Popularize research on acoustics, one sound at a time

This text is part of the special section Relève en recherche

Translating his research on acoustics into words and for a large audience is the challenge that Olivier Robin took to himself this year again by participating, for a third consecutive year, in the popular science competition of the University of Sherbrooke. . He achieved his goal with flying colors since his text on recoil alarms made him one of the winners of the competition. The opportunity for this young professor to communicate his passion for a discipline whose challenges are not always understood.

“Often people think that acoustics are all about music. But no, it affects many other areas. I did transport acoustics, but also ultrasound imaging in the medical sector and things in music, etc. It could also mean reducing noise from boats on the St. Lawrence, for example. It’s extremely varied and that’s what I like, ”explains this former research professional, who since September has become a professor at the Center for Acoustic-Signal-Human Research at the University of Sherbrooke.

His research can deal as well with noise at work or in the environment as with the vibration of structures or the measurement of vibrations using high-speed cameras. “I work in vibroacoustics, so I’m interested in what makes noise, what vibrates, as well as the relationships between these different areas,” says the researcher.

Broadly speaking, the objective of his work is to control noise well. “It is similar to that at the end of the day, because noise remains a significant pollution. We are now talking about noise pollution, it is not nothing! We have to tackle the problem head on, look for solutions and communicate about it, ”he said.

Find the right sounds

For his third participation in the popular science competition, Olivier Robin chose to present – with his colleague Louis Dermagne – one of his research, carried out jointly with the Robert-Sauvé Research Institute in Occupational Health and Safety (IRSST ) for one year. In a text spinning the metaphor of the sports match, the two teammates compared the traditional vehicle reversing alarm, the “beep-beep-beep” alarm, to another clearly less annoying, the so-called “pscht-pscht- alarm”. pscht ”.

The sound “beep-beep-beep” evokes the microwave oven that would not stop ringing where the “pscht-pscht-pscht” recalls the repeated sound of a can being opened. Thanks to these onomatopoeias that they have conscientiously chosen and to long-worked metaphors, the two colleagues have managed to transpose into simple, colorful and meaningful words for all what was at the base a scientific article. An illustration translating in a clear and colorful way the results of laboratory measurements – often difficult to read for a non-specialist audience – completed their text.

This is a fun and lively way of making research with very real and far from being devoid of importance accessible to a large audience. “For society, this means less annoyance and better awareness of the alarm when it comes to the news, which is called ‘pscht-pscht-pscht’. It could also reduce noise pollution while ensuring better prevention of accidents associated with backing up vehicles, since we are supposed to better perceive the alarm, ”argues Mr. Robin.

A taste for popularization

One thing is certain, the researcher took pleasure in participating in this competition, which he considers very formative and thanks to which he learned to choose his words to reach as many people as possible. “It allows you to take the time to get out of your researcher’s bubble and write things down. My colleague Louis Dermagne and I really enjoyed this moment of discussion, of saying to each other: “We could tell it like that.” This search for images, metaphors, etc., brought me a lot, ”says Olivier Robin.

His participation in the competition also made him understand the repercussions that such a popularization exercise could have. “There are many more reactions to a popular text than to a scientific article. I am firmly convinced that a popular science text will be read by many more people than the corresponding scientific article, ”he underlines.

“I like to do research; it stimulates me enormously. But I also really like explaining to the general public why we do things, what it is for, what the purpose is. That’s why I find my account through the popularization competition. It’s really important to make that connection. It’s good to be passionate, but if you stay in your corner, it will not bring much, ”he concludes.

Watch video

source site