The Power of Sound

Like our other senses, sound plays an important role in our daily lives. Sometimes noises are a warning, like the doorbell or screeching tyres. Sometimes they’re eerie and downright spine-chilling. Other times, they’re a source of enjoyment, like the chirping of birds, a trickling waterfall, the purring of a kitten or the stillness of a sleeping baby.

All that, sadly, is just the sugar-coating on our regular consumption of ear-candy. Deep down inside lurks a fearsome ogre itching to inflict disturbing damage, but we’ll get to that later.

Over the years, a shrill soprano or two have been able to shatter glass, although I doubt there’s a future in it these days. And if you stand too long with your mouth open in front of a loudspeaker at a Thrash Metal concert, there’s enough power to blast both eardrums clean out of your head. As the expression ‘in one ear and out the other’ implies, folks could literally see right through you. (Latin: opticalis penitratus infinitum).

Anyway, notes or frequencies are measured in Hertz, and we can hear roughly from 20Hz at the bottom, to 20 000Hz up top. Above that, it’s dog-whistle territory. The loudness of a frequency is measured in decibels, and around 100dB is burglar alarm loud. So, by cranking up the decibels, and finding the right frequency, the fat lady could sing the molecules in a champagne glass into such a state of agitation that it shatters. This can ruin any wedding toast.

Then there’s the destruction of the walls surrounding Jericho. Sopranos were replaced by a brass ensemble and a lot of blokes yelling, which rattled the molecules in the foundations enough to weaken the structure, and the walls did a Humpty-Dumpty.

Now, below our hearing threshold, below the rumble of thunder, an equally destructive weapon loiters in the wings of the sonic stage. Pulsating, inaudible frequencies, when pumped up in volume, can cause serious discomfort if prolonged. It has been used for crowd control, and the loudspeakers emitting these inaudible waves induce nausea, disorientation and headaches. People just want to get the hell out of range.

It’s called LRAD – long range audio deterrent. The audio ‘beam’ can be aimed at either a group or specific individuals, as was suspected in Cuba last year, when American diplomats all became suspiciously ill and dis- functional, and although physically unharmed, had to return home to convalesce.  

Food 4 Thought

Idioms and quirky expressions are commonplace in all languages, and often revolve around animals (sly as a fox), or nature (farting against thunder), and of course food (go bananas). But the proof of the pudding’s in the kitchen, so we’ve whipped up some culinary clichés in everyday banter.

To guys, for example, a piece of crumpet sounds enticing, but what lady wants to be likened to a dollop of stodgy doe? Some think it’s just a storm in a teacup, taken with a pinch of salt. But let’s not upset the apple-cart guys, and since the fat’s already in the fire, we must remember which side of our bread is buttered – and no crying over spilt milk!

Anyway, cool as a cucumber you buy a blender – the greatest thing since sliced bread – but after one day it’s toast. In a pickle, and with egg on your face, you realise you’ve bought a lemon. Now, butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, but soft-soaping the salesman (who you thought was low-hanging fruit), was like nailing jelly to the wall and you had to eat humble pie, which really cheesed you off.

Anyway, sour grapes or not, and with fingers in many more the pies, I’ve gotta go – there’s a bun in the oven.

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