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March 30, 2012 6:40 PM   Subscribe

The Quietest Place on Planet Earth Measured at -9.4dB, this is the quietest place on earth. There is a standing bet that anyone lasting 45 minutes in the chamber, in the dark, earns a case of beer of their choice. No one has lasted more than a half hour.
posted by sanka (130 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like a good place for a nap.

The quietest environment I have ever experienced was during the one time I ever went parachuting. When you're under canopy at 3,000 feet, there is no sound at all. Not wind, not machinery, not anything.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:43 PM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm sure that there are plenty of weirdos (I'd love a chance to hang out there) would be able to last more than an hour and enjoy the hallucinations, but they don't have any official or commercial business being at that location.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:46 PM on March 30, 2012 [21 favorites]


Is it that different from wearing earplugs? I would think that the silence plus your ear canals being itchy would be even more likely to drive someone into gibbering insanity.
posted by XMLicious at 6:46 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly? If I could have this level of quiet in my workplace? I'd be in heaven. I could do "quiet" all day long.
posted by SPrintF at 6:49 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure about the chamber or any of that. I just found the place because I was researching some sound testing in my local (Minneapolis) area. I sooooo want to visit it now.
posted by sanka at 6:50 PM on March 30, 2012


I have two children under the age of three.

I will pay you in beer to let me go there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:51 PM on March 30, 2012 [125 favorites]


A completely blacked out, anechoic chamber is not the same as floating under a parachute or wearing headphones. It's not even analogous. When your eyes and ears have no reference points, your brain starts to let its usual narrative branch out into the senses, and then you get increasingly vivid hallucinations.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:53 PM on March 30, 2012 [53 favorites]


When I was in Iceland I learned that if I found a spot out of the city (i.e. most of the country) and out of the wind the only thing I heard was faint ringing in my ears I'd never noticed before.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Would you still get the auditory hallucinations if you made noise? I mean, couldn't you get through it by talking/singing to yourself?
posted by NoraReed at 6:56 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder what meditating in a room like that would be like?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:57 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The couple of really quiet chambers I've been in have been odd experiences. After a little while, you start to heard the blood as it runs through the capillaries in your ear. Then you start to hear air molecules as they bounce off your eardrums. Then your brain starts to make up sounds to hear.

It's really not like being in "a quiet place". It's more like being in a place where all sound has been removed, which is incredibly the opposite of being in a place which is merely quiet, if that makes any sense.
posted by hippybear at 6:57 PM on March 30, 2012 [17 favorites]


Would you still get the auditory hallucinations if you made noise? I mean, couldn't you get through it by talking/singing to yourself?
The total lack of echo would still play with your sense of space.
posted by Uncle Ira at 6:58 PM on March 30, 2012


Yeah, this sounds wild, and I'd love to try it.

If if it drives me completely mad: oh well!
posted by aubilenon at 6:59 PM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Dropping this link here because it seems related to the story (if not, flag this).

There is a video of a quiet room (structure appears similar to the picture) and they also claim that it is the quietest room in the world.

The part that is interesting to me,though, is that they recorded the sounds of maggots, etc.-- and they would not have been able to do so unless they had such a working area.
posted by Wolfster at 7:03 PM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Prisoner's Cinema

Interesting stuff.
posted by 4ster at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Don't forget also that the room is suspended and damped so you aren't even feeling trucks passing by. The only things you would hear are noises or vibrations your body makes. It's neat being out camping someplace desolate and being able to hear a little bit of what your body makes, but its never pitch black. I'm sure this takes it to a whole other level. it'd be neat to try out. I love the absolute darkness you can find in caves.
posted by Phantomx at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have a semi anechoic chamber at work and it's a pretty awesome place. (the difference is the flooring isn't reflective like a full anechoic chamber is)

Some of the strangeness arises from the fact that no echoes reach back to you. Even tiny sounds like breathing or the rustling of clothes have tiny echoes that reflect back at you - without them, you feel like you're suspended in the infinity of space. And the absence of sound is unsettling, like an increasing pressure pressing in on your head.
posted by xdvesper at 7:06 PM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


More seriously, my school district has used some of his and similar research on daylighting schools. Kids learn better with sunlight and we've renovated to bring in sunlight and fresh air. The teachers like the rooms better and the kids do concentrate longer and test better. We are the first full LED building in th US at one of our schools, and it's nice on cloudy days at school to have the sunlight-like LEDs brightening the classroom with light friendly to reading. Also we can turn them blue and gold when the bears win.

But its much more livable for our students. It's downright pleasant.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2012 [14 favorites]


There is a standing bet that anyone lasting 45 minutes in the chamber, in the dark, earns a case of beer of their choice. No one has lasted more than a half hour...

The book Promised The Moon mentioned that women usually had much more patience with sensory deprivation experiments than men did...
posted by ovvl at 7:19 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I did this in the earl 90s. I woke up makes in a zoo with the blood of a goat on my lips. It was hours before I could take again.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:31 PM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Just leaving NYC is enough to cause a low humming in my ears these days.

In order to last in there I'd need a sequence of incrementally quieter rooms to visit first, like decompression chambers.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:34 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


The closest I've gotten to this was when I was caving and everybody turned off their light and sat still for about a minute. The cave was definitely anechoic, but even then that minute was pretty maddening.
posted by zsazsa at 7:38 PM on March 30, 2012


Er, definitely not anechoic.
posted by zsazsa at 7:40 PM on March 30, 2012


Nthing the "I would really love to try this" angle. I'm not sure what my response would be or how long I'd last, but it would be interesting to find out.
posted by Brak at 7:45 PM on March 30, 2012


I'd love to try out the 45 minute challenge. On one hand, I like to think I'm pretty good at entertaining myself inside my own head. On the other hand, when I'm in the dark my brain still does this despite the fact that I'm ostensibly an adult: "Now, don't think about aliens or monsters, oh wait now you're thinking about OH GOD ALIENS RUN."

Speaking of it being like space, isn't there an episode involving something similar in Planetes?
posted by lucidium at 7:46 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I imagine my tinnitus would be absolutely ear-shattering in that place. No thank you!
posted by ShutterBun at 7:51 PM on March 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


There is a standing bet that anyone lasting 45 minutes in the chamber, in the dark, earns a case of beer of their choice. No one has lasted more than a half hour.

What about deaf people?
posted by mazola at 7:52 PM on March 30, 2012 [28 favorites]


I've never been anywhere this quiet, but I once went out in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in May. It was me and a broad flat dry lakebed for fifteen or twenty miles. It was far from noiseless, but even that level of quiet was unnerving. I could hear the sound of the wind brushing past my ears. I could hear the sound of my hair moving on top of my head. There were no distant sounds - it was all right up close. I found myself stepping firmly on the ground just so I could hear something that wasn't right next to my head. I am sure that going into this noiseproof chamber would be a very deeply weird experience.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:52 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I bet none of the contestants had tininitus. It's a little theremin player that goes with you wherever you go. The quieter it is, the more he gets to strut his stuff. If it gets real quiet, he'll jam with the dude who only has a snare-drum and brush, and the string section who holds one note for dramatic effect on '70s television shows.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:53 PM on March 30, 2012 [42 favorites]


I've wanted to visit an anechoic chamber ever since I read about John Cage's experience in one. Apparently (I can't find a cite to back this up right now) 4'33" was inspired by his time in the chamber.
posted by bunglin jones at 7:57 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


makes = naked in my above comment. My keyboard is messed up and autocorrect is not helpful at all.

I too suffer from tinnitus. I can't imagine even going into that room at all. If my tinnitus was a theremin player I might deal with it, but mine is a constant flatline time that someone has turned up to a frequency just below a dog whistle. I'm pretty sure I have a strain insanity defense built in for anything I do with the rest of my life. Sometimes I lay awake at night trying to figure out where the sound is coming from, even though I know it's in my head (literally). Quiet places are the worst. I pretty much need constant noise. A place like this would kill me. It would take that case of beer to get me to cross the threshold.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Y'all know that John Cage's visit to an anechoic chamber at Harvard in 1951 was he direct inspiration for 4'33", right?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:59 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


ah, bunglin jones kinda beat me to it, there!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 PM on March 30, 2012


They should try combining this with Doug Wheeler's white room exhibit that hinders depth perception.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:04 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would love to try it out. I think it'd feel like flying.
posted by thylacinthine at 8:05 PM on March 30, 2012


Oddly enough, the variety of "phantom" sounds my tinnitus makes me hear actually enhances my ability to pick up faint noises - I can tell if a TV or fluorescent light is on by listening for it, and can hear a mouse in the next room (literally). I think it's because anything that isn't tinnitus is singled out immediately. On the other hand, it makes it hard to to distinguish music from road noise when driving, or to listen to what someone is saying when there are a lot of other noises going on, even if they're all relatively quiet.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:07 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't last in there two seconds if that binaural torso on a tripod dude was in there too....yeeeesh!
posted by medeine at 8:24 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


If there was a way to make a room like this that you could not reach any walls no matter how far you walked -- which is of course an impossibility -- I think that'd contribute to making you barking mad and doing it fast. No noise, no light, no limits other than the floor under your feet, walking, then running, hands stretched out looking for anything... yikes
posted by dancestoblue at 8:28 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Google image search for "anechoic chamber."
posted by malocchio at 8:28 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was in an anechoic chamber once with a work colleague. He was facing away from me and talking to me. Then he turned around, looking at me questioningly, like "What, aren't you going to answer my question?" But I hadn't heard a word he spoke. I didn't even know he was talking.
posted by eye of newt at 8:32 PM on March 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


and can hear a mouse in the next room (literally)

Thank goodness I use a trackball.
posted by hippybear at 8:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kensington... not as scratchy as Microsoft... no rushed whirring, so full size... the click! Firm and positive, but not hollow and echoing, so... the SlimBlade! Watson! You must go to the tower of london with a bouquet of violets. No time to explain, I'll meet you there...
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:52 PM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Do I have to bring my own DMT, or do they have some there?
posted by cmoj at 8:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


Neat. In high school we had "dark days" in my physics class. The classroom was in the basement so we had only to seal off the door with aluminum foil and the gift of sight was no more. That was quite disorienting but prepared me for fun times caving in my future. I can't imagine the weirdness that losing both sight and sound would cause in my feeble human brain.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:56 PM on March 30, 2012


I was laying in bed a few months ago with a pair of those big Koss noise-reducing headphones on listening to a podcast. It was really late and it was pitch black and I was nearly asleep. When it ended I sorta woke up, and I heard this really loud constant whir that almost sounded like an electric fan or dishwasher or something (and I definitely don't have dishwasher). I couldn't figure out what it was. The podcast had ended, so it wasn't dead air. I sat up and looked around, but then it would stop. My air conditioner was off. The fan was off. Even the fridge wasn't making noise. After a while it would come back. When I took off the headphones it was gone.

After nearly going crazy trying to figure it out, I realized that the sound I was hearing was me clenching my teeth.

Wow. I have always had problems with grinding my teeth. I even wear one of those bite guard things. However, I had never noticed the problem when I was awake before, only the effects. I thought after I fell asleep I would sorta grind my teeth together like I was chewing. I had no idea that I was just clenching my jaw in place like that. Once I realized it, I could lay there and clench and unclench and hear this blood or tension or whatever squishing through my jaw muscles. While it was easy to just stop doing it, it was just as easy to slip back into doing it without noticing. And then you notice you are noticing and you hear it again even with the headphones off. So, then you try and relax. And then you hear it again. And the next thing you know it is 5:00am and you are screwed for the day.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:56 PM on March 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


Ole Miss has an anechoic chamber (at least they did in the mid 90s). When you're in a anechoic chamber you feel like you need to pop your ears. Even in a quiet place there is enough ambient noise to cause a slight amount of pressure on your eardrums. Your inner ears are slightly pressureized to compensate. In the chamber, there is no burnt pressure so your eardrums bulge slightly.

They also have an echoic chamber which is also very cool.
posted by tayknight at 8:58 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one "sound room" like this I've been in was at Altec Lansing, and it wasn't the lack of sound that was weird, but the seeming lack of air. You forget that sound comes to you through air, and if there's no sound, it feels like there's no air, either. It feels like everything you breathe out just stays in a halo around your head.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:59 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's really not like being in "a quiet place". It's more like being in a place where all sound has been removed, which is incredibly the opposite of being in a place which is merely quiet, if that makes any sense.

The quietest places in the world scream - SCREAM - with the scars and wounds of the hundreds of concerts and overloud dance hall speakers I have subjected my poor ears to.

I can't stress enough how much I wish I had been cool enough to wear earplugs then. My hearing is so goddamned shot.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:26 PM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I had a taste of this. It was 3 am in the dead of winter at a cottage in the Gatineau hills. I left to enjoy a walk in the dark and ended up sitting on a fencepost. There was no wind, no animals, no people, no nothing. All I could hear was the rushing of blood in head - a sound which became louder and louder until I became convinced my ears would burst and I would be found in the morning lying in a patch of red snow. I walked back quickly.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The quietest places in the world scream - SCREAM

I heard that. (erm...so to speak) My tinnitus is probably more inherited than "earned" (though a couple dozen Ramones concerts would probably beg to differ) but yeah. A quiet room quickly becomes the loudest loud for me. Give me that sweet white noise, please.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:08 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do want.
posted by Listener at 10:09 PM on March 30, 2012


Me and Slap*Happy are rolling in the same crew.

Rushing towards the Ramones in your youth means that in middle age you get to hear jets overhead, power plant turbines 5 miles away, trains 10 miles away, but incapable of locating where those damn coyotes are. It's an odd superhuman/disability circumstance.

I called the fire department one night after a neighbor dumped ashes in their yard, started a smoldering fire that I heard at 2 in the morning. It sounded like water running, to the point I investigated and was standing listening, attempting to locate the noise, when the fence suddenly bloomed into flames. As it bloomed I was calling the FD, but thankful I wasn't imagining the noise.

I'd love to hear what this chamber sounds like to me.
posted by dglynn at 10:15 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do want.
posted by Listener


Well, of course you would. (eponysterical and all that)
posted by ShutterBun at 10:18 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everybody is talking about the chamber but that was really only the first few paragraphs of this long (and awesome) article. Really interesting work.

I've only worked in one cubicle farm and I hated it for deficits on the exact same things he tests for. It was always too cold, the lighting too artificial, and the sounds too distracting. I've never understood why companies throw all their employees in this type of environment and expect peak performance.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:33 PM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


Everybody is talking about the chamber but that was really only the first few paragraphs of this long (and awesome) article.

I know, and personally I was actually disappointed that there wasn't a lot more on the chamber itself. The guy's ideas on mutable workspaces was interesting to me too, though: ideas like wals that shift color through the day, ambient audio (nature sounds and such), etc. Those seem like potentially good ideas whose time has certainly come.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:36 PM on March 30, 2012


wals = walls
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:36 PM on March 30, 2012


There was a part in there about human-centric architectural design not being any more expensive, but I can't see how color-changing walls and artificially created scents wafting through the halls wouldn't cost a bit more.
posted by Defenestrator at 10:44 PM on March 30, 2012


I think corporate society is probably content to wait for Google and Apple to implement these ideas on their campuses, then let the data decide if it's money well spent.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:54 PM on March 30, 2012


they recorded the sounds of maggots

We can't have health care but we can record the sound of maggots. Seems fitting.
posted by Camofrog at 11:01 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


IvoShandor: My scoutmaster would have similar "dark days." The rule was "stay as still and silent as you can while the lights are out, no matter what happens."
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:01 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rather sad that true quietude is such a scarce commodity in modern society.
Brings to mind being way the hell up north, in the bush on a winter night with no wind. The silence was as sublime as any symphony.
posted by islander at 11:04 PM on March 30, 2012


islander, I'm sure there was some sound. The true lack of sound would be much more notable.
posted by delmoi at 11:09 PM on March 30, 2012


The author is this article is pretty easily impressed. A nine part article about a guy who tells people not to make the lights so bright. The quiet room is cool, but the rest of the article isn't really blowing my mind.
posted by Edgewise at 11:16 PM on March 30, 2012


A nine part article about a guy who tells people not to make the lights so bright.

Heh. Yeah, it does smack of a *local paper celebrating local boy*, and perhaps making a bit too much of his accomplishments. But I find that kind of thing sorta charming and refreshing, sometimes. Beats a cynical or jaded approach, anyway, which we get far too often, especially in publications coming out of bigger cities.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:20 PM on March 30, 2012


Mentioned upthread, but here is John Cage on his experience in the anechoic chamber at Harvard in 1951 from his Indeterminacy writings. (You can hear him tell the story himself here - "...anybody who knows me knows this story; I am constantly telling it.")
posted by bubukaba at 11:28 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is a standing bet that anyone lasting 45 minutes in the chamber, in the dark, earns a case of beer of their choice. No one has lasted more than a half hour.

Challenge accepted.

I have Auditory Processing issues, so I wonder how distorted these sounds - or lack thereof - would be in my brain.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:49 PM on March 30, 2012


How come no one has mentioned John Lilly yet?
That being said I wonder how a top class yogi would deal with this. Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses.
posted by adamvasco at 11:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: "I wonder what meditating in a room like that would be like?"

I had the same question, would love to try it out. If a yogi goes mad in a quiet room, can anyone hear it?
posted by arcticseal at 12:35 AM on March 31, 2012


I wonder how it compares to an isolation tank?
posted by orme at 12:38 AM on March 31, 2012


How does this auditory experience compare to that of a sensory deprivation tank? Those are pretty trippy and people undergo 1+ hour sessions all the time, and it damps sight, touch and sound.

@cmoj: I'll bring the ketamine if you'll bring the DMT.
posted by SakuraK at 12:41 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


The quietest environment I have ever experienced was during the one time I ever went parachuting. When you're under canopy at 3,000 feet, there is no sound at all. Not wind, not machinery, not anything.

It is amazingly still, but it's still difficult to forget that HOLY BALLS I AM WAY THE HELL NOT SUPPOSED TO BE UP HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN AIR

I would very much like to try this. Total darkness already fascinates me because of the sense of the infinite it affords, but since much of my "day" job involves walking around in the dark, I have become increasingly sensitive to the way even the most subtle of sounds informs my sense of space. It would be interesting to be disconnected from even that awareness, and to be truly adrift.

I did make a point of visiting the Audium when I was in San Francisco last year, which was conceptually interesting, but didn't quite give me the experience I was really seeking.



If if it drives me completely mad: oh well!

Pff. I was close enough to walk, anyway.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:54 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would love to read a book on architecture and interior design by Orfield Laboratories.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:54 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I believe the maddening part, but I'd still like to give it a try.

Maybe it will drive me sane.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:11 AM on March 31, 2012


Rather sad that true quietude is such a scarce commodity in modern society.

This is not "true quietude." This is WAY beyond that. Notice that the noise level readings are *negative* decibels. As in, "quieter than silence." A gunshot sounds like a cap gun in an anechoic chamber. (so I'm lead to understand)

You know those eye tests they give which allow you to perceive colors that your eyes can't normally see? Imagine that, but with silence. It's the audio equivalent of Spinal Tapp's album cover.

Granted, "quiet" as we understand it is certainly a rare commodity these days. (I am reminded of that one Twilight Zone episode where a cowboy from the Old West gets transported to an urban 1960's environment and is nearly deafened by what we would consider "normal" street noise. But these chambers are beyond anything natural. They actually "suck" sound out of the air, so to speak.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:16 AM on March 31, 2012


So this one goes to negative eleven then, ShutterBun?


sorry.
posted by zoinks at 1:26 AM on March 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


Also, dancestoblue, here is what you are looking for.
posted by zoinks at 1:37 AM on March 31, 2012


The part that is interesting to me,though, is that they recorded the sounds of maggots, etc.-- and they would not have been able to do so unless they had such a working area.

Not only that but the guy doing the recording is Chris Watson from Cabaret Voltaire, nor renowned nature sound recordist. I believe these two things are related.
posted by ntrifle at 2:24 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like "how much more quiet could it be?" and the answer is "none. none more quiet."
posted by ShutterBun at 2:25 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just as I begin reading this thread, a loud car alarm went off across the road. Silence? S'il-vous plait.
posted by marienbad at 2:27 AM on March 31, 2012


sensory deprivation is a form of torture, I don't think you would really enjoy this after a while.
(i posted this on metafilter before:)
“Sensory deprivation – because it can only be produced through human manipulation – is at once the most human and inhuman method for the protracted degradation of life. Applied for months or years, [it] is the proverbial ‘perfect murder’ for which no one – or everyone, except the victim – is responsible.”

Dutch psychiatrist Sjef Teuns in 1973 (“Isolation/Sensorische Deprivation: Die programmierte Folter,”)

From Ulrike Meinhof's diary:
"The feeling, one’s head explodes (the feeling, the top of the skull will simply split, burst open) —
the feeling, one’s spinal column presses into one’s brain —
the feeling, one’s brain gradually shrivels up like, for example, a baked fruit —
the feeling, one is uninterruptedly, imperceptibly, under a torrent, one is remote controlled, one’s associations are hacked away —
the feeling, one pisses the soul out of one’s body, like when one cannot hold water —
the feeling, the cell moves. One wakes up, opens one’s eyes: the cell moves; afternoon, if the sun shines in, it suddenly remains still. One cannot get rid of the feeling of motion.
One cannot tell whether one shivers from fever or from cold —
one cannot tell why one shivers — one freezes.
To speak at a normal volume requires an effort like that necessary to speak loudly, almost like that necessary to shout—
the feeling, one stops speaking —
one can no longer identify the meaning of words, one can only guess —
the use of sibilants — s,ss, tz, sch — is absolutely unbearable guards, visits, the yard seems to be made of celluloid —
headaches —
posted by ts;dr at 2:42 AM on March 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


The sound of clothes.
posted by pmcp at 2:43 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this story..
posted by mczseo at 3:28 AM on March 31, 2012


No one has lasted more than a half hour.

I like that. It's a challenge! It's reverse thrill-seeking. Who can handle the quiet the longest?

I've been trying to promote The World Championship of Stillness. Athletes compete to remain still the longest. It's going to be big! All I need is the funding to build the appropriate stadium, which I envision as a sensory deprivation tank that can hold 20,000 spectators.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:32 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


No, I still don't understand how something can be negative decibels. Isn't total silence zero decibels? So how can you get more negative than that? Clever science-ish people, help me understand please.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:30 AM on March 31, 2012


Negative decibels are a measure of sound absorption. The rate of quieting, if you will. Faster than the sound levels would naturally dissipate.
posted by ceribus peribus at 4:44 AM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now I get it, thank you, ceribus.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 4:54 AM on March 31, 2012


If so many people (as noted above) want to try this, why isn't it more easily available? What about "efficient markets?" Who's going to start the kickstarter project?
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:37 AM on March 31, 2012


Since db are a logarithmic measurement, 0 doesn't mean the same thing it does with real numbers.

It's just a reference point relevant to whatever context is under discussion. For example in recording, 0db is actually "as loud as it is possible to record without clipping"; all measurments in that context are negative db.

When measuring acoustic levels in the context of human hearing, 0db is the reference point of the barest point of audibility.

Since db use the power of 10, a difference of -9db means these things are roughly equivalent

* -9db
* 10^-0.9
* 0.126
* 1/8
* about 8 times quieter than a human can hear.

Personally I'd love to try it. I'd even pay money to sit in one for 15 minute intervals. Probably not enough money to justify making one available to people for sitting in, though!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 AM on March 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


If you manage to click your way through all 9 pages of the linked story, there's actually a lot of other interesting stuff, including this (page 8) (emphasis added):
Orfield is particularly excited about his firm’s latest patented product. It’s called Architectural Dynamics, and it’s a computerized system designed to create an indoor environment of “perceptually fluctuating stimuli.” By orchestrating subtle changes in lighting, daylighting, acoustics, thermal comfort, and olfactory stimuli, Orfield says, he can make workers feel stimulated in ways similar to enjoying a day outside, in perfect weather—all while seated at their workstations.

“Preferred environments tend to be parks and lakes—places where you are mildly perceptually loaded,” he says. “You hear sounds, smell smells, but nothing is very harsh. All your senses are alive, and you are up and open.”

In an “architecturally dynamic” office, the indoor environment would change throughout the day. Colored lightscapes on core walls would brighten moods. Muted sounds from natural environments would soothe and de-stress—or wake people up. Scents wafting through the building could heighten perceptions. If everyone were walking around, the system could tell the building to calm people down; if everyone were seated, energizing stimuli might be needed.

“The question is: How aurally loaded can you be and still be able to do your work?” Orfield says. “We’ve got maybe another five or 10 years to begin to understand this concept. But that’s the fun! It really is a whole new area of psychology. Nobody [else] has thought to patent the concept of an intentionally fluctuating building. There’s nothing else like it.”
posted by beagle at 6:20 AM on March 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Fact check:

The linked story says nothing about that case of beer, or the half-hour record. So don't be buying your ticket to Minneapolis quite yet.

According to this (later) story, it was a six-pack, not a case, it was Guinness, not a "beer of your choice," and apparently three people have managed to do it:
At one point, Orfield Labs Founder and President Steve Orfield offered a six-pack of Guinness to anyone who stayed in the room for longer than 45 minutes. Only three individuals have endured the quiet room's discomforting environment for an extended period of time. Beer is no longer used as incentive these days, but Steve still invites people to try to bear the silent space, which is used to analyze the design and sound quality of products ranging from heart valves to motorcycles (psychoacoustic research is Orfield's bread and butter).
Without substantiation, it says here that " the challenge was banned in 2011 after a hapless internee emerged from a sterling 26 minutes in the chamber having eaten his left hand."
posted by beagle at 6:38 AM on March 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


Would you still get the auditory hallucinations if you made noise? I mean, couldn't you get through it by talking/singing to yourself?

It would make you go even crazier. Imagine yelling as loud as you can, but what you hear from doing this is quieter than a whisper.

I've never been in one of these, but I did work at a recording studio with full sound treated walls. When there was nothing in those rooms for "room sound" the silence was absolutely deafening, and if you didn't have the monitor headphones on, talking or making any sounds made me feel the strangest feeling, like as if my senses were broken. Removing even light from the equation would be fucking insanity.

I will pay you to not put me in this place.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:48 AM on March 31, 2012


I will pay you to not put me in this place.

Done. MeMail me for details on where to send the funds.
posted by hippybear at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


What about deaf people?

I'm not quite deaf but I'm hearing impaired and I get auditory hallucinations all the time. Mostly sounds like a radio playing. The "quiet room" at my audiologists is really annoying. I have to put my aids back in to verify there's not actually a radio.
posted by desjardins at 6:53 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


My husband has superhuman hearing (opposites attract, I guess). So much so that they picked him to work sonar in the Navy. And he looooooves sensory deprivation. Earplugs + padded hood + noise-canceling headphones.
posted by desjardins at 7:03 AM on March 31, 2012


I wouldn't go anywhere near that chamber:

I've taken a few trips across the desert in Qatar to the inlet that separates the desert of Qatar from the desert of Saudi Arabia.

When the wind isn't blowing, it is absolutely uncomfortable mentally...the sound of my own heartbeat becoming seemingly deafening. That's the best I can describe it...it reminds me of the description in The Tell-Tale Heart.

Maybe I'm just sensitive, but on more than one occasion I have had to get back in the truck and turn the radio on for a bit to ward off what felt like an imminent panic attack.
posted by FunGus at 7:35 AM on March 31, 2012


I had too much beer and some really great Bengali curries last night. I need an anechoic couch.
posted by srboisvert at 7:43 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suspect that this would be entirely do-able for anyone with a regular, serious Zen practice.
posted by ellF at 7:46 AM on March 31, 2012


> You know those eye tests they give which allow you to perceive colors that your eyes can't normally see?

I most definitely don't - if anyone could elaborate, I'd appreciate it, because that sounds fascinating.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:55 AM on March 31, 2012


Not really the same thing, but Death Valley, when there is no wind at all, can be eerily quiet. But I've always lived in cities so I'm easily impressed. One time, in the middle of the Mojave desert I was startled when I could hear a bird beating its wings in the air above me.
posted by mrhappy at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2012


Imaginary colors - how to see true blue
posted by jcruelty at 8:08 AM on March 31, 2012 [9 favorites]


I spent a day walking around, alone, in the desert near LV with my cameras a few years ago. It was freaking hot and very quiet. By the end of the day I was talking to the desert, out loud, like a friend. It seemed to be the thing to do. I could imagine going mad there. I could imagine it being the thing to do, and it would at the time seem welcoming, the madness, like the warm embrace of a lover.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:23 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I spent a day walking around, alone, in the desert near LV with my cameras a few years ago. It was freaking hot and very quiet. By the end of the day I was talking to the desert, out loud, like a friend. It seemed to be the thing to do. I could imagine going mad there. I could imagine it being the thing to do, and it would at the time seem welcoming, the madness, like the warm embrace of a lover.

Being a transplanted desert rat, I really miss the kind of experience you describe. The solitude, the feeling of being someplace at once completely foreign and entirely welcoming, the seductive siren song calling you to lose yourself entirely to the heat and the dry and the sand and the plants which all want to poke and harm you somehow while still being very beautiful in their own right...

Knowing what that's like makes Lawrence Of Arabia something I watch regularly. I just have so much empathy for his brand of crazy.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 AM on March 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


(It's still nothing like being in a sound-cancelling chamber, however.)
posted by hippybear at 8:31 AM on March 31, 2012


I'll take one of those chambers, please. Having a neurological illness that gives me the sound and light sensitivity of a bad hangover all the time, I might feel halfway normal in there.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:37 AM on March 31, 2012


The recording engineer Rupert Neve has a lecture on his website where he describes how much he loves the silence in the neighborhood of his home and lab in the Texas hill country north of San Antonio. (The lecture is mostly about technical details of building mix boxes and his borderline crackpot ideas about how high in frequency sensitivity golden ears can go.) There are a number of places in the lecture where he seems real happy to be talking about what he is talking about, but that part might be the peak. He says it is really cool when you can hear the neighbor's dog barking and the neighbor is a mile away. Or you can hear it when a raccoon steps on a twig in the backyard.

It turns out it is a good thing I was too poor when I was a kid to go to more than a handful of concerts. It certainly did not seem like a good thing at the time I can tell you that.
posted by bukvich at 8:57 AM on March 31, 2012


That mannequin looking thingy in the photo of the linked article is interesting in and of it's own right. That's a binaural recording set-up. It's supposed to be a recording technique that takes into account not only the 3d nature of sound, but also the sort of absoprtive coeffevient of the skull and brain and whatnot.

It's also what was used heavily on the Pearl Jam record Binaural, appropriately enough.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:03 AM on March 31, 2012


“What we’re finding, most of the time, is that a person’s perception of their salary goes up—even though their salary hasn’t—after improvements have been made to the physical environment. Now that’s when you get an employer’s attention.”

Hooray for unending corporate fuckery!
posted by double block and bleed at 9:04 AM on March 31, 2012


Yeah, my employer could spend money on building me a delightful cube, or they could just let me work at home so I could get my own ass outside when I wanted to. That would be cheaper, and less stupid.

(this research is cool, the devotion to the Perfect WorkBee Manipulation Environment idea not so much.)
posted by emjaybee at 9:12 AM on March 31, 2012


The COSI museum in Columbus, OH has an anechoic room. It's eerie but also a bit of a relief to go into it and hear all the background noise just drop away.

I loved when I went into Mammoth Cave, too, and we all turned out flashlights off, so perhaps this is a common theme of mine...

More sensory fun: Impossible and imaginary colors.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:31 AM on March 31, 2012


No distinction between listening and hearing? it's not the hearing, it's the listening that makes you nuts.

Night in the rainforest, two-hundred feet of triple canopy above me, and a soggy earth floor at my feet. The man behind me keeps a hand on my rucksack as we move, because he can't see me. No light comes here at night, none, except (here and there) at my feet, a faint, blueish glow from rotting vegetable matter, scattered about the ground, looking to me like lights from far away villages. I can easily imagine that I'm flying. No sound. I can sometimes hear the guys behind me, carefully placing their feet, or sliding past a shrub that I'd just passed, but they generally are quiet, so I only hear them if I try. I focus ahead, and turn my head to listen in discreet arcs. If I open my mouth (to lessen the sound of my throbbing pulse) I hear where the trees are, I can see them with my ears. It's easy to let reality slip away, and I've actually seen bright flashes of colors streaking through the air. I know they aren't real, but I see them anyway.

Not long before I left country to come home I was training a man to take my place on point. We had been in the jungle for four or five days, sleeping when we could, traveling at night. I walked slack for him, a hand on his rucksack, running the compass so that he could concentrate. Just before dawn he stopped the patrol and leaned back to whisper in my ear that he saw a PAVN soldier squatting in the clearing, skinning a rabbit. We were hip deep in water, had been for hours, and as far as I know, there are no rabbits in Vietnam. Even so, he couldn't have seen his hand on the end of his arm, never mind anything else. I passed the word back. The Team Leader put him in the middle, and I went back up on point.

Anechoic chamber? Jeez. I could do that standing on my head, as long as you promise to keep the leeches off me.
posted by mule98J at 10:49 AM on March 31, 2012 [11 favorites]


Imaginary colors - how to see true blue

That is... some serious blue. It's beautiful.
posted by Malice at 11:54 AM on March 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: some serious blue.
posted by hippybear at 11:56 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Back when I was in my final year of school, the University of Manchester hosted a short course designed to entice girls into studying science and engineering to degree level. The weekend involved the usual competitions of building bridges out of pasta and tissue paper parachutes for eggs, but by far the most interesting part to me was a visit to the audiology department, where they had one of these anechoic chambers. Stepping inside that room was a strange experience, even with the door left open so that noise from the outer lab still filtered in.

Even setting aside the dizzying spaciness of hearing the blood rushing through your own ears, the visual symmetry of standing upon a barely visible thin wire mesh suspended above the triangular foam cones below, with identical cones above and to all sides somehow made the room feel crushingly tiny and immensely vast at one and the same time. And combined with the utter stillness of feeling all the sound being drawn away from us into the walls, leaving nothing but frozen silence that became tangible, that room felt like a pocket of emptiness that had been somehow forgotten by the rest of the world.

The lights never went out, but they let us spend about ten minutes in that room with the door shut. I loved it.
posted by talitha_kumi at 4:42 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imaginary colors - how to see true blue

Yep, that's the one I alluded to. Pretty sure it's shown up here on Metafilter before. Really cool stuff.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:21 PM on March 31, 2012


I have a recollection of being in one of these only I have no idea when or where that might have been...
posted by zeoslap at 12:37 AM on April 1, 2012


I too suffer from tinnitus. I can't imagine even going into that room at all. If my tinnitus was a theremin player I might deal with it, but mine is a constant flatline time that someone has turned up to a frequency just below a dog whistle. I'm pretty sure I have a strain insanity defense built in for anything I do with the rest of my life. Sometimes I lay awake at night trying to figure out where the sound is coming from, even though I know it's in my head (literally). Quiet places are the worst. I pretty much need constant noise. A place like this would kill me. It would take that case of beer to get me to cross the threshold.

Yeah, mine is about a 16,000 hz sine wave. I can also hear when a CRT is on. Drives certain people I know crazy, because they harp on and on about how awesome their hearing is ("I can totally hear the difference between these speakers or how superior vi-NYL is"), yet they cannot even hear a CRT screaming.

I would love to go into one of these rooms, but I'm not sure I'd be able to take it. I think it would make me crazy.
posted by gjc at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Outrageously Stupid Buildings That Achieve Nothing

Is going to be the name of my next band and we will tour with Einsturzende Neubauten (who will re-group just for us).


/blixaFunnyFilter
posted by Skygazer at 11:02 AM on April 1, 2012


I have tinnitus that is pretty much unnoticeable unless I'm in a quiet room. After about 5 minutes in this room it would probably sound like a steam whistle.
posted by zardoz at 3:35 PM on April 1, 2012


I keep thinking Peter Griffin would so fart in there and giggle for 45 min. He would win the bet.
posted by stormpooper at 7:11 AM on April 2, 2012


The quietest environment I have ever experienced was during the one time I ever went parachuting. When you're under canopy at 3,000 feet, there is no sound at all. Not wind, not machinery, not anything.

I had exactly the same experience. Waaay freakier than the pre-terminal-velocity stomach drop after initial jump . . . yet not nearly as creepy as the guy I tandem-ed with dying 3 days later when his overweight plane killed him and the same pilot that'd flown us.
posted by eggman at 8:24 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Crap!
posted by Skygazer at 10:55 AM on April 2, 2012


An update this morning from Minnesota Public Radio.
posted by sanka at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2012


Oh wow, that Prisoner's Cinema thing is what used to happen to me when I couldn't sleep as a child! I love it when the internet informs me that my historical weird brain shit (this, prosopagnosia, suchlike) is actually a Thing and not just me malfunctioning alllll alone.

I am pretty sensitive to sense-dep stuff. It's frightening, but also really fascinating. I have no idea whether I would go for this if offered, nor whether I would enjoy the experience. I can say that I already talk to myself and objects around me all the time, though, so I wouldn't be worried about that particular possible side effect. (Why is talking to yourself considered so weird anyway? I have never gotten that.)
posted by Because at 9:30 AM on April 3, 2012


It shouldn't get such a bad rap really, when we experience overload or stress, talking to oneself is a great way to make sense or work through a situation or talk oneself down a bit. It's an important tool.

I think what gets a bad rap is people just blurting out non-sequitars tourettes or doing that and getting emotional about it.
posted by Skygazer at 11:34 AM on April 3, 2012


I have heard that they actually do tours on some Fridays. They ask for a donation of $20 to a local food shelf.
posted by sanka at 1:31 PM on April 4, 2012


I can't imagine how it is ventilated. Wouldn't that create disturbance? Or would it be absorbed quickly enough to be negligible?
posted by amanda at 10:19 PM on April 4, 2012


Here's something interesting. It seemed like I was running into the story of this lab all over the place after I posted this. It was on reddit, in the local newspaper, online, everywhere. I just assumed it was confirmation bias. So I looked on google news.

From Jan 1st 2011 through today (April 26th 2012) there were 35 mentions of this sound laboratory in the news. All of them were in the month of April. I posted this story on the evening of March 30th. It seems like a lot of news agencies read metafilter.
posted by sanka at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2012


> It seems like a lot of news agencies read metafilter.

This also made the frontpage of Reddit. That would account for it rather than Metafilter.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:16 AM on April 26, 2012


Or someone on reddit saw it here, etc. The butterfly effect, etc.
posted by delmoi at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2012


Hmm. They were posted on the same day, although there's no timestamp on Reddit posts. Anyway, I know people love this place and all but very little of what trends on the internet actually starts doing so here.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2012


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