Mini-Stories: Volume 15

The whole conceit of this show is that if look at the world in the right way, you’ll see stories everywhere. Some of the stories are epic power struggles chronicling the construction of a famous skyscraper or the founding of a city; but other stories are more modest, smaller in scope and scale. We call those mini-stories and they’re part of an ongoing, end-of-the-year tradition in which 99pi producers and friends of the show talk to host Roman Mars about something cool and fun that you can tell your friends or family about during a holiday get together.

Resounding Cities with Leigh Marz

One way to get a sense of the ambient baseline noisiness of a city is to measure changes in emergency sirens. After all, for a siren to work, it has to cut through the noisiest sounds around it. Leigh Marz, Roman’s sister, wrote a book titled Golden in which she explores this phenomena and other virtues of silence in an increasingly noisy world. In 1912, sirens were reaching 96 decibels at a 100 foot distance; by 1973, that number had climbed to 114; now it’s around 123 decibels. That might sound like a big increase, but that’s on a logarithmic scale — effectively, sirens have become 6 times louder than a century ago, and by extension, so has the ambient sound of the industrialized city.

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