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This silent GIF is making the internet hear things

Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

The internet has come together, calling a temporary ceasefire over the many differences that keeps it apart, to investigate a mystery that unites us all: a GIF whose looping animation causes many viewers’ minds to fill in a sound where none exists.


The GIF, a delightful little loop by HappyToast of some power lines passing the time by playing jump rope while no humans are watching, was brought to Twitter’s attention by Lisa DeBruine. Fascinated by this strange phenomenon, DeBruine’s tweet blew up. You could almost call the effect it’s had on people—god forgive us—electric.

There are obvious flaws in trying to get impartial data after presenting the GIF with the expectation that people will be able to hear it, but DeBruine still ran a poll trying to establish how many it effects (and what sort of noise their brains conjure up in response to the clip).

Nobody has locked down a definite explanation for why this specific GIF causes the reaction it does, but DeBruine has looked around for theories and found a compelling possibility.


The thread, which continues with plenty of speculation on the phenomenon, is worth poking through for anyone interested in trying to find other plausible scientific rationale. The rest of us, maybe less inclined to spend the time getting to the bottom of this, can just enjoy an endless loop of joyful power lines, thumping the ground with or without hearing an accompanying T. rex boom on each impact.


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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.