"If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

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"If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#1  Postby inkaStepa » Jul 15, 2010 3:19 am

My teacher posd the question "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

First I said "if it's in the middle of the forest something is bound to hear it fall." He said "don't get technical" so I said"well yes it would make a sound" he corrected me and said "no it wouldn't because no one is around to HEAR it." I'm still confused but didn't want to embarrass myself anymore. Wouldn't the sound of the tree falling still exist? Thanks.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#2  Postby MoonLit » Jul 15, 2010 3:34 am

inkaStepa wrote:My teacher posd the question "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

First I said "if it's in the middle of the forest something is bound to hear it fall." He said "don't get technical" so I said"well yes it would make a sound" he corrected me and said "no it wouldn't because no one is around to HEAR it." I'm still confused but didn't want to embarrass myself anymore. Wouldn't the sound of the tree falling still exist? Thanks.


Ask him if he's referring to just humans. Clearly if it's a forest, there are other animals that would be within range to hear it. And so yes, someone WOULD be around to hear it. It just may not be a human.

Now how about if he's just referring to humans? Just because there's no human around does not mean it made no sound. :grin:
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#3  Postby Goldenmane » Jul 15, 2010 3:35 am

It's a dumb question dressed up as wisdom.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#4  Postby Ash » Jul 15, 2010 3:44 am

dictionary.com wrote:
Sound:
1. the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
2. mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 ft. (331 m) per second at sea level.


Depends on what definition you pick. So the answer is both yes and no!

At least that's how I always answered the question, and it always shut up the smartarse that asked it.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#5  Postby Steve » Jul 15, 2010 3:50 am

Ash wrote:
dictionary.com wrote:
Sound:
1. the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium.
2. mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 ft. (331 m) per second at sea level.


Depends on what definition you pick. So the answer is both yes and no!

At least that's how I always answered the question, and it always shut up the smartarse that asked it.

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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#6  Postby HughMcB » Jul 15, 2010 4:20 am

inkaStepa wrote:My teacher posd the question "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

First I said "if it's in the middle of the forest something is bound to hear it fall." He said "don't get technical" so I said"well yes it would make a sound" he corrected me and said "no it wouldn't because no one is around to HEAR it." I'm still confused but didn't want to embarrass myself anymore. Wouldn't the sound of the tree falling still exist? Thanks.

If he said no he's a moron then. The tree still produces sound waves as the kinetic energy disperses.

If it doesn't make a sound it either a) is in a vacuum or b) goes against the laws of physics.

I repeat, he's a moron (you can quote me on that).
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#7  Postby Thommo » Jul 15, 2010 4:28 am

I thought this was a zen question connected to knowledge and what we can know - and one that was probably a bit more effective before modern knowledge of sound was available to respondents.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#8  Postby Goldenmane » Jul 15, 2010 4:31 am

HughMcB wrote:
inkaStepa wrote:My teacher posd the question "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

First I said "if it's in the middle of the forest something is bound to hear it fall." He said "don't get technical" so I said"well yes it would make a sound" he corrected me and said "no it wouldn't because no one is around to HEAR it." I'm still confused but didn't want to embarrass myself anymore. Wouldn't the sound of the tree falling still exist? Thanks.

If he said no he's a moron then. The tree still produces sound waves as the kinetic energy disperses.

If it doesn't make a sound it either a) is in a vacuum or b) goes against the laws of physics.

I repeat, he's a moron (you can quote me on that).


The whole idea seems to be some poorly-understood version of "shit doesn't happen unless it's observed", which is closely tied up in the popular imagination with a misunderstanding of quantum probabilities and Schrodinger's cat.

It's meant to demonstrate that the person asking the question is extremely clever (because they can ponder superficially-impressive but ultimately pointless bullshit ideas). What it does is show them up as arsehats.

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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#9  Postby br0k3nglass » Jul 15, 2010 4:36 am

Isn't the question a bit like asking "if there's no one around to see the ball, does it still look red?"

The electromagnetic waves would still be flying around, but without someone to experience them as what we think of as the color red, I would answer no.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#10  Postby inkaStepa » Jul 15, 2010 4:40 am

So while the waves are there unless someone is present, the waves alone aren't able to make a sound? If this is true, then implying that a tree could "make" a sound would be wrong to begin with wouldn't it?

Yea I wasn't sure where to post this sorry!

I find myself always refuting things he says because it doesn't always make sense. Another one he said in class today was "say I'm doing a study to try and limit the amount of time the disability button is pressed to open the doors in order to conserve energy for the school. I would first observe how many people without a physical disability opened the door via the button." I said "how would you know if they were disabled?" He says "well it's physical" so I said "No, you can't always tell. They could have metal screws in their arm and you'd never know" and he says "no what-if's that doesn't get us anywhere" so I'm like what???

I need a topic for my research paper: it's general psych any ideas would be GREAT.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#11  Postby Mr.Samsa » Jul 15, 2010 4:45 am

HughMcB wrote:
inkaStepa wrote:My teacher posd the question "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?"

First I said "if it's in the middle of the forest something is bound to hear it fall." He said "don't get technical" so I said"well yes it would make a sound" he corrected me and said "no it wouldn't because no one is around to HEAR it." I'm still confused but didn't want to embarrass myself anymore. Wouldn't the sound of the tree falling still exist? Thanks.

If he said no he's a moron then. The tree still produces sound waves as the kinetic energy disperses.

If it doesn't make a sound it either a) is in a vacuum or b) goes against the laws of physics.

I repeat, he's a moron (you can quote me on that).


It depends on how you define "sound". If we want to be pedantic about it, sound necessarily requires a 'hearing' thing in order to be classed as sound - however, setting up the thought experiment in this way is still moronic as it relies on semantic ambiguity, rather than demonstrating some interesting quirk of reality. In other words, if a tree falls in a forest it would still create a travelling wave which is what living organisms perceive as sound. It's similar to the situation where someone says, "how many legs does a dog have If we call a tail a leg?" and then, presumably, you say "five" only to be corrected because "Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg".

It attempts to use a confusion of category ("what constitutes a sound") to make a counterintuitive, and incorrect, claim about the "real" world ("it doesn't fit in the category of sound, therefore nothing happens - the falling of the tree is silent"). And it doesn't work that way. Concluding that the tree does not make a "sound" because nobody is there to hear it is doubly ridiculous when you use the same logic against the question. If there is nobody around to hear it, then presumably there is nobody there to see it either, so the tree and the forest don't exist, which means it can't fall nor make a sound. Also, when I sleep at night the entire universe disappears until I wake up again.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#12  Postby br0k3nglass » Jul 15, 2010 4:49 am

inkaStepa wrote:So while the waves are there unless someone is present, the waves alone aren't able to make a sound? If this is true, then implying that a tree could "make" a sound would be wrong to begin with wouldn't it?

A falling tree makes sound waves. The sound waves aren't sound, i.e. the subjective phenomenon of sound that is experienced by observers. As mentioned above, it depends on whether you're talking about the phenomenon of sound or the physical nature of sound waves through the air. As the question is usually intended to refer to the phenomenon of sound, I answer no.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#13  Postby xrayzed » Jul 15, 2010 4:52 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:...Concluding that the tree does not make a "sound" because nobody is there to hear it is doubly ridiculous when you use the same logic against the question. If there is nobody around to hear it, then presumably there is nobody there to see it either, so the tree and the forest don't exist, which means it can't fall nor make a sound. Also, when I sleep at night the entire universe disappears until I wake up again.

Fortunately there is always somebody else who stays awake to keep it going.

But imagine what would happen if we all fell asleep at the same time. :awe:
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#14  Postby Mr.Samsa » Jul 15, 2010 4:54 am

xrayzed wrote:Fortunately there is somebody else who stays awake to keep it going.


Nice try, figment of my imagination, but you disappear when I sleep too. :grin:
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#15  Postby hotshoe » Jul 15, 2010 5:00 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:
xrayzed wrote:Fortunately there is somebody else who stays awake to keep it going.


Nice try, figment of my imagination, but you disappear when I sleep too. :grin:

:shock: 8-) :lol:
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#16  Postby br0k3nglass » Jul 15, 2010 5:00 am

I love that B.F. Skinner quote.

Also: whenever I fall asleep, aliens use their teletransporter on me to create a duplicate and destroy the previous version. :smile:
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#17  Postby xrayzed » Jul 15, 2010 5:36 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:
xrayzed wrote:Fortunately there is somebody else who stays awake to keep it going.


Nice try, figment of my imagination, but you disappear when I sleep too. :grin:

Your universe that contains me disappears, but my universe that contains you keeps going.

When I fall asleep my universe that contains you disappears, while your universe that contains me keeps going.

So it's sort of like juggling, but with realities. It's quite simple if your prepared to make shit up as you go along.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#18  Postby Weaver » Jul 15, 2010 5:42 am

It's definately a navel-gazing, Zen, philosophy question - ignore the laws of physics to get to a "deeper truth".

Personally, my favorite version of this is "If a man speaks in the woods, and no woman is around to hear him, is he still wrong?"

For some reason, my wife thinks it's a joke ... ;)
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#19  Postby HughMcB » Jul 15, 2010 5:47 am

br0k3nglass wrote:Isn't the question a bit like asking "if there's no one around to see the ball, does it still look red?"

The electromagnetic waves would still be flying around, but without someone to experience them as what we think of as the color red, I would answer no.

Actually I don't agree with this analogy. Red is to light what pitch is to sound. Pitch actually is subjective on the aural system of the observer whereas the fact that sound is present is not, regardless of whether they detect it.

The same can be said for red, as the detection of the colour itself is dependent on the optic system whereas the presence of the electromagnetic waves are not. Anwhoo, just my two cents.
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Re: "If a tree falls" joke?? What is the answer?

#20  Postby Mr.Samsa » Jul 15, 2010 5:54 am

xrayzed wrote:
Your universe that contains me disappears, but my universe that contains you keeps going.

When I fall asleep my universe that contains you disappears, while your universe that contains me keeps going.

So it's sort of like juggling, but with realities. It's quite simple if your prepared to make shit up as you go along.


All this solipsist talk makes my head hurt.. Or does it make you make my head hurt?.. :scratch:

Anyway, the "if the tree falls" experiment reminds me of this:

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