After repeatedly failing to find a room on the campus of Carnegie Mellon that is silent enough to record our podcast in, we asked ourselves this question. Because every little sound messing up our pristine recording—the spinning of computer fans, the constancy of indoor climate control, the buzz of traffic filtering in from outside—seemed to be a product of the modern age.
Was the world a more silent place 100 years ago? We pursue the answer by talking with an author who wrote a book about trying to find silence in, of all places, Manhattan. Along the way we encounter the world’s quietest place, a rare condition where everyday sounds can cause anxiety and even madness, and ask the bigger question: “what IS sound?” Because we didn’t really know.
John Steinbeck wrote brilliantly about America and the minds that inhabit this country:
“Time interval is a strange and contradictory matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy – that’s the time that seems long in the memory.” – East of Eden
But the man was no geologist. Geologic time can be “splashed with interest”—look no further than earthquakes or volcanic explosions—but those colorful blips of violence don’t steal the show in geology like they do in memory. “Routine time” is where the action is at—you just have to look closely. And for a long, long time.
In this episode we ask: where is highest point on land in the city of Pittsburgh? In answering, we uncover the events that give our city both its unique topography, as well as the “gold mine” beneath our feet—-the Marcellus Shale. To help us, we talk to Professors Charles Jones and Brian Stewart of the Department of Geology & Planetary Science, as well as Mike Homa, GIS Manager for the City of Pittsburgh. They help us find the highest point, and teach us how “eventlessness” in geology is not eventless at all.