Why does a lake of ice cracking sound like laser beams shooting “Pew Pews”??


Why does a lake of ice cracking sound like laser beams shooting “Pew Pews”??

In: Earth Science

The way something sounds is determined by the way it vibrates. and when you have big chunks of ice like that, they don’t have much room to vibrate so they vibrate in high frequencies that sound a little bit like stereotypical laser sounds.

Well the reason the ice cracks is to relieve the pressure under the ice. The laser sounds come from the long cracks in the ice causing a certain vibration to continue carrying on through the un-cracked ice around it. If the ice doesn’t do these small cracks throughout the day, the pressure builds up and eventually causes an ice heave which is a massive crack that can cause like 7 foot mountains of ice across the lake

Because we decided that in sci-fi movies, shooting lasers sounds like that.

Not the other way around. A laser beam does not make any noise, most certainly not the pew-pew kind.

It’s entirely possible that back in the ’60s when sound designers were looking for something to record to use as a laser beam sound, they ended up recording the sound of some ice cracking.

I read an interview a while back with the sound designer on the movie *Miles Ahead* (okay movie; great sound design) where he talked about the difficulties that arise when you try to make things sound “authentic”. He looked for some old ’70s tape decks to record sound effects for scenes with Miles in the studio, but when he found them they sounded so much like a sci-fi battle scene (“probably because the sounds in Battlestar Galactica *were* tape decks”) that using them in the movie would have ruined the atmosphere.

High frequencies travel faster than low frequencies. This is more noticeable in a solid like ice or metal as opposed to air. So when it cracks, the high frequencies reach your ear first, then the mids, then the lows. It happens smoothly and quickly, hence the “pew pew” laser sound

It is because high frequency sound travels faster in a medium like ice than the lower frequencies. The overall effect is that you hear the highest frequencies first and the lowest last. That ends up being a sweep from high to low making the pew-pew sound we all associate with lasers guns now!

Kyle Hill (formerly of Because Science, now kicking ass on his own with his own channel) did [a video about it here!](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRnCS-HE9z8)

Because the pew pew special effects noises are just recordings of cracking ice or twanging steel cables under tension. A lot of scifi effects noises come from everyday objects.