If a tree falls and there’s no one around to hear it, it does not make a sound

You that read wrong. You read that wrong too. How much that you sincerely believe is not actually true?

A large tree lying across a dirt road with a broken trunk in a forest.

Hah, you were anticipating the age old question, weren’t you? I’ll come back to this in a moment.

What is sound? Well, it’s easy, you say, it’s the vibrations of the air that is brought upon by the small pressure differences.

That, however, is not sound. That is just vibrations of air due to sudden changes in pressure. Tiny little hairs pick up those vibrations in your ear, encode it into signals your neurons can transmit, and your brain interprets them. That interpretation is what we call sound.

So no, if there’s no one around to interpret the pressure waves, there is no sound. A falling tree will still create the pressure waves, they just never end up being sounds.

And now for the thought leader–y question: what other shortcuts do you have memorized, associated, learned that, if you really thought about it, or gathered more info on it, would turn out to be not actually true? How much of what you read online you only read the first half of, because you know what the second half is going to be?

Photo by Joe Dudeck on Unsplash