The Giant Art That Keeps Planes Quiet
The Giant Art That Keeps Planes Quiet

Hearing is incredible. Think about it: a tiny little bit of tissue
in your ear, a tenth of a millimetre thick, moves in response to changes in air pressure, and converts them into
tiny vibrations in fluid, and then those get converted into electrochemical
impulses that go the brain, where they are somehow decoded into
what you experience as sound. And if all of that is working properly, then you’re able to pick out one source of
sound from another, in 3D space, and your brain is optimised
to pick out words and language even through huge amounts of noise. It’ll even filter out constant, steady noise
like a fan or the wind whistling through trees. To give an idea of
just how difficult a task that is: this is the waveform of the sound
that’s on this video. Same information, just presented differently, but it’s not something that you can
make sense of with your eyes. And it’s not like your eardrum only resonates
at a few frequencies. Human hearing in a
healthy, young person runs from somewhere up around 20,000 cycles a second,
all the way down to 20. Which means the eardrum can pick up
air movements with wavelengths that range from a couple of centimetres for
high frequencies, to 10 or 20 metres for really low bass. The sort of low, rumbling bass that you
would get from, say, a jet engine. Just over there is Amsterdam Schiphol airport. In terms of aircraft flying in and out,
it’s the busiest airport in Europe. Six runways. Two control towers, one just for the new runway that’s over there
that opened in 2003. That runway is five kilometres away from the
terminal. If you look at aerial photos, you can see plane after plane after plane
lined up on a fifteen-minute taxi, including going on a bridge
across a road and a canal. It was raining when my plane landed, but I
just about got that shot out the window. But there was one residential area,
just back there, where there was nothing but flat ground between those houses
and the back end of jet engines. I mean, of course it was flat ground,
it’s the Netherlands, but there was one spot just back there where it
got significantly louder for the people who lived there. And those local residents were not happy. Of course, the one day I’m here, they’re actually landing on that runway,
not taking off so the engines are pointed the other way,
but the point still stands. The local residents were not happy. This is the solution. Well, not a solution,
at least something to help. This is a park that serves two purposes:
one, to be land art, the sort of high-concept big sculpture
that’s created by moving enormous amounts of earth
and rock. This was designed by an artist. I mean, I’d send up a drone to show you,
but, you know, airport. But the second purpose is sound dampening. These ridges are metres apart,
roughly, very roughly, around the same wavelength as the low rumble
you get from a jet engine. Not exact, of course, but in the same order
of magnitude, close enough to be disruptive. So rather than the sound waves just rolling
over the land, instead they’re scattered in all directions,
up and away, not onwards. Not perfectly, not even close, but enough
to bring the noise level at those houses back down within acceptable limits. The architects claim that
one of the inspirations for this was people noticing that the engine noise
sounded quieter when the fields were ploughed. Because, yes, your brain can filter out
constant, steady noise. It can even, over time, get used to filtering
out intermittent, loud noise, like living next to an airport. But that filtering job is a lot easier if
the noise would just be a little less loud.

100 thoughts on “The Giant Art That Keeps Planes Quiet”

  1. Tom Scott says:

    I got really lucky with the weather and really unlucky with the direction the planes were going.

  2. Dodecanomicon says:

    Archeologists are going to love trying to figure this out, one day.

  3. Skywalker Sounds says:

    Hey Tom, did you see any of the tractors driving on the highway towards parliament while you were there?

  4. M says:

    I love my country, i love the people and yes even the government (sometimes). But i hate the people criticizing every little bit of my country. Just look at this, what we have made. Sorry just had to get it out there

  5. Naitsabes68 says:

    hearing is incredible. the town not so much

  6. Sunset Rider says:

    There’s that many people who want to smoke weed in Amsterdam?

  7. caterina mastrogiacomo says:

    I mean, surely it's art , but a park there? That'd be weird to sit on AND to make. Well actually the slides still work brilliantly. Still,great video (as routine)

  8. Jack Mutschlechner says:

    Was it designed by Bose?

  9. Eitan Wass says:

    Why is the video at 50 fps?

  10. -CFW. Magic- says:

    up next, gary picking an article on this piece of art

  11. Pro Gamer Jambon says:

    This is like the 10th video in a week I've watched with exactly 195 comments, well until this one.

  12. jinxmaster1 says:

    They can call it art but it definitely isn't.

  13. Moose Knuckle says:

    What a pain in the ass to mow.

  14. N Jones says:

    "Noise Abatement" … I can't believe you got through the video without saying that 🙂

    I'm spitting distance from a private airport, which put a noise-abatement plan in place in 2012… you can barely hear the private jets now (though I do work there and might be biased).

  15. Michael Joiner says:

    I'm going to name this place "The Shire"

  16. CheshireTomcat68 says:

    A Little Less Loud, my new Progressive Folk Jazz band.

  17. Xano Trevisan Kothe says:

    This is a noise cancellation for yo momma

  18. Thomas Hughes says:

    I'm ow wondering if increased surface area might increase crop yield.

  19. SnorreKind says:

    And fireworks sound great there!

  20. Frank Lesser says:

    amster, amster, damn damn damn.

  21. cvc says:

    I need to build this under south end of DFW airport where I live, bc apparently they thought of building low income homes in the past of a runway, who'd thunk it!. But its a concrete jungle where I live 🙁

  22. 1Slamalama1 says:

    At least the residents were there before the new runway, then complained. Irritates me when people move near an airport/freeway/etc. That has been there for years. Then complain because they made the choice to move near it.

  23. kinpatu says:

    Is this structure analogous to a Fabry-Perot coupler for light? Seems like it.

  24. Thijs Huijbens says:

    I live near that place, drove past it a couple of times wondering what that piece of land's about. People told me it's just art, needed a British guy on the internet to tell me the full story.

  25. 96fps_from_mars says:

    Instead of a waveform, a spectrograph is slightly more visually readable.

  26. ThatOneNotThisOne says:

    This is by far one of my favorite channels

  27. Dan joschua Sudermann says:

    Hey Tom, you should consider using Google earth Studio for the satellite views. It allows you way more control over the animations and you can easily achieve something as a Fly around over a monument

  28. tezer2d says:

    The plane fetish cont…

    Oh wait, wrong channel

  29. Jordan Berndt says:

    Tom: "Your hearing is amazing. It will even filter out steady noise like a fan or the wind"

    My ADHD: hahahahha nope

  30. boxed fenders says:

    Tom, I do hope you a fully aware this series wouldn't be near as successful if it wasn't for you're British accent

  31. Sarah Kate says:

    "Of course it was flat ground, it is the Netherlands"

    * laughs in nederrijnse heuvelrug *

  32. Sander Kaiser says:

    Yup. Can’t wait to see this pop up on “two of these people are lying“ shortly 😂

  33. FireCracker101 says:

    Wasn't this in a test?

  34. Oscar says:

    Why does it matter that the holes are as wide as the sounds wavelenght?

  35. T says:

    I like the way you show the waveform of your speech on screen as you walk through a cross section of the noise dampening earth works.

  36. Freek Buttz says:

    I immediately knew you were in the Netherlands! Welcome here 🙂

  37. id104335409 says:

    Oh yes, human hearing is amazing – it somehow filters out everything you hear in the classroom.

  38. BubberGroves says:

    I cannot stress enough how much i love your videos

  39. freakaefari says:

    what about instead of hundreds of small hills, they made one giant hill. let's say 10 meters. it'll be higher than the houses, and thus stop the noise dead in its tracks?

  40. Bebos 01 says:

    I was thinking how amazing the ability to hear is just yesterday. What a weird coincidence.

  41. MT Aviation says:

    You should have asked us for some footage from Schiphol, Tom. Great video btw

  42. darkspd31 says:

    …why not just put up a sound wall, not an entire field…?

  43. Ecto says:

    Wait how can we still hear him when his surroundings cancel his voice

  44. Isaac H says:

    5000 years from now there are going to be some really confused archaeologists stumbling around these.

  45. Ken Ohara says:

    Sorta wish i was a dolphin now

  46. Abigail Wildlife says:

    I read the title as giant Ant and spent the whole video waiting for the ants to come in……

  47. Brian Melvin says:

    Why dont they just plant a few sections of pines duh

  48. Poplìon Andrew says:

    ridges valleys, wow, amazing!

  49. AETHEX says:

    I'm just going to say it before anyone else

    G E K O L O N I S E E R D

  50. Wubba Wubba says:

    I love white noise and am addicted to sleeping with a fan on every day of the year. I don’t think I’d mind living near an airport.

  51. Sam Furlonger says:

    I never thought about it by my house is directly backed onto a train track and I never hear trains go by however whenever I have someone round my house they always ask how I live with the trains going by since they can constantly hear them

  52. john johnson says:


  53. Andrew Hagadone says:

    Wait… Are you going grey? How the fruck old ARE you!? I thought, like, 30s!

  54. rinus454 says:

    I instantly recognized that as The Netherlands, but was thrown of by the presence of a mountain range.

  55. Christopher Lawley says:

    I wonder who defines the "acceptable level" of noise.

  56. Nurpus says:

    So you're saying that, with more precise engineering, it is possible to construct similar hills that would almost completely dampen the aircraft noise?

  57. YuxaRatt says:

    Hear me out, snap everyone in the Heathrow area out of existence and make these.

  58. Julian Moretti says:

    1000 years from now, ppl gonna think a motte-bailey stood there.

  59. laromande says:

    I've been dealing with a hearing issue my whole life, making me unable to distinguish between many sounds when played together. I've found in literature that normal people can choose to focus on some sound source and make the rest of what they hear somewhat quieter. However when I'm in a noisy environment, there is no way for me to listen to someone talking to me and to isolate their voice from the background noise, and I really don't understand anything of what they say most of the time. Does anyone of you know if this has a name? It's really annoying and I'd like to investigate solutions at some point 🙂

  60. Oscar van Tijndel says:

    G E K O L O N I S E E R D

  61. Eddie says:


  62. natalie says:

    nice to hear that im not the only one that constantly mixes up damping/dampening

  63. Paradoxial says:

    A very interesting example what Tom was saying with your ears being able to filter out background noise was that of the cars in the video

  64. RoninXDarknight says:

    I wonder if there's a way to harness the vibrations to use as energy?


    I can't imagine it would be able to power anything large but maybe some runway lights?

  65. Octoploppy says:

    Tom, are you working on that Hagia Sophia video yet 😉

  66. Jakester! - The Darude Comment Critic says:

    These might be the biggest acoustic panels on earth.

  67. The Generalissimo says:

    I could tell a difference between when Tom was below the dampeners, and standing on top of them. Amazing!

  68. Kevin Larsson says:

    This is like how the Max IV particle accelerator in Lund in Sweden have 'rolling' hills to dampen the sound vibrations from the close by road.

    Also, fun fact, since the hills are so weirdly shaped you need sheep to mow them.

    You can work as a sheep herder on a Particle-Accelerator facility 😛

  69. salman_ says:

    i thought this was a minecraft video for a second

  70. Kaylee Gaertner says:

    Growing up I lived next to a train track. It was about 30 ft from the back of our house. The train would blow the whistle and shake the windows when it went by. But after years if being there, if we had guests over when the train went by, they would look shocked at the sound and we would realize we don't even notice them going by anymore.

  71. Marco Meijer says:

    G E K O L O N I S E E R D

  72. Jarmo says:

    G E K O L O N I S E E R D

  73. Mikosch2 says:

    "So you've found a solution to the plane noise problem?"
    "Yes indeed!" unfolds blueprint
    "What the… DUDE!"
    "That's the goddamn Himalayas you want us to build there!"

  74. Natalie_ Youtube says:

    0:22 i 100% thought you were walking in the water then

  75. Reth Tard says:

    "Heroin is incredible!"
    – What?! I mean, I agree but… huh…

    Apparently my own hearing is definitely no incredible.

  76. Matej Games ツ says:

    Can you please visit the rotating restaurant in Bratislava?

  77. Lawrence Calablaster says:

    I love earth art!

  78. MooseMan says:

    Perfect video length for something like this 👍

  79. The other John Smith says:

    I live very close to an fire engine / ambulance post, but I seldom hear them going. I think my brain has learned to block the noise. So I guess I do hear them, but they just don't register.

  80. Simon Mullis says:

    1'31''. What is "two-thousand three"?

  81. KnifeChicken says:

    Zeg makker

  82. Boris van Maaren says:

    welkom in nederland! (welcome in the netherlands)

  83. bren106 says:

    Sadly my hearing won't filter out the tinnitus noise. Should I force a Toblerone down my ear?

  84. The_Nuke says:

    You could plant trees in between for a greater effect, plus it'll serve as a nice park.

  85. masterimbecile says:

    Next on things you might not have known: how Tom manages to come up with all these interesting video ideas!

  86. kairon156 says:

    Excelent video though I half expected it to be about tinnitus or what can go wrong with the human ear. & possible treatments

  87. mpye says:

    0:02 – 0:38 evolution cannot plan that. this must be come from intelligent design by God.

  88. ChaLiang says:

    Funny, during the fisrt part of the video I felt the surroundings were very Dutch, and then they turned out to be!

  89. Valkyrie27 says:

    Your type of contact is exactly why I love/watch youtube EVERY day..thank you a million times over for your hard work and passion to share these videos with us!

  90. Tintel says:


  91. More Baklava pls شكرا says:

    Netherlands is an orgy of engineering honestly~

  92. First Name Last Name says:

    I much prefer videos with just Tom speaking

  93. Zach Fox 狐智 says:

    Only in Nederland, haha

  94. Mark Smith says:

    According to Chris Joel isn't it S?*!hole airport.

  95. saran p.s says:

    Air vibration to mechanical movement to fluid movement to electrical signal and finally processing.

    Even after all these conversion losses, we are still able to hear clearly.

  96. Dust76tr says:

    I think it would have been an nice idea to demonstrate how good our hearing actually is at filtering out noise, by doing a section where you’re talking to camera over noise, like wind rustling in leaves, white noise, other conversation, etc.

  97. lewisdean22 says:

    Does it have Bluetooth

  98. Saggit says:

    Hmm, but how does it actually work? Why the sound waives that travel parallel to the ground would be affected by the shape of the ground? The sound propagates in a straight line, seems like most of it shouldn't "touch" the ridges at all.

  99. Stapler says:

    Is Heathrow not the busiest anymore? Brexit I guess

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