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Listen to the mysterious sound that seems to change pitch without actually changing pitch

Editorial Staff

We'd like to introduce you to a sound that will twist your brain around and haunt your dreams. It's called the Shepard scale, after cognitive scientist Roger Shepard. Here it is, with psychedelic visual accompaniment, playing continuously for ten hours, after which point you might just lose your mind:

The remarkable thing about the Shepard scale — aside from its tendency to make you feel like you're falling into a bottomless pit of horrors and sorrows — is that it appears to rise or fall in pitch, but it never actually does. It's an aural illusion that tricks our brains into ignoring crucial elements of the sound. Vsauce's Michael Stevens calls it a "sonic barber pole." He explains it further in this video:

Shepard scales are even creepier when you hear an ascending one and a descending one at the same time. (Note: This video only has audio in one ear. That way, only half of your brain will explode. Safety first.)

Basically, listening to the Shepard scale is like looking at an M.C. Escher illustration with your ears — but unlike an Escher drawing you'll want to delete it from your mind forever.

Follow Matthew Parsons into the infinite void  @MJRParsons