He says: ‘ We are drilling a whole bunch of ice cores to pull out ancient air to study how the atmosphere cleans itself. 

‘The most recent work that I’ve done is with the ice bubbles that are trapped in the ice. 

‘We have ice that can be up to 8,000 years old. Just like tree rings, we can build records of what climate was like in the past. 

‘Once you have all of these boreholes that you’re done with, you’ve done all the science. 

‘The logical human thing to do is to throw some ice down a deep hole to see what it sounds like. And that’s what we did.’

Dr Neff explains that the distorted sound heard as the ice falls is a bizarre change in pitch, which is the Doppler effect. 

As the ice core fell, an unnerving variety of laser-like pinging sounds and an unusual 'heartbeat'  was created as it crashed to the bottom of the hole

As the ice core fell, an unnerving variety of laser-like pinging sounds and an unusual ‘heartbeat’  was created as it crashed to the bottom of the hole

Dr Neff, talking in a video taken by the University of Washington, revealed the ice cores were drilled at Law Dome in Antarctica

Dr Neff, talking in a video taken by the University of Washington, revealed the ice cores were drilled at Law Dome in Antarctica

This is a well-understood physical phenomenon, which is also seen in astrophysics as the universe expands and creates ‘redshifting’, but is more commonly seen in sirens. 

For example, when a blaring ambulance or police car shoots past with its sirens on, they seem high pitched as they approach you and then lower pitched as they speed past. 

This is due to the compression of sound waves as they come closer, and they then stretch out as they grow more distant. 

A stretched-out sound wave has a greater wavelength, and therefore a lower frequency, resulting in a decreasing pitch.    

This creates the unusual distorted sound. But the laser-like noises at the end of the video are created by the ice hitting the bottom of the hole. 

Dr Neff explains: ‘When the ice hits the bottom of the borehole, the sound doesn’t only come straight up. 

‘The soundwaves start to bounce of the side of the hole.’ 

This bouncing affect off the walls of the borehole is also responsible for the soft heartbeat sound created at the end. 



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