Radio 4 launches voice experiment
Published: 11th May 2012 14:34:22
A 69-year-old professional artist from Leeds has devised an experiment to find out if people who look the same also sound the same.
During his career, William Rudling became fascinated by the way the shape of our face affected our speech.
Mr Rudling is a finalist in So You Want to Be a Scientist?, BBC Radio 4's search for the UK's best amateur researcher.
He has been selected as one of four finalists by a panel of judges.
"Over the years, I've noticed that people with similar facial features will have a matching intonation in the sound of their voice," he explained.
"Dame Judi Dench and Samantha Bond both have similar bone structure and facial features. Close your eyes and listen, then you'll see what I mean."
"Does this mean the bone structure of the skull and muscle tissue influences the vocal cord? More akin to a musical instrument perhaps?"
He sent his idea to Material World on Radio 4, after they re-launched their hunt for the BBC's Amateur Scientist of the Year.
A panel of judges, chaired by Sir Paul Nurse, selected William's idea from more than 1,000 applications sent in to So You Want to Be a Scientist?
Now Mr Rudling is one of four finalists turning their idea into a real experiment, with the help of a professional scientist.
According to William's mentor, Dr Paul Cater, a phonetician from Leeds University, nobody knows the extent to which our facial features influence our voice. Together, they have developed an online experiment to test Mr Rudling's theory.
"It's an interesting idea to see if there is a strong correlation between what we see on the outside and what's on the inside," said Dr Carter.
"Just as we have different facial features externally, that will affect the internal shape of our heads - which will have some impact on the way we sound."
Our voices can be divided into two parts; the source and the filter. The source is a vibration in the vocal folds in the larynx that produces a buzzing sound.
The filter is what we use to shape the sound that comes out and involves the vocal tract - our throat, mouth and nose.
By moving our jaw, tongue and mouth we can change the size and shape of the filter, altering the speech we produce.
However, one complicating factor in this research is the degree to which speech is a learnt and changeable behaviour.
For example, everyone speaks with an accent and there is also evidence to suggest we change the way we speak to mimic people that we admire. Plus, the pitch of our voice changes as we get older - female voices generally become lower whilst male voices grow higher.
To remove as many of these variables as possible, the online test features young volunteers aged 18-25 from the same area, Yorkshire.
Visitors to the website are asked to compare the shape of people's faces, ignoring factors such as eye, hair or skin colour. Then they listen to a clip of a person speaking and need to decide which person the voice belongs to.
After gathering and analysing the data, William will present his results at Cheltenham Science Festival on 16 June, where a winner will be chosen as the next BBC Amateur Scientist of the Year.
Hear more about the experiment, and the other finalists in So You Want to Be a Scientist, on the Material World podcast
At 22:00:20 in PoliticsThe zero-hours contract - alongside the payday loan and the bad bank - has gained a kind of totemic significance in the public imagination.
At 22:00:03 in ScotlandScottish independence would leave working people north and south of the border worse off, Ed Miliband has claimed.
At 21:50:40 in BusinessInternet retailer Amazon reported a 32% jump in profits to $108m (£64m) in the first quarter of 2014.
At 21:48:30 in EnglandPolice have carried out a series of raids in east London, following a BBC London investigation into shops willing to deal in stolen smartphones.
At 21:47:39 in BusinessMicrosoft reported net profit of $5.66bn (£3.37bn) in the first quarter, a decline from the same period last year but better than market estimates.
At 21:45:57 in SportGreat Britain beat the Netherlands 4-3 in their latest World Championship Division 1 Group B outing in Vilnius.
At 21:34:40 in SportThe Scottish Professional Football League will look into allegations that a Kilmarnock player's signature was forged on a contract.
At 21:11:26 in EnglandA farmer accused of manslaughter after a walker was killed by his bull has denied that the animal was aggressive.
At 21:09:55 in SportJurgen Klopp has ruled himself out of contention to become the next manager of Manchester United.
At 20:52:56 in WalesA 15 year-old girl has been cut free after becoming trapped in a children's swing in a park in Denbighshire.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Radio 4 launches voice experiment [Online] (Updated 11th May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1428009/Radio-4-launches-voice-experiment [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Internet retailer Amazon reported a 32% jump in profits to $108m (£64m) in the first quarter of 2014.
A 15 year-old girl has been cut free after becoming trapped in a children's swing in a park in Denbighshire.
Director Peter Jackson has changed the title of the final film in his Hobbit trilogy from There and Back Again to The Battle of the Five Armies.
Police have carried out a series of raids in east London, following a BBC London investigation into shops willing to deal in stolen smartphones.
Scottish independence would leave working people north and south of the border worse off, Ed Miliband has claimed.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com