Study: Rock music is noise pollution, at least to ladybugs

Published 1:44 pm Sunday, July 15, 2018

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” proclaims the title of a song on AC/DC’s landmark album “Back in Black,” but one Mississippi State University professor, despite being a listener to the band, says his research shows otherwise.

Biology Professor Brandon Barton tells the Starkville Daily News he was rocking out to the AC/DC song one day and thought “that’s a testable hypothesis.”

“The alternative hypothesis is that rock and roll is noise pollution,” Barton said.

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So he and some students did test it, putting ladybugs into soybeans infested with aphids, a common pest of the staple crop.

The team then bathed the environment in various sounds, including “Back in Black,” other classic rock, an outlaw country album, a folk album, city sounds and aircraft noise.

“We immediately discovered that after about a day or a half day, 15 hours or so, the ones who had been exposed to the hard rock music, AC/DC, or even the city sounds, those loud kind of harsh sounds really reduced the number of aphids they consumed by a lot,” Barton said.

He said as soon as the ladybugs were introduced, a stark difference was noticed, with the predators eating virtually all of the aphids. However, in the environments with rock music and city sounds, the predators consumed drastically fewer aphids.

The aphids and the soybeans, though, seemed to like “Back in Black” just fine. Barton said neither soybeans or their pests seemed unaffected. It might be overstating the case to call them fans, though.

“The plants didn’t care and the aphids didn’t care about music,” Barton said.