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Sonic Attack or Mass Hysteria?

The “Sonic Attack” on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba:
Why the State Department’s Claims Don’t Add Up

…an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.
—Marcello Truzzi1

Even though sound is measurable, we tend to experience it as spectral, as something beyond our rational understanding. It is thus the perfect stand-in for a Cold War-style cunning enemy, who is surely out there, doing something, even though we can never seem to pin him down.
—Lisa Dierch & Ben Tausig2

It’s the stuff of spy novels and science fiction films. On October 13, 2017 the Associated Press released an eerie recording of a mysterious sound that was said to have been part of a “sonic attack” on American diplomats in Cuba.3 In August, State Department officials reported that several personnel at the Havana Embassy had been sickened by an unidentified acoustical weapon. The number of those affected in the sporadic, ongoing attacks is now at least two dozen. Several Canadian diplomats have reported similar health complaints. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and remembering, insomnia, tinnitus, confusion, vertigo, hearing loss and “mild brain trauma.” Conspiracy theories abound with talk of secret military weapons from a foreign power or rogue agents, possibly Russian. But delve deeper, and the government’s claims begin to unravel.

For starters, there is no concrete evidence of an attack. Experts agree that what is being reported is not consistent with how sonic weaponry works. A leading figure in the field of psychoacoustics, former MIT researcher Joseph Pompei, is adamant that the State Department’s claims violate the laws of physics. “Brain damage and concussions, it’s not possible,” he said, noting that to produce such an effect “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers.”4 German physicist and acoustics specialist Jürgen Altmann of Technology University Dortmund, concurs: “I know of no acoustic effect that can cause concussion symptoms. Sound going through the air cannot shake your head.”5 Former Brown University neuroscientist Seth Horowitz also views the claims as fanciful: “There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms.”6 He notes that while infrasonic sound waves can cause nausea, they would have no effect on human hearing as “there are no acoustic devices that can cause sudden onset hearing loss that the people involved could not hear.”7 Former CIA officer Fulton Armstrong agrees: “No one has a device that could do this” as “no such device exists.”8

The range of human hearing is between 20 and 20,000 hertz. Sounds below this level—infrasound, have proved a challenge to weaponize due to the difficulty in focusing the wavelengths. The central effect appears to be irritation. Sounds above this range—ultrasound, are an equally poor candidate for the symptoms because the waves dissipate rapidly as they travel. Even if they reached a building in an effort to target people inside, most of the wave would bounce off walls before harmlessly reaching their target.

Could someone have developed a hand-held weapon that could focus a wave of energy on a victim with pinpoint accuracy? This is Buck Rogers-style science fiction according to Timothy Leighton, professor of Ultrasonics and Acoustics at Southampton University in the United Kingdom: “If you’re talking about a ray-gun rifle knocking out someone with ultrasound…that’s not going to happen.”9 New York City Police have used Long Range Acoustic Devices or LRADs to break up crowds of protestors, but there is nothing subtle or mysterious about these devices. These bulky machines are nicknamed “sound cannons” due to their capacity to blast ear-piercing noises. The U.S. Navy has used similar devices to protect their ships by warding off small vessels suspected of carrying terrorists or pirates, while the Army has used them to clear houses of combatants.10 In 2015, riot police in the Philippines even blasted Katy Perry music to disperse anti-government protestors.11

Another oddity surrounds how diplomats have been targeted. Many claim to have been “attacked” in their homes, and even a hotel. Why were some people affected while others who were standing next to them, were not? While the U.S. cannot prove that the Cubans are responsible, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has suggested that the Cuban government knows more than they are letting on. “We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” he said.12 Cuban President Raúl Castro vehemently denies any involvement in the “attacks” and has taken the extraordinary step of inviting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to travel to Cuba and conduct their own investigation.13 Since June, FBI agents have been on the Caribbean island conducting forensic analyses of the possible crime scenes, but remain stumped.14 This leaves one plausible explanation for the illness cluster in Cuba: mass psychogenic illness.

To those who are unfamiliar with the capabilities of sonic weaponry, the claims may sound ominous—and very real. After all, how can conditions like hearing loss and brain trauma be psychological in origin? State Department officials have even released a recording of the “weapon” in action. Yet the recording proves little. The high-pitched whine sounds like a swarm of cicadas. It could be anything. It is the equivalent of a blurry UFO photograph or grainy Bigfoot video. Furthermore, most of the symptoms are vague. Terms like “brain trauma” and “hearing loss” sound alarming but tell us little, and none of the medical records have been released. This could be done without violating privacy laws by redacting the names and identifying information about the “victims.” How many diplomats are suffering from hearing loss, and is it partial or total? Why haven’t they given us more specific figures? Is it one case or 17—and if it is the latter, why haven’t they said so in order to convince a skeptical media? There may very well be a small number of personnel who are experiencing health issues that are unrelated to either psychogenic illness or a sonic weapon.

Sick Building Syndrome

The literature on mass hysteria is filled with reports of so-called “sick buildings” where some harmful agent is blamed for a mysterious illness outbreak, most commonly in schools and factories. However, once the premises are tested, the results are negative. The symptoms often continue to recur, so long as the perceived agent is believed to remain. The failure to identify a potential culprit may generate more anxiety, leading to further outbreaks. Common suspects include pesticides from nearby farm fields, gas leaks, mold, and contaminated water. In these cases, the outbreak is triggered by the spread of an idea, aided by rumors, folklore, and erroneous media reports about the “toxic” building. Often speculation centers around nearby waste dumps. This could explain the illness reports at the Embassy, but what about their homes? Embassy staff would have been aware of the history of American diplomats in Cuba, and the Cold War folklore that included harassment of personnel in their homes.

Cold War Context

The historical backdrop of the “attack” may have contributed to the outbreak. The Embassy closed for 54 years, from 1961 when then President Dwight Eisenhower severed ties with Castro’s rise to power, to its reopening in 2015. While the Embassy was closed, the U.S. has maintained a diplomatic presence in Cuba such as the mission at the United States Interests Section in Havana. Due to the antagonistic relationship between the two countries, during the Cold War Cuban agents engaged in a series of antics that have become part of American Intelligence folklore. These actions were more harassing and prankish than sinister. They would do things like sneak into the homes of diplomats and rearrange their bookshelf or furniture. On the high end of the scale, some diplomats reported returning home to find fecal matter lying on their floor. The context of the illness cluster fits neatly with the psychogenic hypothesis as you have a group of people working in an anxious environment amid reports and rumors of a mysterious attack.15

Earlier Hum Scares

Since the early 1940s there have been similar outbreaks involving claims of mysterious humming sounds reportedly making people sick, especially in the United States. The most famous of these is the “Kokomo Hum” in the city of Kokomo, Indiana. Some have even suggested that the American military was conducting secret tests on its own citizens. Conspiracy theorists have had a field day with these cases. In 1999, Kokomo city officials were besieged by complaints from at least 90 residents, many of whom claimed that the hum was not only irritating, but ruining their health.16

A study of one Kokomo neighborhood by an acoustics engineer seemed to confirm the reality of the hum after he reported detecting a low frequency sound at about 55 decibels and 15 hertz—too low to be heard by the human ear. At the time, an expert from the Acoustical Society of America observed that the origin of the sound was unclear. “Those levels of sound could be coming from road traffic on even distant highways, air or rail activity or possibly just some industrial plants or even commercial buildings in the area. And, in fact, those levels could be caused just by the wind in the trees,” said Bennett Brooks. He cautioned that the range of ill-effects attributed to the low frequency hum could be entirely imaginary. “The levels that will rattle dishes on a wall…haven’t been shown to cause health problems, other than perhaps people waking up at night worrying,” Brooks said at the time.17 Some Kokomo residents were so concerned by the “hum” that they moved away.

Similar claims of ill-health associated with the presence of low-frequency sound have been recorded in Taos, New Mexico, since 1991, but the source has neither been determined nor any conclusive link to ill-health including sleep problems, earaches, irritability, and general discomfort.18 Investigative journalist Oliver Libaw notes that various investigations of the Taos Hum “failed to measure any low-frequency vibration that experts believed could cause either the noise or the infirmities reported by those who heard it.”19

London and South Hampton in the United Kingdom have had their own Hum Scares. Scores of residents have complained of an irritating low frequency sound dating back to the 1940s. They too have claims that it has caused health problems. In 1989, an organization was formed to investigate reports: The Low Frequency Noise Sufferers Association, nicknamed “the Hummers.”20

The “sonic attack” on embassy staff in Cuba appears to be a case of old wine in new skins. It is the Hum Scare and Sick Building Syndrome dressed up in a different social and cultural garb. These scares may resonate because they reflect prevailing fears such as the distrust of foreign and domestic governments. It may be no coincidence then that the outbreak reportedly began just days after the election of Donald Trump, an administration known for promoting conspiracy theories. END

About the Author

Dr. Robert Bartholomew is a medical sociologist who holds a Ph.D. from James Cook University in Australia. He is an authority on culture-specific mental disorders, outbreaks of mass psychogenic illness, moral panics and the history of tabloid journalism. He has conducted anthropological fieldwork among the Malays in Malaysia and Aborigines in Central Australia. His most recently books are A Colorful History of Popular Delusions with Peter Hassall and American Hauntings: The True Stories Behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies—From Exorcist to The Conjuring with Joe Nickell. Read his previous article, An Outbreak of Mass Hallucinations and Shoddy Journalism: Why We Need Skepticism More Than Ever.

References
  1. Truzzi, Marcello. 1978. “On the Extraordinary: An Attempt at Clarification.” Zetetic Scholar 1(1):11.
  2. Diedrich, Lisa, and Tausig, Benjamin. 2017. “Mysterious Sounds and Scary Illnesses as Political Tools.” New York Times (Online), New York: New York Times Company. Oct 10.
  3. Lederman, Josh, Weissenstein, Michael. 2017. “Dangerous Sound? What Americans Heard in Cuba.” Associated Press News, October 13, http://bit.ly/2g4DzrX
  4. Lederman, Josh, Weissenstein, Michael, and Lee, Matthew. 2017. “Cuba Mystery Grows: New Details on what Befell U.S. Diplomats,” Chicago Tribune, September 26.
  5. Zimmer, Carl. 2017. “A ‘Sonic Attack’ on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It.” New York Times, October 5.
  6. Loria, Kevin. 2017. September 16. “U.S. Diplomats Returned from Cuba with Brain Injuries and Hearing Loss, and Mysterious ‘Sonic Weapons’ could be to Blame.” Business Insider Australia, September 16.
  7. Gearan, Anne. 2017. “U.S. investigating whether American diplomats were victims of sonic attack in Cuba.” Washington Post, August 10.
  8. Kornbluh, Peter. 2017. “Trump’s Non-Sonic Attack on Cuba.” The Nation, October 5.
  9. Zimmer, 2017, op cit.
  10. Evers, Marco. 2015. “The Weapon of Sound: Sonic Cannon Gives Pirates an Earful.” Der Spiegel, November 15.
  11. Felipe, Cecille. 2015. “Katy Perry Roar at Anti-APEC Rallyists.” The Philippine Star, November 20.
  12. Lederman and Weissenstein, 2017, op. cit.
  13. Buncombe, Andrew. 2017. “Donald Trump expels 15 Cuban Diplomats Following Mysterious ‘Sonic Attacks’ on 23 U.S. embassy staff,” The Independent (London), October 3.
  14. Kornbluh, 2017, op cit.
  15. 15. Rosenberg, Carol. 2003. “U.S. Details Harassment of Diplomats by Cuba.” Miami Herald, February 6; Bruno, James. 2014. The Foreign Circus: Why Foreign Policy Should not be left in the Hand of Diplomats, Spies and Political Hacks. Canastota, NY: Bittersweet House Press.
  16. Huppke, Rex W. 2002. “Strange Doings Abuzz in Kokomo–Many Claim Illness from Mystery Noise.” Bergen County Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), June 13, 2002; Martinez, Matt. 2002. “Profile: City Council in Kokomo, Indiana, Authorizes a Study to Investigate the Source of a Sound that has Caused many Residents to Become ill.” All Things Considered, NPR, May 22.
  17. Martinez, Matt. 2002. “Profile: City Council in Kokomo, Indiana, Authorizes a Study to Investigate the Source of a Sound that has Caused many Residents to Become ill.” All Things Considered, NPR, May 22.
  18. Lambert, Pam. 1992. “Hmmmmmmmmmmmm…? (Ground Noise in Taos, New Mexico).” People Weekly 38 (12):61-62 (September 21); Begley, Sharon. 1993. “Do You Hear What I Hear? A Hum in Taos is Driving Dozens of People Crazy.” Newsweek 121 (18):54–55 (May 3); Huppke, op cit.
  19. Libaw, Oliver. 2003. “The Kokomo Hum. Reports of Mysterious Noise and Illness in Indiana.” ABC News report filed February 14, http://abcn.ws/2ioAyHy
  20. “The Low Frequency Noise Sufferers Association.” Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration 9(4):149–155; Donnelly, John. 1993. “Mysterious, Annoying ‘Taos Hum’ a Baffling Detective Story.” Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, July 9.
  21. Jauchem, James R., and Cook, Michael C. (2007). “High-Intensity Acoustics for Military Nonlethal Applications: A Lack of Useful Systems.” Military Medicine 172 (2):182–189. See. p. 182.

27 Comments

  1. Z Abrams says:

    This is absolute garbage, concealed as “Science” by an ill informed (or worse) “Scientist”.
    Infrasound USED to be thought of as having no effect. The field where this is most well known – and is amazingly not mentioned in the article – is in Wind Turbine Farms. All those old “rumors” that they give *some* people headaches, nausea, etc. – many of them have been substantiated by scientific research.
    But, OK, maybe that research still leaves room for skepticism (as I had when researching it). OK – then go look up studies by the AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY on low-frequency (sub 20Hz) sounds/vibrations in cars. They actually DESIGN cars to ensure that they don’t have resonance frequencies in this range (look it up, there’s even a PARTICULAR resonance frequency that messes with people’s minds). And what are the symptoms? You betcha’! The same as those listed above!
    There’s even more research out there – don’t take my word for it! Google it! Or, you can do like me, and BUILD a low frequency vibrator and try it yourself: Warning, it sucks.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      @Z
      I don’t think anyone is asserting that infrasound has NO bad effects on humans. I think the issue is weaponizing infrasound is very difficult. Aiming long-wavelength sound waves (> 10 meter) in a narrow beam – one that can target a single building – is very difficult. Ever notice you only need one sub-woofer and the sound from it doesn’t seem to be directional – as say a tweeter’s sound is?
      Also such sonic weapons would be very large and noticeable.

      Frankly, it’d be far easier to secretly spray nasty chemicals on the embassy and private homes. Of course, chemicals usually leave traces… unless we don’t know what to test for…

      • Matty Mattelyn says:

        Then you’d be misinformed they do exist look up sonic weapon’s.

      • Z Abrams says:

        I don’t want to go into details, but no: they don’t have to be that small and unnoticeable.
        I read a bunch of the comments below, and people confuse things Infra/Ultra-sound/E-M radiation. You can build a device that will make the building shake. The “Sick Building Syndrome” is one of them – look it up, and you’ll find that many times this is due to a low, inaudible hum or vibration from (e.g.) a faulty air conditioning unit. Also, the frequencies measured and given to the Media were only in the Audible region: it would be interesting to see the frequency analysis in the sub/supra audible range.
        Finally, I want to point out that I am NOT saying that this is the cause – my main problem with this article is that it portends to have the status of a Scientific response, but is, in fact, hiding well known research on the topic that says the exact opposite.

    • Eli says:

      I think even the mass hysteria hypothesis is far fetched. They were all at the same conference where this “attack” happened? Why nt assume it to be a biological weapon instead? It sounds exactly like an viral ear infection I had once and still have tinitus from! And I am almost certain these people didn’t go to their doctor with these symptoms and get te diagnoses “attacked by sonic weapon” or suffering hysterical tinnitus. More than likely a doctor presented with those symptoms would assume the most likely cause. A cold. A shitty weird ear cold, but a cold all the same.

  2. Schnave says:

    We need to discuss psychogenic illnesses more in our modern world. They are pandemic. Other names for them are psychosomatic or hysterical. We used to understand the nature of these illnesses better than we understand them today. Modern medicine seems to marvel at itself when it discovers, for example, that depression has a physical component. It obviously does as everything we experience has underlying physical components. This does not negate the fact that the illness starts with emotional and unconscious thought processes. Back pain, foot pain, heart burn, many chest pains, most abdominal pains, panic, spasms, headaches, neck aches, fatigue syndromes, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, knee pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies, asthma…etc, etc, etc.
    We are now fixated on the physical components of these illnesses. This prevents us from letting go of many of these problems as people in the past would have let them go. We cling to them.

  3. Tzindaro says:

    There is another possible explanation: The US government is lying for some political motive. The American government may have wanted an excuse to close their embassy or at least scale it down, so they made up a tall tale to give them an excuse.

    Such an excuse need not conform to any real science. It only needs to seem convincing to the American public, most of whom suffer from being survivors of the American “education” system, so they have no idea what is possible or not. The government’s need from time to time
    to be able to pull off this sort of deception is one of the main reasons the “education” system is kept the way it is instead of being changed to provide a real education. Real education for the masses would threaten the power of those who control the country.

    There is never any good reason to trust anything the US government says on any subject. Taking their track record into consideration, the possibility they are lying is the most likely explanation of a conflict between their story and scientific possibility.

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      Next you’ll suggest that we once sailed a Battleship into Havana harbor and when it blew up under mysterious circumstances we came up with a catchy slogan and used it as a pretext for waging war.

      • Tzindaro says:

        No need to blow up a battleship. It would be easier to just say the intended victim has weapons of mass destruction. Of course nobody would ever fall for that, would they?

    • Leo says:

      Considering many historical reports -e.g., weapons of mass destruction in ‘evil’ countries (not the US – of course) and using Occam’s razor – this seems to be the MOST PLAUSIBLE explanation in the absence of reliable evidence.

  4. alias100 says:

    Tzindaro, you may want to consider Hanlon’s Razor when looking at our education system. “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence”
    I am not saying to trust what the government says, just that there are alternative explanations that may explain it better than conspiracies.

  5. Sharon Hill says:

    We’ve been discussing this on the past several episodes of my podcast 15 Credibility Street (15credibilitystreet.com). I’ve been amazed at how poorly the news organizations have covered this story and have made huge assumptions about a non-established story.

  6. Dallas says:

    This can be viewed as the “nocebo” effect (the opposite of the placebo effect) that makes witchcraft work (that pin in the doll will give you a pain in your liver if you believe it will).

    Everything from “electromagnetic sensitivity” to this Cuba craziness to people with symptoms from “silicone breast implants” can be understood in terms of the nocebo effect.

    In our modern society, trial lawyers have added to the problem by dangling huge “rewards” if you become effected some deep pocket organization. Even when the “lawyer sponsored science” was proved wrong with “real science”, lawsuits on silicon were allowed to continue putting companies out of business, destroy jobs while enriching the legal class.

    • 123elle says:

      These nocebo effects are so stubborn because we have no way of accessing another’s subjective experiences, and the power of suggestion is extreme. The whole time I was growing up, I never once heard of perfume being a toxic substance (unless you hated the scent), but now it is considered just that.

      I witnessed a huge kerfuffle at eBay when I was working as a temp copywriter there. A woman had the temerity to wear her Chanel #5 one day, and during a meeting, another employee blew up at her as if she had released Zyklon B. The scent was so faint I didn’t even smell it but she was absolutely convinced that she was having a massive anaphylactic reaction to the perfume.

      I’ve had friends and relatives insist that all manner of everyday substances made them sick, from tap water to canned vegetables to the air. But there were no diagnosable illnesses in their blood tests or x-rays etc. I do believe that climate change is a fact, as it is scientifically demonstrable.

  7. Gary says:

    Businesses in downtown Washington, DC, around which teenagers congregate have used a device called a “The Mosquito” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mosquito) to make them go away. The device sends a signal in the upper range of human hearing that adults can’t hear but teenagers can.

  8. Doug1943 says:

    You also have to think about motive. What conceivable motive could the Cuban state have for doing this? They want full American recognition (which means the end of the embargo) so bad they can taste it. They are begging to be able to do a Chinese turn away from the inevitable impoverishment that full socialism brings. They want a capitalist economy with the Party keeping power and for that they need the US to treat them as it treats China.

    There is one just barely plausible scenario: not everyone in Cuba wants to dismantle the creaking state economy. A few people do very well out of it. So there is a faction of hardliners who don’t want to take this path. Could rogue elements in the Cuban state be behind this?

    But since the “this” is almost certainly mass hysteria, rather than some implausible ‘weapon’, even the “rogue elements” scenario is very unlikely to be true.

    Maybe the diplomats were just getting nauseous at the idea of Donald Trump overseeing foreign policy. I’ve been experiencing some of the same symptoms myself whenever I read the papers.

  9. Jack Taylor says:

    The fact that many are reporting this as a “sonic attack” may be the fact that the most common symptom has been associated with hearing. It seems to me that assuming the cause of those symptoms is sound waves is most peculiar, and for many of the various reasons the author states.

    I think that most (at least the media) have assumed that the cause must be associated with the physical auditory “sound” rather than damage being done directly to neurological structures in the brain. The first thought would by either targeted ultrasonic and/or electromagnetic radiation since both can be used to penetrate the skull and do damage. Electromagnetic easily, ultrasonic not so easy. The auditory region of the brain would be an easy area to be affected and even damaged, even if simply done so non-specifically, rather like a shotgun blast to head. Perhaps skeptics should be considering the developments that are taking place in focusing electromagnetic radiation and ultrasonic penetrations of the skull which are now being done and both capable of altering and even destroying brain tissue.

    That does not mean that there are not symptoms that are being reported that have nothing to do with some sinister activity, but the fact that we can be confident that one cause is unlikely does not seem to justify the author’s statement “This leaves one plausible explanation for the illness cluster in Cuba: mass psychogenic illness.”

    All this having been said, I am indeed skeptical that any but the most rogue Cuban government agency would be involved in such an attention-grabbing caper.

  10. Bob Pease says:

    SNORE !!

    Can we get a non-“woo” topic ??

  11. Irl Sanders says:

    Herzt is capitalized when written or abbreviated Hz or kHz.

  12. Richard Pare says:

    Probably the LEAST scientific ‘debunking” article I have ever read.

    PS Bob Pease – kHz stands for kilohertz

  13. Barbara Harwood says:

    Many people have serious problems with many of the products that we use in everyday life. They seem to be allergic to chemicals and substances that most of us use with no problems. There are also problems experienced by people in foreign countries with the water that they drink. A fe of the synptoms may be attributed to such problems. You must remember that Cuba has been on its own for a long time and may have developed their own ways of dealing with different problems that are different from those of a newcomer.

  14. Nyles says:

    I concur that this black and white attitude of this phenomena being either a (debunked) sonic weapon or some sort of mass hysteria is a little short sighted and parallels the thinking of those that consider higher education to be elitist. Come on Michael and Skeptic, you’re better than this.

  15. Steve Davidson says:

    I support scepticism as part of the scientific method, yet proving a negative conclusion does require demonstration that sufficient rational explanations have been considered.

    Several reports say that the sounds heard were very localised, such that moving two feet to one side removed the effect. Frank Joseph Pompei, MIT 2002 [1-5] describes an audio spotlight created by a beam of ultra-sound that is completely inaudible, propagating in an almost parallel beam. Modulation of the ultrasound at source produces a non-linear interaction between the ultrasound and the air to produce sounds in the audible region. Audio spotlight speakers based on this approach can create a region of sound at distance of more than thirty meters, small enough in lateral extent to be heard by only one person and not the person standing next to them. This technology is well known, commercially available, and used by Disney and stage magicians.

    In the first line of the abstract for his thesis [6] Pompei says that the system can detect audio fields as well as creating them. This reverse effect, involves sound in a room modulating an ultrasonic beam passing through, potentially allowing the conversation to be reconstructed from the ultrasonic beam emerging on the far side. Such a process could explain the sounds heard, the symptoms produced, and it is not hard to suggest why somebody may want to follow conversations in an embassy.

    As a scientist I would have to investigate further before I would be happy to say ultrasound as probe for conversations in an embassy is not a possible explanation. The main issue would be the signal processing and level of infrasound required to achieve a reasonable signal to noise. It is interesting that exposure to high intensity ultrasound does lead to a syndrome involving manifestations of nausea, headache, tinnitus, pain, dizziness and fatigue [7].

    In general, I feel that your article falls short of proving that that the symptoms reported by more than twenty people can only be explained as a conspiracy theory, mass hysteria, Hum Scare or Sick Building Syndrome. The latter two involve infrasound which is inconsistent with localised sound and the first two seem to be explanations for which little evidence is provided.

    Skeptics can provide a valuable service but they need to hold themselves to high standards if they are not to be tarred with their own brush.

    1 Westervelt, P. J., JASA v35 535-537 (1963)
    2 Bennett, M. B., and Blackstock, D. T., JASA v57 562-568 (1975)
    3 Yoneyama, M., et al., JASA v73 1532-1536 (1983)
    4 Pompei, F. J., Proc.105th AES Conv, Preprint 4853 (1998)
    5 Pompei, F Joseph (Sep 1999). “The Use of Airborne Ultrasonics for Generating Audible Sound Beams”. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. 47 (9): 728. Fig. 3. Retrieved 19 November2011.
    6 http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/7987
    7 http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/radiation/safety-code_24-securite/index_e.html Guidelines for the safe use of ultrasound: Part II – Industrial and Commercial applications. Non-Ionizing Radiation Section Bureau of Radiation and Medical Devices Department of National Health and Welfare

    See also
    1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_from_ultrasound
    2.http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20031020006198/en/Founder-Holosonics-Dr.-Joseph-Pompei-Wins-Technology

  16. Steve Davidson says:

    Sorry about the typo, the phrase “level of infrasound required” in paragraph four should have been “level of ultrasound required”

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The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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