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Sound Bites

This section features news items of general interest, from new research to unusual observations about sound.

This page features the most recent SoundBites. If you find these fun, you may enjoy perusing the older ones:
October 2001-December 2004 [GO THERE]
January 2005-February 2007 [GO THERE]

Cloak of Silence Could Provide Solace from Noise - A team of Spanish scientists have shown off the blueprint for an "acoustic cloak", which could make objects impervious to sound waves. The technology, outlined in the New Journal of Physics, could be used to build sound-proof homes, advanced concert halls or stealth warships. Engineered "sonic crystals" comprised of tiny cylinders would be used to channel any sound around an object, like water flowing around a rock in a stream. Simulations showed that 200 layers of this metamaterial could effectively shield an object from noise. Thinner stacks would shield an object from certain frequencies. The next step is to make and test such a material in the lab to confirm the simulations. The initial modeling work has other reserachers intrigued. "It's not an unrealistic blueprint - it doesn't demand that we do extraordinary things," said Professor John Pendry of Imperial College London, an expert in cloaking. "This is something that can easily be manufactured." Source: BBC, 6/12/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Baby Beluga Offers Rare Chance to Listen as Language Develops - A beluga whale born recently at the Vancouver Aquarium is beginning to vocalize, and researcher Valeria Velarga says that what is learned can help scientists understand wild belugas' complex vocal repertoire. "The key thing about researching belugas in captivity is to take it as a platform to help us understand what these animals are all about in the wild." It's not about learning to speaking whale, she said. "I would call it a function dictionary. It's not specific meanings, but it's a general function of a particular call," she said. "This call is used for nursing; this call is used for chasing somebody away." Velarga also studied the early calls of another baby beluga, born in 2002; both whales began making bubbling sounds within hours of birth. "The first words are just bubbles, baby bubbling. It's a very general baby chatter that beluga babies make. In general it means, I want to nurse, slow down," said Velarga. Nicknamed "sea canaries," beluga whales use many types of sounds to communicate, she said, including whistles, pulse trains and loud calls. In the wild, these sounds are key to the Arctic whales' survival, particularly for mothers and babies who need to stay close to one another. Each new sound is learned, she said, and requires practice. A recording of the baby sounds like a train of bubbly pulses. "I think it (is) just discovering sound . . . There (is sometimes no) other obvious function other than just play." Source: Vancouver Sun, 6/13/08 [READ ARTICLE] Video of recent beluga birth [SEE VIDEO]

Whale Fins Inspire Quieter, More Efficient Fans and Wind Turbines - Humpback whales are the inspiration for a new approach to blade design being used in fans and tested for wind turbines. The bumps along the edge of the whales' long fins had long been considered an anatomical anomaly, but a biology professor in Pennsylvania has shown that they channel water across the surface of the fin in ways that create more maneuverability and power. Dr. Frank Fish has formed WhalePower to develop new industrial designs based on this discovery; the results are a sharp break from previous attempts to make fan and turbine blade edges as smooth as possible.

whale fin turbine bladewhale fin turbine blade
Image source:

The first commercial result are factory fans up to 24 feet in diameter, which use 20 percent less energy and are significantly quieter than previous designs, while distributing the air more evenly. WhalePower is also developing wind turbine blades based on the new design; the first field trials are underway in Canada, and Fish says, "We can actually get more power out of the wind." Source: Christian Science Monitor, 5/16/08 [READ ARTICLE]

This Ain't No Disco - David Byrne is behind a public sound art project set to open this summer in New York's Battery Maritime Building, an old waterfront structure. Keyboards, to be played by passers-by, will blow air through exposed pipes, creating deep flute-like sounds, trigger vibrations in steel girders so that they hum, and strike metal columns to ring with gong-like sounds. “It sounds really simple, but it’s kind of a lot of fun,” said Byrne, who started the Talking Heads. “It’s more than fun — it’s awe-inspiring.” Byrne hopes his installation will infuse the landmarked Battery Maritime Building with some musical fun. People of all ages and levels of musical ability can participate with equal success, he said. Whether the building’s natural sounds count as music “depends on your definition of music,” said Byrne, who partnered with Creative Time for the project. The notes range in pitch and volume, at the will of whoever sits down at the keyboard. Each key will act on a different part of the building, producing a different sound, all naturally, without microphones or speakers. “It’s not tuned perfectly — you can’t sit down to play Bach,” Byrne said. The Battery Maritime Building’s age and character makes the music possible. The building’s exposed metal pipes and girders are what make the installation work. “If they’re all sheetrocked, if they’re made pristine, there’s nothing left to make a sound with,” Byrne said. Source: Downtown Express, May 16, 2008 [READ ARTICLE] New York Times, 5/30, 2008 Includes video of building sounds [READ ARTICLE]

The City Where You Can't Hear Yourself Scream - Noise levels in Cairo are likely higher than in any other city in the world, thanks to incredible density of people and social habits that include incessant horn-honking in the streets. Scientists with the National Research Center spent five years studying noise levels across the city and concluded in a report issued this year that the average noise from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. is 85 decibels, a bit louder than a freight train 15 feet away, said Mustafa el Sayyid, an engineer who helped carry out the study. But that 85 decibels, while "clearly unacceptable," is only the average across the day and across the city. At other locations, it is far worse, he said. In Tahrir Square, or Ramsis Square, or the road leading to the pyramids, the noise often reaches 95 decibels, he said, which is only slightly quieter than standing next to a jackhammer. "The noise bothers me and I know it bothers people," said Abdel Khaleq, driver of a battered black and white taxi, as he paused from honking his horn to stop for passengers. Asked why he kept honking, he replied, "Well, to tell you I'm here. There is no such thing as logic in this country." And then he drove off, honking. Source: International Herald Tribune, 4/14/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Kids Wail in Elk Call Competition - Schafer Bungay, a 5-year-old from Kalispell, Mont., recently won the Pee Wee Division at the annual World Elk Calling championships. Schafer, the youngest of 14 competitors, got on stage and moved his lips up, down and sideways, as if imitating a fish. “Cow moan,” his father whispered. Schafer moaned impressively. “Cow mew.” “Mmmmmeeeyew,” Schafer responded, the corners of his mouth curling and pouting. “Elk calling is like his first language,” his father, Troy, said. “He started this when he was 1. You can’t teach it at that age. He just does it.” (thearticle link includes two great recordings of the kids' practicing and competing) Source: New York Times, 2/27/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Brad Horn for The New York Times
Schafer Bungay, 5, at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation World Elk Calling Championships in Reno, Nev

Restaurant Noise Turns Diners Off - Zagat Survey's 2008 edition of America's Top Restaurants notes that excessive noise has become the 2nd most common complaint with restaurants, after poor service. Modern spare design is partly to blame, as hard surfaces cause lots of reverberation. "It's become much worse over the last decade," says Marion Kane, a veteran food writer and broadcaster who believes some restaurateurs deliberately create a noisy environment. "There is a mistaken belief - especially among young people - that if you're shouting and it's loud, you're having a good time." While some restaurants tackle the problem, with more fabric as a key element, others relish the new aesthetic. "We're trying to create full-energy restaurants," he says of his two Toronto-area locations, one of which registered a peak of 97 decibels (louder than most sawmills). "If you just want to go out for dinner, there are hundreds of other places that can offer you that." Ten years ago, San Francisco Chronicle became the first daily newspaper to routinely include noise ratings in its restaurant reviews. The "bomb" rating indicates restaurants that measure decibels of 80 or more. "I'm beginning to think we need to add a double-bomb designation," says Michael Bauer, the newspaper's food editor and lead restaurant critic. He tabs modern architecture as the main culprit. Source: Toronto Globe and Mail, 2/14/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Scottish Program Teaches Blind Children to Echolocate - A pilot program in Glasgow is teaching ten blind children, aged five to seventeen, to navigate their surroundings by making clicking sounds with their tongues and learning to hear subtle differences in returning echoes. Echo-location was pioneered in the US, where people have been able to differentiate between people, trees, buildings and parked cars by the pitch and timbre of the echo they produce. The project in Glasgow was launched following a year-long visit by Dan Kish, a 41-year-old man from California who pioneered the technique and uses it to ride a bike and even distinguish different types of fruit on trees. Source: The Scotsman, 2/10/08 [READ ARTICLE]

"Mosquito" High Pitched Youth Deterent Faces Public Backlash - A nonprofit organization has named a "Children's Commissioner" and launched a campaign to ban the highly effective sonic deterent known as the "Mosquito," which disperses young people by emitting sharp, piercing sounds. The device causes discomfort to younger ears by exploiting their ability to hear very high frequencies -- a power which declines once they reach their 20s. But human rights groups say the machine infringes civil rights and creates a divide between young and old. Launching the "Buzz Off" campaign, Al Aynsley-Green said: "I have spoken to many children and young people from all over England who have been deeply affected by ultra-sonic teenage deterrents." Aynsley-Green said about 3,500 of the devices are in use across England to split up gatherings of youth in areas such as parks and shops. The controversial gadget was first used by shopkeeper Robert Gough, from South Wales. He told The Times newspaper: "Either someone has come along and wiped them off the face of the earth, or it's working." However, Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "What type of society uses a low-level sonic weapon on its children?" Source: CNN, 2/12/08 [READ ARTICLE]

Toys' Racket Could be Dangerous - Univeristy of California researchers have studied the sound output of many toys designed for young children, and found that they can exceed safe levels. If children play with their heads closer to toys than manufacturers expect, then they could experience some hearing loss. The loudest toy tested was the High School Musical Rockerz Jammin Guitar, at 108dB. Two "In Concert" dolls also exceeded 100dB, and, given that they are dolls, may well end up being held close to the head. Several trucks and other dolls exceeded 90dB. Prolonged exposure to loud sound can cause permanent hearing damage, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA considers it safe to listen to a 100 decibel sound for up to two hours a day, while NIOSH recommends less than 10 minutes daily for the same sound. Sources: Fox News, 12/5/07 [READ ARTICLE] Science Daily, 12/5/07 [READ ARTICLE]

BBC Joins Thousands in UK for "No Music Day" - Maverick pop musician Bill Drummond found himself irritated by the “nonstop soundtrack” of music that invades almost every aspect of our lives, from ringtones to bus shelters to iPods. So, in keeping with his reputation for grand statements, he decided to set up No Music Day – symbolically on November 21, as a prelude to the feast-day of Cecilia, music’s patron saint, celebrated on November 22. Now in the third year of his "Five Year Plan," the idea has caught on. Last year thousands attempted to avoid music on November 21, and this year the whole of BBC Radio Scotland will be a music-free zone. Drummand has set up a website where people can post short statements about why (or why not) they will be observing No Music Day. Sources: No Music Day website [GO THERE] London Times, 11/17/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Japanese Drivers Groove to Musical Road Surface - Three experimental stretches of road in Japan now reward drivers who slow down with a thirty second melody, produced by carefully engineered grooves in the road surface. The "Melody Roads" are best heard with windows closed, and traveling at 45kph (28mph). While such a design could be used to encourage drivers to settle into an optimal or safe speed, concerns remain about tire wear, as well as annoying drivers who prefer to choose their own music. Sources: Guardian, 11/13/07 [READ ARTICLE] InventorSpot Blog (with YouTube Video), 11/13/07 [READ POST]

Guerilla Cellphone Silencer Arms the Exasperated - The growing proliferation of cellphones, and the associated decrease in the reticence of users in public places, is fueling a growing market for cellphone jammers. Overseas suppliers say they are selling hundreds of units a month to frustrated Americans, prompting concern from the FTC, which regulates the frequencies, and, of course from cellphone companies. The devices block radio frequency transmissions in an area of a few feet to a few yards; individuals as well as theater owners, restaurants, and bus drivers are deploying them in order to create a relative cone of silence. A San Francisco architect recounts sitting down next to a 20-something woman who he said was “blabbing away” into her phone. “She was using the word ‘like’ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl,” said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal. Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius. “She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? “Oh, holy moly! Deliverance.” Source: New York Times, 11/4/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Sounds of Bees Scare Elephants - African villagers trying to protect their crops from hungry elephants may have a new tool at their disposal: bees. Even recordings of bees could work, for a short while at least. While the animals rested, researchers played either buzzing sounds recorded at beehives, or a control sound of white noise. The buzzing clearly had the animals concerned. Ninety-four percent of the elephant families left the tree within 80 seconds of hearing bee sounds, nearly half of the time at a run. White noise, by contrast, only scared away 27% of the families. "So you could use sounds to deter elephants," noted Dr King, "but there are two major hiccups. Firstly, farmers don't have money to pay for a loudspeaker and a minidisc, and on that level it's not practical. Secondly, elephants are smart and would work out that there are no painful beestings; we don't know if that would happen after three playbacks or 30, but it is clearly going to happen." It might be more practical and more desirable, she believes, to use real bees rather than their sounds. Another of the projects that the group is running in Kenya involves creating a "beehive fence", where the passage of a hungry elephant would trigger bees to start flying and buzzing, giving the animal cause to turn and not come back. Source: BBC, 10/8/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Apple Patents Active Hearing Protection - A patent recently filed by Apple, makers of the ubiquitous iPod, describes a pro-active system designed to protect listeners from inadvertant hearing damage. Apple's patent application describes a software-based system which limits a headphone user's exposure to loud music. The technology tracks the listener's exposure to sound over time, so it can enforce 'recovery periods', during which volume is reduced further and the ears are given a chance to rest after being exposed to particularly loud segments. The system can also be set up to take account of the characteristics of various headphone designs, and adjust the volume accordingly. For example, 'in ear' headphones or earbuds are effectively louder than other types. The invention also might also be made tamper-proof the inventors say. Other features include protection profiles based on the age of the user or the type of music. The system attempts to adjust volume appropriately before a track begins playing. Source: Texyt, 6/10/07 [READ ARTICLE]

The Sound of Global Warming - Atop Greenland's Suicide Cliff, from where old Inuit women used to hurl themselves when they felt they had become a burden to their community, a crack and a thud like thunder pierce the air. "We don't have thunder here. But I know it from movies," says Ilulissat nurse Vilhelmina Nathanielsen, who hiked with us through the melting snow. "It's the ice cracking inside the icebergs." It's too early in the year to see icebergs crumple regularly but the sound is a reminder. As politicians squabble over how to act on climate change, Greenland's ice cap is melting, and adding its distinctive voice to the regional soundscape. Source: ENN, 6/6/06 [READ ARTICLE]

Curiosity Lures the Cat: Cell Phone Tones Protecting Villages - Leopards often enter the western Indian village of Gujarat, looking for an easy meal of goat, cow, or, ocassionally, a villager. Villagers there are now using "clucking," "bleating," and "mooing" ring tones to distract the big cats and lure them away from human settlements. By attaching a mobile phone to a cage and playing one of the animal ringtones continuously, local forest guards can lure the leopard into the trap without harm. "The moos of a cow or bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective," D. Vasani, a senior forest official, told the Reuters news service. Since the new ringtone method was introduced a month ago, guards have captured five leopards and released them successfully back into forests. Source: National Geographic News, 6/5/07 [READ ARTICLE]

BC Village Nixes Cell Phones in Woods, Streams - The village of New Denver, British Columbia has turned down Telus's offer to erect a cell phone tower near their remote valley in the West Kootenays, “an economic driver to bring them into the 21st century.” Bill Roberts, of the Slocan Valley Economic Development Commission told a Vancouver Sun reporter, “When you’re portaging between two lakes and all you’re hearing is the call of the loons and the rustles of the forest, the last thing you want to hear is a BEEP BEEP or the opening bars of Colonel Bogey’s March.” Roberts and friends think not being electronically joined at the ear to the rest of the modern world will be New Denver’s touristic ace in the hole. Their community will be one of the few places left in North America – on the planet, in fact – where the cell phone will be useless. “It’ll be a big competitive advantage,” says Roberts. “We won’t have people answering the darned thing everywhere and yelling on it.” Source: Parksville Qualicum News, 8/21/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Cicada Cacophony Nears Dangerous Levels - An extremely large annual cicada brood is driving Illinois residents to distraction with its noise. "I was hoping they were on the wane, but good God," said Mary Coen. "It's dreadful. I don't mind cicadas. I have no problem with them. They're friendly. But it's the noise. By midday, I get a headache. So I'm ready for it to be over." In northern Illinois, the insects have emerged by the billions, shed their skins and now are ready to mate. That means they're letting loose with a mating call so loud that it can be heard in speeding cars over the engine, tire and wind noise. "You can't hear yourself talk," said Coen, 62, of Downers Grove. In an area dense with cicadas, the noise can exceed 90 decibels, about as loud as a bulldozer. Exposure to 91 decibels of sound for two hours, or 94 decibels for one hour, could begin to cause some permanent hearing damage, according to Billy Martin, a hearing scientist at Oregon Health & Science University. John Fitzloff, 67, heard it this week in Lombard as he mowed the lawn of a home he's lived in for 35 years. Cicadas clung to his shoulder and the leg of his jeans. Countless shells from cicada nymphs ringed the base of his American basswood tree. The stench of rotting cicada corpses hung in the air. "This is definitely the worst of the three [emergences since] I've been living here," Fitzloff said. "The kids in the neighborhood thought it was great, the ones who'd never seen them before, but after a week that wore off." Source: Chicago Tribune, 6/8/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Google Earth to Add Disappearing Sounds - Longtime natural sound recordist Bernie Krause has forged a partnership with Google Earth that will allow digital travellers to hear the sounds of the planet, including plans to show how the soundscapes of some places have changed over the past generation. Krause, who has collected what may be the world's most extensive soundscape library, says, "Forty percent of the habitats that I've recorded have been forever silenced, gone fully extinct or are hopelessly altered." Krause notes that there's a healing quality to what he refers to as the "voice of the divine" in natural sound – but it won't come to those used to instant gratification. "You have to spend time hearing the whole call of a bird, which may take 45 seconds, or the song of a whale, which may take 45 minutes. Or to hear a series of repeated calls in a rain forest – it may take 30 hours. So your time changes, your whole sense of cycles changes, and you become more connected to the natural world around you and your own cycles of health and awareness. Which are more natural." Still, the GoogleEarth sonic exerience will offer just glimpses: "If you zoom in on Lisbon, you'll hear a Lisbon soundscape," enthuses Krause. "If you zoom in on the Galapagos, you'll hear the Darwin finches in the forest." Some, such as a recording made north of California's Lake Tahoe, come with before-and-after recordings – in this case recordings taken before and after selective logging took place at the spot in the late 1980s. Krause returned to the meadow 15 times after the logging. A gurgling brook takes center stage to a background cast of birds in the "before" recording; "after" reveals little life at all. Sources: Christian Science Monitor, 6/4/07 [READ ARTICLE] San Francisco Chronicle, 5/27/07 [READ ARTICLE] Wild Santuary GoogleEarth website [VISIT WEBSITE]

Finding Concerts at Intermission - Christopher DeLaurenti, a Seattle-based phonographer and composer, has pursued an odd obsession for the past several years: recording the sounds of intermission at classical concerts. He enoys the rare opportunity to hear classical musicians improvising, and revels in the serendipity found in listening to "random" juxtopositons of sounds. “One duty of the composer is to expose the unexpected, overlooked and hidden skeins of music woven in the world around us,” said DeLaurenti. The recording itself became a performance; “I became entranced in doing it,” he said because every movement of his body would alter the way the sound was captured. The explorations came at a cost, though: “I couldn’t go to concerts with other people anymore,” he said. “My girlfriend got very upset, because I would disappear at intermission.” DeLaurenti says that “I feel I will have succeeded if someone merely looks at the package and says, ‘Oh, I should listen next time at intermission and see if I hear something musical.’ ” Source: New York Times, 5/30/07 [READ ARTICLE] [VISIT WEBSITE]

Iraq Veterans Face "Epidemic" of Hearing Loss - Sixty percent of soldiers who return from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, and 49 percent also suffer from tinnitus, a potentially debilitating ringing of the ears, according to military audiology reports. While trained in the use of hearing protection, in many cases the need to hear comrades or citizens makes their use impractical. Encounters with IEDs, which obviously occur unexpectedly, also take their toll: "We rolled over a bomb," said one soldier. "I just remember being knocked out and then coming to and seeing smoke. I guess my commanding officer was screaming, 'Conley, are you OK?' over and over, but I couldn't hear anything." The blast caused his ears to bleed, he said, but after a few days of silence his hearing came back. He said he lost his hearing six times in Iraq, but that wasn't a lot compared with others in his platoon. "There are 19 guys in my platoon," the soldier said said. "One lost (his hearing) 17 times. You don't think it's a big deal because it happens to everyone. They tell us to suck it up, so we do." The long-term effects are a surprise to many soldiers. "It's not exactly the first thing that pops into your head when you enlist," said one. "But you can't bail because you want to keep your hearing." Source: Mineral Wells Index/Eagle-Tribune, 4/30/07 [READ ARTICLE]
RELATED: Warning Sirens Threaten Israili Town's Hearing - The warning sirens alerting Sderot residents of incoming Qassam rockets and the accompanying barrages are taking a heavy toll on the residents' ability to hear. Rina Mor Yosef used to complain about the volume of the alarm system for Qassam rockets. Now, four years after it was installed, she can hear it only when her hearing aid is turned on. Mor Yosef, whose hearing was damaged by the proximity of the loudspeakers to her home, says the problem is not hers alone. A few months ago, a neighbor with a newborn baby became frustrated and disconnected the speakers near their homes. The Home Front Command moved it to the roof of a synagogue on the same street. "I knew something was happening to me, but in the past year it's gotten impossible: I've sat with people and had entire sentences disappear. The doctor immediately set me straight. At first I refused to accept it. Why should a 45-year-old woman have a hearing aid?" Mor Yosef says. The Bon Ton speech and hearing clinic, which was established three years ago in the center of Sderot, receives patient referrals from the city's health maintenance organizations. Clinic director Orna Horovitch says that dozens of people have suffered hearing loss as a consequence of the Qassam barrages on the city but cannot afford a hearing aid. Source:, 5/18/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Coronal Loops on Sun Carry Sound Like Pipe Organ - Immense coils of hot, electrified gas in the Sun's atmosphere behave like a musical instrument, scientists say. These "coronal loops" carry acoustic waves in much the same way that sound is carried through a pipe organ. Solar explosions called micro-flares generate sound booms which are then propagated along the coronal loops. "The effect is much like plucking a guitar string," Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenbuergen told BBC News at the National Astronomy Meeting in Preston. The coronal loops arch hundreds of thousands of kilometres above the Sun's surface like huge fiery fountains, and are generated by the Sun's magnetic field. Solar explosions called micro-flares send immensely powerful acoustic waves hurtling through the loops at tens of kilometres per second, creating cosmic "organ music". "These loops can be up to 100 million kilometres long and guide waves and oscillations in a similar way to a pipe organ," said Dr Youra Taroyan, from the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC) at the University of Sheffield. The sound booms decay in less than an hour and dissipate in the very hot solar corona. Source: BBC, 4/20/07 [READ ARTICLE]

Nerves May Use Sound, Rather Than Electricity - A new study by Danish scientists suggests that communication between nerves may take place via sound or vibratory waves, rather than electrical impulses, as long belived. The lack of evidence for heat given off by nerves, as would be expected if electricity were involved, led to the new inquiries. The researchers propose that the lipid fats in the membranes of nerve cells could transmit vibrations efficiently. Their suggested mechanism could also explain how anethesia works; changes in the temperature of the lipids would diminish their ability to transmit information between nerves. Source: CBC, 3/9/07 [READ ARTICLE] Press Release (with picture), 3/7/07 [READ PRESS RELEASE]

"Mosquito" Sonic Teen Deterent is Commercial Hit, But Objections Arise -A black box emitting a high pitched pulsing sound designed to deter loitering teenagers is being used in thousands of sites around Britain just a year after its launch, prompting warnings from civil liberties campaigners that it is a "sonic weapon" that could be illegal. The Mosquito device, whose high-frequency shriek is audible only to those under around 25, has been bought by police, local councils, shops, and even private home owners, to tackle concerns over groups of young people congregating and causing disruption. So great has been demand that the company is now working on a more powerful, 50m-range model designed to be used in larger areas such as cemeteries and hazardous building sites, and is drawing up plans for a higher volume hand grenade version requested by the United States prison service to help tackle riots. However, while some local authorities and police forces are highly enthusiastic about the Mosquito, campaigners Liberty are raising concerns about both the machine's legality and its effectiveness in addressing antisocial behaviour. Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "At worst, the Mosquito is a low-level sonic weapon; at best, a dog-whistle for kids. Either way it has no place in a civilised society that values its children and young people and seeks to imbue them with values of dignity and respect. "Degrading young people instead of providing opportunities for them is a tragic option whose long-term effect is frightening to imagine." Liberty argues that the device is inappropriate, partly because it is indiscriminate, causing discomfort to and potentially driving away all teenagers in an area rather than specifically targeting those who may be causing trouble. Source: The Guardian, 3/17/07 [READ ARTICLE]

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