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Untangling wired headphones is tricky in space, too

If you’ve yet to ditch your wired headphones for a Bluetooth-enabled pair, you’ll probably be all too familiar with the frustrating process of untangling the multiple knots that mysteriously form whenever you put them away.

The more you try to unscramble the wire, the trickier it seems to get. If you’re doing it on a train, you might reach your destination before you’ve even had a chance to fire up your music or podcast, though hopefully those sitting nearby will have at least been able to enjoy your impromptu comedy routine.

But you can take comfort in the knowledge that even astronauts have to deal with such trivial matters from time to time, evidenced by a video posted this week by International Space Station (ISS) inhabitant Matthias Maurer.

In a comment accompanying the footage, Maurer muses, “Are headphones easier to untangle in space or on Earth?” before taking a full 20 seconds to get the job done. However, he does so without making a wide range of bizarre facial expressions or even swearing quietly under his breath, proving that astronauts really are unique.

Are headphones easier to untangle in space or on Earth? 🤔 @ASI_spazio's Acoustic Diagnostics tests the impact of microgravity on our hearing using a special headset. Its sensors measure the movement of our ear hairs in response to sound 👂 #CosmicKiss https://t.co/UpiwJM6MWy pic.twitter.com/4D9ZLAuzB8

— Matthias Maurer (@astro_matthias) January 25, 2022

And no, Maurer’s untangling challenge wasn’t the basis of some niche space experiment to find out if microgravity conditions aid the unscrambling process (though apparently, it does).

The astronaut is instead participating in the ongoing Acoustic Diagnostics experiment aimed at studying the impact of microgravity on our hearing during long-term stays aboard the ISS. The study could provide vital information for planning future crewed missions to the moon and Mars.

The headset you see in Maurer’s video is fitted with sensors that measure the movement of hairs inside the ear as they respond to sound. Specifically, the headphones monitor what are known as otoacoustic emissions (OAEs).

“OAEs are caused when hairs in the inner ear move in response to auditory stimulation,” the European Space Agency (ESA) explains. “Astronauts put on headphones with a special inner-ear tip that simultaneously plays sound and measures their ears’ reactions.”

If watching Maurer grappling with his wired headphones has reminded you that it really is time to give up your eternally tangled set, Digital Trends has you covered.

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Trevor Mogg
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