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Science 'quacks' urban duck myth

Daisy takes to the microphone
Daisy takes to the microphone

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LONDON, England -- A British study has debunked an urban myth -- that a duck's quack does not echo.

A farmyard duck called Daisy was at the center of the acoustic research, carried out at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester, north-west England.

Acoustic expert Trevor Cox tested the popular myth -- often the subject of television quiz shows and Internet chat rooms -- by first recording Daisy's quack in a special chamber with jagged surfaces that produces no sound reflections.

She was then moved to a reverberation chamber with cathedral-like acoustics before the data was used to create simulations of Daisy performing at the Royal Albert Hall and quacking as she flew past a cliff face.

The tests revealed that a duck's quack definitely echoes, just like any other sound, but perhaps not as noticeably.

"A duck quacks rather quietly, so the sound coming back is at a low level and might not be heard," Cox told the UK Press Association.

"Also, a quack is a fading sound. It has a gradual decay, so it's hard to tell the difference between the actual quack and the echo. That's especially true if you haven't previously heard what it sounds like with no reflections."

He said ducks were normally found in open-water areas and didn't usually congregate around echoey cliffs, which may have fueled the theory that their quacks don't produce an echo.

"You get a bit of reverberation -- it's distinctly echoey," Cox said.

The research was being discussed Monday at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Salford.


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