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Thread: Talking on Venus - how loud?

  1. #1
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    Talking on Venus - how loud?

    Here's the scenario:

    You and I are standing on the surface of Venus; in my fictional world our Powersuits protect us from the horrible atmosphere. We want to speak together without the rest of our crew listening in so we turn off our radios.

    Now - it's perfectly common to know that if two people are standing together on land, they can hear each other easily. If the same two people are underwater and have the right equipment, they can still talk easily; the sound travels outside their helmets and is easily carried to the other by the dense water.

    Venus' atmosphere is 92 times denser than Earth's; far, far denser than anything that could ever be experienced on Earth. We are standing on the surface, talking. My question is how difficult would talking be on Venus; without radio and just speaking through our helmets?

    My belief is that it would be every bit as easy as casually chatting on Earth - the intense heavy carbon dioxide would be an excellent sound medium better than Earth's air.

    I'm asking because in my book two of my characters do exactly that - turn their radios off and talk without the rest of the crew able to hear. I suspect they would be able to do so easily given the heavy atmosphere; they wouldn't need to touch helmets or anything. I'm just asking - obviously - so that I can verify that belief with you. Would you and I, standing on the surface of Venus, be able to talk easily and clearly through our helmets without the radio?

    Thanks.
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    I suspect it wouldn't work. Their helmets would accentuate specific resonances from their voices, and the sound would tend to reflect from the changes in density between air and helmet, helmet and atmosphere, atmosphere and helmet, helmet and air. What would reach the ear would be strongly muffled and selectively filtered. Like two people talking with metal buckets over their heads.

    Grant Hutchison

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    I had assumed they were talking with helmets in contact, which would be far less muffled.

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    Oh rats - well, that's disappointing; I forgot about refraction didn't I? I was hoping the atmosphere would be dense enough to let the sound waves travel but I guess not...

    My quandary now is to figure a way to adjust it (there are three instances where this happens in the book and only one would allow for touching helmets) or just ignore it and hope it doesn't get flagged by readers. Given the number of problems I have to solve it's probably going to be the latter lol.
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    External microphone and speaker? Might have to gloss over why the suits have them, although an ability to hear noises from outside the suit would be useful for situational awareness anywhere with an atmosphere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaula View Post
    External microphone and speaker? Might have to gloss over why the suits have them, although an ability to hear noises from outside the suit would be useful for situational awareness anywhere with an atmosphere.
    Chuckle - as usual, the simplest answers are the best. You're right; that's the best way. As for why a Suit would have them, it would be exactly the same reason that aircraft headsets are voice-activated intercom and press-to-talk for radio - ease of communication.

    As Grant pointed out above, even if refraction didn't make talking likely impossible people would sound like they had they had jugs on their heads* so in the book, whenever miners (and Kylie) are on the surface and speaking to one another they would be on voice-activated external speakers and mics. If they're speaking long-range they're on radio - an easy fix for the problem; all I have to do is add a line to Crew's briefing so thank you to all!

    *The thought got me giggling - it had me thinking of this!
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2017-Aug-03 at 10:52 AM.
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    Why would the mining company permit employees to talk privately? They might do something horrid like organize and protest pay and working conditions. Maybe so they think they have privacy?

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    there's always two plastic cups, and a piece of string.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frog march View Post
    there's always two plastic cups, and a piece of string.
    What? Stealing company property? Immediate firing and expulsion from company property.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    Chuckle - as usual, the simplest answers are the best. You're right; that's the best way. As for why a Suit would have them, it would be exactly the same reason that aircraft headsets are voice-activated intercom and press-to-talk for radio - ease of communication.

    As Grant pointed out above, even if refraction didn't make talking likely impossible people would sound like they had they had jugs on their heads* so in the book, whenever miners (and Kylie) are on the surface and speaking to one another they would be on voice-activated external speakers and mics. If they're speaking long-range they're on radio - an easy fix for the problem; all I have to do is add a line to Crew's briefing so thank you to all!

    *The thought got me giggling - it had me thinking of this!
    Or you can not over think this and you can do what we did on the flightdeck. Just put your helmets together and speak normally, let bone induction do the rest. I've seen groups of three or four people talking that way.

    It works REALLY well. Honest. Perfect if you want to be sneaky and not broadcast *radio* signals, which go clear to the horizon and beyond to a sensitive enough receiver.

    Also...does Venus have a dirt analog? Okay, how about fingers on the survival suits? One can write in the dirt with your finger if helmet to helmet communication won't work. (Perhaps your proprietary suit material won't allow for it, for instance.)

    High tech problems don't *require* high tech solutions. (Well, in entertainment stories at least.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    Or you can not over think this and you can do what we did on the flightdeck. Just put your helmets together and speak normally, let bone induction do the rest. I've seen groups of three or four people talking that way.

    It works REALLY well. Honest. Perfect if you want to be sneaky and not broadcast *radio* signals, which go clear to the horizon and beyond to a sensitive enough receiver.

    Also...does Venus have a dirt analog? Okay, how about fingers on the survival suits? One can write in the dirt with your finger if helmet to helmet communication won't work. (Perhaps your proprietary suit material won't allow for it, for instance.)

    High tech problems don't *require* high tech solutions. (Well, in entertainment stories at least.)
    Good ideas, but they wouldn't work for a variety of reasons. The first is that as said above out of the three - well; four but two are connected by events - times when people speak off the radio, only one is when they're in a position to touch helmets. The second is that there's no need for such secrecy*. The mine crew operates as an independent contracted entity; there are no overseers. There was a Company man who was their Lead Hand; but he was a good guy and he's now currently dead. Anyone important stays well away from the surface under normal events.

    *That said; there are two miners that are harbouring a secret from the cop (the protagonist) and could easily be seen to be touching helmets for a moment when they think she can't see them... I like it!

    Cheers!
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2017-Aug-03 at 09:23 PM.
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    Dag nabbit Devo, now my brain is stuck wondering about dust producing activities on Venus and how they would differ than on Earth.

    (The mining bit.)

    Could you produce (rock) dust on Venus? Are would it become fog?
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    I'm asking because in my book two of my characters do exactly that - turn their radios off and talk without the rest of the crew able to hear.
    I wondered about is when I read it. Threw me for a loop.

    Despite Venus' atmo, even here on Earth, if you were wearing a full spacesuit, including helmet, voices would be so distorted you wouldn't be able to make them out.
    (It would sound almost as incomprehensible as a drive-thru order taker at Timmie's.)

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    The external speaker system solution, while not perfect, works a bit better. I suppose a smart system that allows one to select a secure comm channel to someone in proximity could work, but you'd have to devote some page space explaining it (not in detail).

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    I wondered about is when I read it. Threw me for a loop.

    Despite Venus' atmo, even here on Earth, if you were wearing a full spacesuit, including helmet, voices would be so distorted you wouldn't be able to make them out.
    (It would sound almost as incomprehensible as a drive-thru order taker at Timmie's.)
    No need to be cruel - the miners may be garbled but can at least add up to six...unlike the drive-thru order takers at Timmie's.
    Anyhoo I've gone with the speaker - in this case I don't need a good system; just a decent excuse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    No need to be cruel - the miners may be garbled but can at least add up to six...unlike the drive-thru order takers at Timmie's.
    Anyhoo I've gone with the speaker - in this case I don't need a good system; just a decent excuse.
    If you are technologically advanced enough to be mining on Venus then you surely have the technology to build a comm system that can process the signals picked up by the suits' external mic(s) into something close to what the human ear would hear in normal conditions (shirt sleeves at 1 atm)? Temperature, pressure and chemical composition sensors on the suit could provide the communication system's computer with the data necessary so that the system is adaptive to any, or at least a wide range of, conditions. Or you could do it without the sensors and just have the system be pre-programmed to work in Venusian conditions.

    One thing I'm not sure makes sense though is why a speaker and mic comm system for talking through atmosphere would be beneficial or convenient if you already have suit to suit radio capability.

    On further thought it would be convenient, very even, to be able to hear what's going on around you so a suit mic system at least makes good sense.
    Last edited by Darrell; 2017-Aug-10 at 03:43 PM. Reason: Add a thought.

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    The kludge is for Kylie to say something that not everyone will hear, or that she thinks is inaudible to everyone. Or so she can more selectively communicate and hear environmental sounds more directly.

    CJSF
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    It's more like a question
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    And when a theory emerges
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    The proof is with science
    The truth is with science"
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    Perhaps you could avoid all of those "technical issues" and resort to something really low-tech.

    Sign language?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crawtator View Post
    Perhaps you could avoid all of those "technical issues" and resort to something really low-tech.

    Sign language?
    Or, quite likely, spacesuits would have a scratchpad and stylus so they could write messages to each other even if their radios fail. (Scuba divers have them.)
    That would be a safety issue, so would be accepted by the corp.

    It wouldn't be too hard to arrange it so that only the target could read it.
    The downside of course, is that it would be quite obvious to anyone else that one is intending to communicate a secret message.

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    Thanks folks. In regards to low-tech, the miners do use simple procedures other than the radio: they use their Screamers to send long-range messages in Morse; an obvious use for such a device. As for the rest, I get the idea of sign language and slates, but the requirements of a novel make easier communication essential - a speaker arrangement is good enough to explain the characters talking with the radio off.

    Though I should say that in "Feet of Clay" Sir Terry managed to make written communication - in his case by the Golems - not only interesting but exciting and a beautifully-integrated plot device. But then, Sir Terry was unique; I couldn't possibly match that level of writing expertise...
    ........
    .......
    ......
    .....
    ....
    ...

    yet.

    Cheers!
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2017-Aug-13 at 12:25 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    Dag nabbit Devo, now my brain is stuck wondering about dust producing activities on Venus and how they would differ than on Earth.

    (The mining bit.)

    Could you produce (rock) dust on Venus? Are would it become fog?
    While I don't have the scientific background to give an educated answer, I would guess that rock dust would remain just that: Rock dust. That is how I portrayed it in the novel; and for this reason:

    The natural surface of the planet is stable in regards to the atmosphere; if there was any reaction that could happen between atmosphere and lithosphere, it would have happened long ago. Therefore if a mining drone cuts the rock and creates dust, the dust is still the same material and will remain stable in the atmosphere. IOW it would react similarly to dust stirred up on the ocean floor - it would cloud the issue, muck things up, get everywhere but would not chemically change in any way.

    Just a guess but it seems reasonable.

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    Maybe in an environment where sonic communication is difficult its become more commonplace for people to learn sign language and or lip reading ?

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    Light Helium gas vibrating over a man's vocal chords make him sound like a soprano.

    Venus' heavy carbon dioxide gas may be too dense for the vocal chords to be able to vibrate at all, in the 10 seconds of consciousness he would have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Light Helium gas vibrating over a man's vocal chords make him sound like a soprano.

    Venus' heavy carbon dioxide gas may be too dense for the vocal chords to be able to vibrate at all, in the 10 seconds of consciousness he would have.
    Vocal cords (note spelling) would vibrate just fine. That's not how the voice frequency change works - the speed of sound changes when the mean molecular mass of the breathing gas changes, and that produces a different resonant frequency in the airways, which picks out different resonant frequencies from the fundamental frequencies generated by the vocal cords, which are vibrating at exactly the same speed as usual.

    And notice that nowhere in this thread is anyone proposing to breathe the atmosphere of Venus, for obvious reasons.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Vocal cords (note spelling) would vibrate just fine.
    I guess a vocal chord is when one guy sings C, another guy Eb, and the third guy a G (just Cm as an example, no particular reason to have chosen it).
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    Quote Originally Posted by wd40 View Post
    Light Helium gas vibrating over a man's vocal chords make him sound like a soprano.

    Venus' heavy carbon dioxide gas may be too dense for the vocal chords to be able to vibrate at all, in the 10 seconds of consciousness he would have.
    I think 10 seconds is likely horribly optimistic; if such can be applied to what would be happening at the moment. I overcooked what happens to a body exposed to 93 pressures at 460 degrees (pun intended) a bit in the novel because - well, it's a novel; the consequences have to be made abundantly clear to the reader. Therefore when Paul's Suit fails and he's exposed to the atmosphere in reality if he had a fraction of a second of life I'd be surprised. (And even if he did the only communicating he'd be doing would be "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!" )
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    I was under the impression that he wasn't exposed to the atmosphere all at once, but that it "seeped" in - in this case a pretty fast seep, but not like a sudden deep water implosion or anything (see The Abyss, when Coffey bites it.. hard).

    But that's getting too much into your other thread.

    CJSF
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    And when a theory emerges
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    I was under the impression that he wasn't exposed to the atmosphere all at once, but that it "seeped" in - in this case a pretty fast seep, but not like a sudden deep water implosion or anything (see The Abyss, when Coffey bites it.. hard).

    But that's getting too much into your other thread.

    CJSF
    At 93 pressures it would be almost instantaneous; even through a pinhole. I left that detail - how fast the atmosphere entered - a bit vague for exactly that reason.
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

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