A GIF is a silent loop of an extremely short bit of film. It doesn’t make any noise.
However, an animated image, created 10 years ago by HappyToast, has been making rounds on Twitter. In this GIF three towers can be seen playing jump rope — the power lines spin around as the middle tower jumps over them. Each time the mid-tower lands, the entire image shakes.
The interesting part is that though the image is silent, many people report hearing a loud boom each time the legs of the tower land on the ground.
The GIF was tweeted out on Dec. 2 by Lisa DeBruine, a neuroscientist at the University of Glasgow. In a follow-up tweet, DeBruine added a poll asking her followers what they could hear.
Does anyone in visual perception know why you can hear this gif? pic.twitter.com/mcT22Lzfkp
— 𝙻𝚒𝚜𝚊 𝙳𝚎𝙱𝚛𝚞𝚒𝚗𝚎 🏳️🌈 (@lisadebruine) December 2, 2017
What do you experience when you watch this gif?Advertisement
— 𝙻𝚒𝚜𝚊 𝙳𝚎𝙱𝚛𝚞𝚒𝚗𝚎 🏳️🌈 (@lisadebruine) December 3, 2017
The mystery behind the sound has baffled many.
According to experts, the phenomenon could be because of synesthesia. The condition causes different senses to be “mixed.” For example, a person with synesthesia may taste sounds or hear colors. But another form of synesthesia, “hearing-motion” synesthesia, could explain “hearing” the GIF.
As per James Simmons, a neuroscientist at Brown University who studies bat echolocation, the GIF is causing “cross-modality cognitive effect,” which means that people’s brains are internally combining vision with the perception of sound.
There are numerous movements that we automatically associate with accompanying noises. If someone drops a plate we expect to hear a smash.
Answering the question once and for all, the GIF’s creator confirmed that it is entirely to do with the apparent movement of the screen.
The thump is almost entirely in the shake, if you crop out the pylons themselves you can still hear it. They just give it height. pic.twitter.com/3LZK1g24yZ
— HappyToast ★ (@IamHappyToast) December 4, 2017