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    DrowGuy

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    Default Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    I saw this State Farm commercial where there were a car accident and a gas of helium was release in an octane truck. And everybody what talking high-pitched. So my question is why is helium make your voice high-pitched?

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartmanhomer View Post
    I saw this State Farm commercial where there were a car accident and a gas of helium was release in an octane truck. And everybody what talking high-pitched. So my question is why is helium make your voice high-pitched?
    Helium is lighter than air (you get the opposite effect with denser substances). Because of that sound travels faster through it, and it's to do with that.

    I think it goes...

    The same pitched sound in helium has a longer wavelength than the wavelength in air. A sound with the same wavelength has a higher frequency (or pitch).
    This is because speed=wavelength*frequency.

    When the waves are being formed they are formed at a given wavelength, which (as above) corresponds to a higher frequency.
    At the helium/air boundaries the frequencies stay the same (because the point on the boundary has to be in both camps) and the wavelength changes (and it remains the higher frequency).

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by jayem View Post
    Helium is lighter than air (you get the opposite effect with denser substances). Because of that sound travels faster through it, and it's to do with that.

    I think it goes...

    The same pitched sound in helium has a longer wavelength than the wavelength in air. A sound with the same wavelength has a higher frequency (or pitch).
    This is because of speed=wavelength*frequency.

    When the waves are being formed they are formed at a given wavelength, which (as above) corresponds to a higher frequency.
    At the helium/air boundaries, the frequencies stay the same (because the point on the boundary has to be in both camps) and the wavelength changes (and it remains the higher frequency).
    Interesting. Thank you for the info.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartmanhomer View Post
    Interesting. Thank you for the info.
    You can see some more stuff here (which shows I wasn't quite right)
    http://www.animations.physics.unsw.e...jw/speech.html

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    First, that commercial is not serious. You can suffocate in a pure helium environment.

    Now for why; well when I asked Google, the first results said;

    When you inhale helium, you're changing the type of gas molecules in your vocal tract and increasing the speed of the sound of your voice. Some people think that helium changes the pitch of your voice, but the vibration frequency of the vocal cords doesn't change along with the type of gas molecules that surround them.
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/21590...ce-sound-funny

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails View Post
    First, that commercial is not serious. You can suffocate in a pure helium environment.

    Now for why; well when I asked Google, the first results said;


    http://mentalfloss.com/article/21590...ce-sound-funny
    I know the commercial wasn't that serious. It was funny. LOL! :bigrrin: Also thank you both for the information.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Mythbusters did a nice bit with both helium and sulfur hexaflouride in one episode (so a light and a heavy gas). You can see it here.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by tomandtish View Post
    Mythbusters did a nice bit with both helium and sulfur hexaflouride in one episode (so a light and a heavy gas). You can see it here.
    Wow. Thanks for the video.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    As long as they stayed close to the ground and the helium was only a leak, not a full release, they'd most likely have a little bit of time to breathe safely without suffocating. You can breathe helium in small dosages, but in between huffs you should breathe normally to replenish your oxygen levels. They'd need to leave soon, though, since the oxygen levels in there would get pretty low fairly quickly.

    As for why it make your voice sound higher, "When you inhale helium, you're changing the type of gas molecules in your vocal tract and increasing the speed of the sound of your voice. Some people think that helium changes the pitch of your voice, but the vibration frequency of the vocal cords doesn't change along with the type of gas molecules that surround them." (From google and my basic understanding of physics)
    http://mentalfloss.com/article/21590...ce-sound-funny
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by TrashTrash View Post
    As long as they stayed close to the ground and the helium was only a leak, not a full release, they'd most likely have a little bit of time to breathe safely without suffocating. You can breathe helium in small dosages, but in between huffs you should breathe normally to replenish your oxygen levels. They'd need to leave soon, though, since the oxygen levels in there would get pretty low fairly quickly.
    Except you wouldn't be able to tell if the oxygen levels were too low until you passed out, since the inhalation trigger in the body works off carbon dioxide concentration in the blood.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Except you wouldn't be able to tell if the oxygen levels were too low until you passed out, since the inhalation trigger in the body works off carbon dioxide concentration in the blood.
    Which would still be going up if you were breathing helium, surely?

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Which would still be going up if you were breathing helium, surely?
    Actually no and this lack of detectability is is what makes inert gas asphyxiation so deadly.

    During normal breathing, CO2 goes from your bloodstream to the air via the alveoli in your lungs. The primary mechanism for this is diffusion - the CO2 content in the air in your lungs is less than the CO2 content in your blood.

    If you're inhaling an inert gas, the CO2 content in the gas is still less than the CO2 content in your blood, so you exhale CO2 plus the inert gas (helium in this case). However you're not taking on any oxygen, so the oxygen content of your blood stream drops and you fall unconscious.
    This is in contrast to environments with high CO2 levels where CO2 is pushed into your bloodstream via diffusion along the concentration gradient, which we've evolved to detect - it's one of the quirks of evolution that we often develop a 'just good enough' response to environmental factors.

    Since we're far more likely to encounter low oxygen environments in conjunction with high CO2 levels, we're built to detect that; the primary detection mechanisms is more acidic blood pH from the increased levels of dissolved CO2. This triggers the hypercapnia alarm response, which induces pain, panic and inhalation.

    I've worked in several places which handle large quantities of liquid nitrogen (on the order of thousands of litres) and I've always been told if you see the low O2 alarm go off, RUN.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2019-03-15 at 03:31 AM.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Ah, OK, that makes sense. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    I've worked in several places which handle large quantities of liquid nitrogen (on the order of thousands of litres) and I've always been told if you see the low O2 alarm go off, RUN.
    Stupid question, why would they make the alarm visual and not audible (or both)?
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by tomandtish View Post
    Mythbusters did a nice bit with both helium and sulfur hexaflouride in one episode (so a light and a heavy gas). You can see it here.
    I can do you one better. Every noble gas lighter than Radon.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Stupid question, why would they make the alarm visual and not audible (or both)?
    GMP manufacturing environment, so PPE is mandatory before even entering the facility. In busy/loud kit areas, ear defenders are also mandatory, which you have to put in before getting cleaned and gowned up. Depending on the activity and drug, full hood respirators may also be required, so if you're fully kitted up, you're not hearing much at all:

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    That said, there is probably an audible component as well, but the alarm's never gone off when I was working, so I can't confirm it.
    Last edited by Brother Oni; 2019-03-17 at 02:29 AM.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    There are also gases that can make your voice super low because they're heavier than air. I believe hydrogen has the same effect voice wise as helium, but I wouldn't recommend experimenting with that gas unless you know you're fire proof.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Magic_Hat View Post
    There are also gases that can make your voice super low because they're heavier than air. I believe hydrogen has the same effect voice wise as helium, but I wouldn't recommend experimenting with that gas unless you know you're fire proof.
    Hydrogen would actually be significantly higher pitched than Helium, though you'd need a non oxygenated atmosphere to avoid the part where everything explodes. It basically all comes down to molecular weight, and the average molecular weight of air is 29ish.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    Hydrogen would actually be significantly higher pitched than Helium, though you'd need a non oxygenated atmosphere to avoid the part where everything explodes. It basically all comes down to molecular weight, and the average molecular weight of air is 29ish.
    So, pure hydrogen and no matches?

    Isn't hydrogen somewhat reactive anyway? it's a metal as I recall, does it do nasty things in water?
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    I can do you one better. Every noble gas lighter than Radon.
    Now that I think about it, there is an additional danger concerning heavier gases in that they will be more dificult to breath out when you are standing. Unless you spend longer time breathing heavily or change your orientation, they might linger on the bottom of your lungs for quite a while.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    It basically all comes down to molecular weight, and the average molecular weight of air is 29ish.
    Never thought about it before, but that means a pure oxygen environment would drop your voice a bit, wouldn't it?
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Never thought about it before, but that means a pure oxygen environment would drop your voice a bit, wouldn't it?
    Yes. Then you would die from oxygen poisoning (probably, the conditions for spontaneous combustion are an open question).
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    If you replaced all the nitrogen of the atmosphere by helium, would it be both survivable and hilarious?

    Oxygen concentration is left untouched

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cikomyr View Post
    If you replaced all the nitrogen of the atmosphere by helium, would it be both survivable and hilarious?

    Oxygen concentration is left untouched
    At a guess, that'd be a good way to knock the oxygen concentration up a ton. Also thin out the atmosphere significantly.

    I now await being told I'm wrong by a chemist or physicist.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cikomyr View Post
    If you replaced all the nitrogen of the atmosphere by helium, would it be both survivable and hilarious?

    Oxygen concentration is left untouched
    In a confined environment that might work. I remember (I think) that at one point they used helium and oxygen for diving. In an unconfined space, they would tend to seperate out, the oxygen low the helium high.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    Yes. Then you would die from oxygen poisoning (probably, the conditions for spontaneous combustion are an open question).
    Not at regular atmospheric pressure, you wouldn't--oxygen toxicity doesn't really start to get going until you get your partial pressure of oxygen up to about 1.6 atmospheres.

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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by halfeye View Post
    So, pure hydrogen and no matches?

    Isn't hydrogen somewhat reactive anyway? it's a metal as I recall, does it do nasty things in water?
    Hydrogen is not a metal and does nothing special in water. Maybe you remember hydrogen embrittlement, where hydrogen atoms diffuse into metal and reduce its toughness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Radar View Post
    Now that I think about it, there is an additional danger concerning heavier gases in that they will be more dificult to breath out when you are standing. Unless you spend longer time breathing heavily or change your orientation, they might linger on the bottom of your lungs for quite a while.
    I remember some science show for kids where they showed the effect of both helium and a heavy gas on the voice. The guy had to do a handstand at the end to make sure he got all the heavy stuff out. Cannot remember what gas it was, though.
    Last edited by Iruka; 2019-03-18 at 04:12 AM.


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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by Iruka View Post
    I remember some science show for kids where they showed the effect of both helium and a heavy gas on the voice. The guy had to do a handstand at the end to make sure he got all the heavy stuff out. Cannot remember what gass it was, though.
    Very likely the sulfur hexafluoride. This gas is a pretty popular choice for science shows, since it is dense enough that you can make little boats float on it as if on water. It is also pretty inert chemically to the point that it is used for medical purposes.
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    Default Re: Why Is Helium Make Your Voice High-Pitched?

    Quote Originally Posted by halfeye View Post
    In a confined environment that might work. I remember (I think) that at one point they used helium and oxygen for diving. In an unconfined space, they would tend to seperate out, the oxygen low the helium high.
    Yeah, its Trimix if you replace some of the nitrogen with helium, and Heliox if you replace all the nitrogen. It has advantages in SOME deep diving situations (not all). It is also a LOT more expensive.
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