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March 30, 2004 4:02 PM   Subscribe

US-made ultrasonic gun uses baby's scream The gun is capable of causing permanent ear damage, even death.
Makes me want to scream.
posted by Twang (45 comments total)
 
Whoa! Someone in the military has been listening to a bit too much Kate Bush!
posted by elendil71 at 4:11 PM on March 30, 2004


I wonder about the use of a baby's scream ... once it's been reversed, increased to ultrasound frequency, presumably stretched, and then doubled, how much of the original sound would remain? Would any other sound (a dove's coo, perhaps?) have been just as good? Or even a simple synthesised waveform?

Seems like an emotive marketing ploy to me.
posted by nomis at 4:43 PM on March 30, 2004


elendil71: I had the exact same thought.

This is sort of a terrifying new technology.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:44 PM on March 30, 2004


I don't know, I kept having visions of Dune as I read the article. That and the song by D12, "Words are Weapons".

How soon until this device is used by Americans against Americans?
posted by fenriq at 4:46 PM on March 30, 2004


Nice title.
posted by kindall at 4:50 PM on March 30, 2004


Well that certainly seems inhumane.
posted by crasspastor at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2004


Newsflash: All the world to be deaf by 2008!
posted by banished at 4:51 PM on March 30, 2004


has someone in the military been busy plagiarizing or have they licensed this?
posted by bokononito at 4:56 PM on March 30, 2004


Mmmmmm, permanent deafness ... lovely. (Better than being turned into a Swiss cheese, I suppose.)

I don't know, I kept having visions of Dune as I read the article

They really should call them "weirding modules."
posted by chuq at 4:59 PM on March 30, 2004


Wow, that Kate Bush thing is quite the coincidence.

This is a really cool invention. Go DARPA!
posted by Dasein at 5:00 PM on March 30, 2004


And the article says they were tested on volunteers... I wonder who volunteered ("volunteered?") for that one.

"Hey, kid! Wanna make five bucks?"
posted by Krrrlson at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2004


I wonder if this will work against soldiers who are also parents though? Won't their reaction be to nudge the person next to them and say "Honey, it's your turn, I got him last time"?
posted by dg at 5:10 PM on March 30, 2004


I agree with nomis about the use of a baby scream as an advertising ploy. Effective for me, though. The idea of being hit by a sonic blast that vibrates my skull and deafens me with the shriek of a baby has a strong deterrent effect.

But then I'm liable to support the ban of use of such a terrible devise in all but the most extreme cases. Good God, what a horrifying world we're creating.
posted by squirrel at 5:11 PM on March 30, 2004


About the baby screaming thing; I seem to remember reading, a while ago, an article about amplified baby cries being used in larger crowd control situations; the justification being that the sound itself is somehow pathologically nerve wracking. Like we're affected by that particular sound as a species.
posted by armoured-ant at 5:17 PM on March 30, 2004


So, only psychotics will be able to stand this weapon, assuming it's the baby scream that's so horrible?

And this is what they build to bring down the Al-Queda... Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Oh, and, a solution:


posted by shepd at 5:31 PM on March 30, 2004


My skin is still crawling. I can't push from my mind the image of a 100-foot baby tottering toward a crowd of fleeing protesters, shrieking, Godzilla-like, wearing an FBI flack jacket and a tiny, elastically-secured cowboy hat.
posted by squirrel at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2004


Ah, shepd, but if we're trying to stop the suicide bombers, they'll be spotted from hundreds of yards away with those bright yellow earmuffs.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:37 PM on March 30, 2004


Yeah....I have a 15 month old who is, I swear to you, the loudest screamer of all time. If it were amplified any more, I'd just have to jump off a bridge or something. Deafness might be preferable to hearing the terrible twos....I'm just saying.
posted by dejah420 at 5:49 PM on March 30, 2004


And, actually, another point about stopping suicide bombers: I'm sure, if they're willing to blow themselves to smithereens, they'd be willing to (chemically? medically?) deafen themselves.
posted by armoured-ant at 6:02 PM on March 30, 2004


shepd, I don't think earmuffs are going to work against something that works partly by vibrating your skull.

I don't know about this - maybe it is more the frequency than the volume that does the damage, because I have attended motorsport events where the sound levels are around the 110db specified without falling to the ground screaming in pain. *shakes head to try and stop ringing noises*.
posted by dg at 6:11 PM on March 30, 2004


Oh, and dejah420, I will match your 15 month-old against mine any day. What do you say - db meters at 10 paces?
posted by dg at 6:12 PM on March 30, 2004


This seems a bit silly. What I've seen reported / admitted about actual projects has them being largely the reverse -- not high-frequency screeches, but infrasound rumbles at the base of hearing or below. Last I heard, they were trying to find a frequency that would resonate with human innards and so give a whole crowd massive intestinal cramps (aka The Screaming Shits) all at once.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:12 PM on March 30, 2004


Oh, and dejah420, I will match your 15 month-old against mine any day. What do you say - db meters at 10 paces?

I have a better idea dg, let's find some unsuspecting babysitter, hand her some earmuffs and you and I go have a nice leisurely brunch...you know, the ones that start with champagne at 11a, and finish with martini's, dinner and cognac at midnight? ;)
posted by dejah420 at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2004


A gun that's capable of causing permanent ear damage, even death?! Say it's not so!!!
posted by jonson at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2004


Sounds even better, dejah420. See, I always knew women were smarter than men. Men say "let's fight to prove whose kid is better" and women say "let's lunch and forget about the kids for a few hours".
posted by dg at 6:36 PM on March 30, 2004


And southern women say..."you know what this lunch needs? Booze!" ;)
posted by dejah420 at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe, as I understand it, lower frequencies are non-directional; the idea behind using high frequencies is that it can be aimed like a gun, whereas your infrasound example would be more like a bomb, taking out the whole crowd, as you pointed out (including possibly those wielding the weapon). Probably useful to a military, but in different circumstances.
posted by nomis at 7:07 PM on March 30, 2004


$300us gets you countermeasures. I've used the Bose ANR headsets in helicopters and they do a fantastic job of wiping the rotor noise out. Presumably they'd do a decent job of dealing with this.

New find Osama strategy-watch for the UPS trucks delivering ANR headsets to caves...
posted by ehintz at 8:03 PM on March 30, 2004


See it in action at the GOP convention in NYC this September!
posted by Busithoth at 8:57 PM on March 30, 2004


What was it I heard about blackboard screeches being so awful because they're about the same frequency as monkey alarm screams?
posted by gottabefunky at 11:03 PM on March 30, 2004


Inhumane? I guess so. Certainly not as inhumane as sniping people from a building, or blowing busses up. This is a technology that is definitely severe but much more humane than filling the victim up with lead.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:06 PM on March 30, 2004


...trying to find a frequency that would resonate with human innards and so give a whole crowd massive intestinal cramps (aka The Screaming Shits)...

One of my nefarious war-on-idjits thoughts has been to release a CD that contains those subsonic bass notes, in the hopes that those pricks with the deafening-loud car stereos would find themselves with a mess in their pants.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:49 PM on March 30, 2004


So how long until the handheld version of this thing is available for purchase on the black market? I don't even want to think about what would happen if someone decided to "have a little fun" in a crowded mall. How about a bank? An airplane?

Sigh.
posted by Optamystic at 5:03 AM on March 31, 2004


Don't worry. The baby's lawyers have already begun sending cease and desist letters to the Military's DJs for remixing without permission. The military is organizing a web campaign called Green Tuesday in protest and there is even some question of the baby's claims to own the copyright of its own scream.
posted by srboisvert at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2004


There was article in the NY Times magazine about the inventor of this technology, which I would link to if I could find it, but can't.

Essentially, his invention is a hyperdirectional sound speaker, that targets sound directly at a person's head and recreates the sound inside their head. Anyone outside of the focus of the "sound gun" can't hear what's being played. This has many applications, from direct advertising, to pranks, to military applications.

The military form of the sound gun uses a baby screaming backwards because scientific tests proved this to be the most annoying sound in existence - probably due to evolution, as anyone who's had a baby will testify. There's something about a baby scream that affects humans the way nothing else will. The gun can cause deafness, but it doesn't have to - a much milder decibel level will still cause a headache and intense pain. But more interesting, wearing headphones, I believe, will do nothing to stop it, as the sound is recreated in your head, not outside.

That's what I remember from reading about it a few months ago.
posted by fungible at 8:05 AM on March 31, 2004


"Pentagon considers ear-blasting anti-hijack gun" - New Scientist November 2001

Earpiece that screens out unwanted noise - New Scientist February 2001

I'm also sure someone will find a way to cancel out the resonant frequencies.
posted by mikhail at 9:27 AM on March 31, 2004


There may be some deep evolutionary instinct to deal with a baby's cry...

...but surely we've only ever heard them crying forwards in time, not backwards. Why reverse the soundtrack?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 AM on March 31, 2004


I'm sure, if they're willing to blow themselves to smithereens, they'd be willing to (chemically? medically?) deafen themselves.

Don't be so sure. They'd actually have to live with the consequences of that one.
posted by callmejay at 10:49 AM on March 31, 2004


So how long until the handheld version of this thing is available for purchase on the black market? I don't even want to think about what would happen if someone decided to "have a little fun" in a crowded mall. How about a bank? An airplane?


Well that's an interesting slippery slope theory, but doesn't seem to be very relevant. I don't want to think about what would happen if someone started firing an air rifle or a hunting catapult around a public place, but these are already possibilities. They don't let you take anything even slightly pokey on airplanes these days, the idea that they'd allow a sonic weapon is quite weird.
posted by ed\26h at 2:46 PM on March 31, 2004


A hunting catapult? Like, you get the moose to stand really, really still, then lob pumpkins and pianos at it, hoping some random combination of tension, mass, and aerodynamics results in a direct strike?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:45 PM on March 31, 2004


ROU_Xenophobe: infrasound rumbles at the base of hearing or below.

According to the old editor of Analog, the Nazis had themselves an infrasound weapon operating at 00x hertz. The problem with it was that (because of non-directionality) it also killed the operator.

This gun gets its directionality by crossing two beams ... something that vas Verboten in Ghostbusters.

posted by Twang at 4:33 PM on March 31, 2004


jonson: A gun that's capable of causing permanent ear damage, even death?! Say it's not so!!!

Maybe you're forgetting that weapons like mustard gas were eliminated from war for a reason?

posted by Twang at 4:35 PM on March 31, 2004


...but surely we've only ever heard them crying forwards in time, not backwards. Why reverse the soundtrack?

I'm guessing we respond to the set of frequencies. Reversing the actual sound doesn't affect these, but may stop you from recognising the sound, and ignoring it.

NP: Bam Bam - Where is Your Child?

Also on that note Surgeon has been playing a track with a child scream stab recently. Very effective...

posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:47 PM on March 31, 2004


I wonder what this weapon's echo (say, off a rock wall) would do to the users.
posted by moonbiter at 5:53 PM on March 31, 2004


moonbiter: I wonder what this weapon's echo (say, off a rock wall) would do to the users.

If the painful signal is created by the interference of 2 or more inaudible carrier waves in a particular place and in a particular phase, then if one carrier is reflected away, or if the particular phase relationship is lost, the signal is never delivered. So a random echo in open space seems unlikely to harm the operator. (more, more)

What I find remarkable is that "the gun ... will be issued to marines in Iraq this month." The US military has been fielding some extremely sci-fi-ish systems lately, and some of them really work.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 12:20 AM on April 1, 2004


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