This week, in an improbable turn of events, the sound of silence went viral.
An animated GIF showing an electrical tower jumping rope over delightfully bendy power lines began to spread. The frenzy started when Lisa Debruine, a researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, posed this question:
Does anyone in visual perception know why you can hear this gif?
— Lisa DeBruine ️ (@lisadebruine) Dec. 2, 2017
When she asked Twitter users in an unscientific survey whether they could hear the image — which actually lacks sound, like most animated GIFs — nearly 70 percent who responded said they could.
Once you “heard” it, it was hard not to start noticing that other GIFs also seemed to be making noise — as if the bouncing pylon had somehow jacked up the volume on a cacophonous orchestra few had noticed before.