Hidden Science archive

Hidden Science was a mobile phone action – found within the Orange ‘Do Some Good’ app between April 2011-July 2012. Users were asked to submit their burning science questions via the app to have them answered directly by scientists, with all answers posted onto the Future Morph website.

Submitted questions had to related to one of the 16 different themes which included Space, Food, Sport, Medical Science, Earth Science, Computers & IT, Fashion & Textiles, and more!

It may come as a surprise to you, but scientists are involved in lots of areas of entertainment. From lighting designers and construction managers on a theatre set, to sound and electrical engineers at your favourite pop concert, and it doesn’t stop there. You don’t even need to leave your bedroom to see and hear the effects of their work on the television or radio! But is this an area that you are interested in and would like to make a living from? Do you have a technical mind and enjoy solving problems in order to create a real performance? Then look no further, your future career could be right here.

A selection of the questions submitted to the Entertainment & Culture theme are shown below. Have a read through some of them to find out about some of the areas in more detail and decide where your skills lie. Who knows, one day soon you could be making the magic happen behind the scenes for some of the biggest names in the industry.

1. How does 3D cinema work?
Generally, the 3D cinemas are ‘Stereoscopic’. The basic principle is to give each of your eyes the exact same information as if you were stood watching the filmed scene.
To do this, two cameras are used during filming, where the lenses are separated by approximately the same width as your eyes are. The two separate images are then overlaid onto the cinema screen which is why, without glasses, the image looks a bit weird. However, in order to present the correct images to the correct eyes (i.e. the ‘left’ image to the ‘left’ eye and the ‘right’ image to the ‘right’ eye), each image is shown using differently polarised light. The glasses you wear are filters which allow only one type of polarisation – one type for each eye. So when wearing the glasses, the left image can only be seen by your left eye, and the right image can only be seen by your right eye – just as if you had been stood where the camera was with your eyes where the lenses were. Your brain now thinks it is looking at an image with depth – i.e. with a third dimension and processes it accordingly. The result is that you and your brain think you are observing a 3-D scene.

2. How does an electric guitar work?
A microphone is placed near the strings of the guitar; although the sound they make when plucked is very faint, it is enough for the microphone to detect. The microphone feeds the signal to an amplifier which magnifies the signal, before it is fed to a speaker or mixing desk. Most often the amplifier/speaker are combined into one unit that the electric guitar plugs straight into.

3. What is the speed of sound?
It depends on the temperature, pressure and humidity of the air around you, but in standard conditions it is 341 metres per second.

4. Will using headphones damage my hearing?
They will do if the sound they produce is too loud. General practice should be to keep the music as quiet as you can without it becoming inaudible. The problem often faced is that background noise interferes with the sound the earphones are producing, so you turn up the volume to potentially damaging levels. Cars, trains and crowded areas are among the worst contenders. Some earphones contain special electronics which actively work to remove background noise – these will help keep the volume down.

5. How does music stored on an MP3 transfer through an output device to create sound?
MP3 is a format for storing digital audio – essentially the raw digital data has been compressed. When the music is played, the original raw digital data is extracted from the file (i.e. decompressed) and then put through a digital-to-analogue converter. The resulting analogue signal is put into headphones/speakers which convert the analogue electrical signal into an audible acoustic wave – which you can hear.