A video of scientists dropping ice into a really deep hole has gone viral because of the wobbly cartoon-spaceship sound the falling ice makes.
Researchers in Antarctica have been working hard to find the answer to a critical question that will help us create more effective predictive climate models, and the science behind the mission is absolutely fascinating. But these researchers also took a little “chill” here and there to throw bricks of ice in super deep holes in the ground.
Thanks to isotope geochemist John Andrew Higgins on Twitter, you too can experience this weird joy
What does a 9 inch ice core sound like when dropped down a 450 foot hole? Like this! Credit to @peter_neff for the idea and @Scripps_Polar, @sciencejenna, @GeosciencesPU, @US_IceDrilling, and @paleosurface for the execution! pic.twitter.com/pW7LxKdbUB— John Andrew Higgins (@blueicehiggins) February 7, 2020
It sounds so strange, doesn’t it?
We have an answer to that thanks to Peter Neff, the glaciologist who started the trend to throw ice into very long boreholes and record the result.
Back in 2018, Neff recorded a piece of ice falling down a 90-metre (295-foot) bore hole, and that video went viral – amassing 10 million views on Twitter alone.
Neff says their research team in Antarctica pulls out ice cores “that can be up to 800,000 years old” in order “to draw out ancient air” trapped in the ice. From this, scientists can measure air quality and changes over time. In the video, Neff compares it to tree rings.
But once the research is complete, the team has perfectly cylindrical deep holes that descend to 450 feet, as well as almost all of the ice it just removed in pieces of different sizes.
“The logical human thing to do is throw some ice down a deep hole,” Neff explains in the video.
“The first thing you hear as the ice is falling is the pitch of the sound changing,” Neff explains in the video. “That’s the Doppler effect. Then when the ice hits the bottom of the bore hole, the sound doesn’t only come straight up—the sound waves start to bounce off the sides of the hole. That’s why you hear this plink! with sort of a heartbeat sound afterwards.”
In his follow-up video, Neff shares a clip from a Japanese news show where he was interviewed about the viral video. The Japanese show had a perfect illustration of the Doppler effect in play.