Strange Science: Sonic Attacks?

Depiction of sound wavesIn 2016, U.S. diplomats in Cuba claimed to have been attacked with some sort of sonic weapon. And just recently, a U.S. employee in China made similar claims. However, scientists who study sound and its impacts doubt that these incidents were actually attacks, and further suggest that the effects on these people probably weren’t a result of sonics at all.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published a study this past March that suggested that the diplomats “had balance and thinking problems, sleep disturbances and headaches, and that some had widespread injury to brain networks.” Other researchers, however, indicate a number of problems with this study.

First, the amount of acoustical energy to cause these sorts of symptoms would require a speaker the size of a building. Second, while an ultrasound attack is possible, it would be nearly impossible to create a handheld device to do so. Finally, a scientist who specializes in ultrasound suggests that a number of the reported symptoms may actually be a result of anxiety in people who believe themselves to be victims of such an attack.

Furthermore, there is evidence which suggests that these sonic “attacks” may not have actually been a planned or attempted attack, but rather that the sounds heard could have been the result of malfunctioning surveillance equipment. So while that still presents an alarming possibility, it seems less intentional.

To learn more about these “attacks” and the flaws in the University of Pennsylvania study, check out this article.


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