Monthly Archive: November 2016

An interesting read:

silence

In the age of noise, silence becomes a political issue.  Giles Fraser, priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Newington in south London, writes about the importance of silence:

Silence is not a luxury. It is crucial to our physical and mental heath. We need it to think, to sleep, to recover from life’s frenzy.

Click the link above to access the full article.  It’s worth your time.

Link via @QuietEdinburgh.

Companies employ gimmicks in lieu of addressing noisy workplaces

Startup Stock Photos

As cubicles and wall-less offices proliferate, companies are adding special rooms, lounges, even gardens where employees can take a pause.

, The Boston Globe, writes about the quiet spaces Tufts Health Plan offers to its employees.  While quiet spaces may seem like the newest perk du jour startups offer to lure talent, there’s another reason for these amenities:

Watertown-based Tufts is among many companies now offering quiet spaces where employees can step away from their desks for a few minutes and recharge. Such spaces are especially welcome in open offices, where workers sit in close quarters and noise carries easily. The garden and the quiet room at Tufts, which opened in recent years, have been popular with a small, enthusiastic, and growing group of employees. “The more people hear about it, the more they’re willing to try it,” says Lydia Greene, Tufts’s chief human resources officer. “Pretty soon we will need a bigger room.”

Yes, the reason for the quiet room and garden is to compensate for the uncomfortably noisy work space Tufts imposes on its employees.  Sadly, the article prints the unsupported assertion that “firms eliminate private offices to foster collaboration,” when it’s not exactly a secret that the business case for open plan offices is simple: They’re cheaper.

When one considers the cost of providing quiet spaces plus the time lost when employees seek out a quiet space in which to decompress, perhaps the new trend will be a return to offices?

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Thoughtless car owner ignores car alarm for hours

car-photo

But nearby sous chef saves the day by engaging crowd in playful revenge prank.  That the car owner found his or her car in one piece and minus deliberate scratches or slashed tires shows the compassion and self-control most people are able to exercise.  Kudos to the chef for coming up with a clever way for people to vent.  We can only hope that the car owner was publicly shamed as he or she came to retrieve their automobile.

Link via @jeaninebotta.

Laser probe lets brain surgeons identify cancer cells with sound

hospital-lab

New Scientist reports that, “[i]n recent brain operations, surgeons used a laser probe to help determine where brain tumours began and ended.”  Initially, “a signal showing whether cells were healthy or cancerous was displayed visually on a screen,” but now “this signal has been adapted into an audio one with the goal of allowing surgeons to listen for cancer as they operate and instead focus their visual attention on where they are cutting.”  New Scientist notes that this development “could lead to faster, safer and more successful brain surgery.”

Link via @QuietMark.

A tragic case of misophonia

woman-pic

She could hear everything, and it cost her her life.  Joyce Cohen writes about Dr. Michelle Lamarche Marrese, a “beautiful and brilliant, a Russian historian with several advanced degrees and the author of an acclaimed academic book on women’s property rights,” who committed suicide this past October.  Friends assumed her suicide was due to depression over her “unraveling marriage,” by Cohen knew the actual reason behind Marrese’s untimely death: “it was her hidden battle with misophonia — or ‘selective sound sensitivity syndrome.’”  How did Cohen know this?  Because Marrese emailed her “desperately seeking advice after [Cohen] wrote a story on the mysterious condition for the New York Times,” and they “corresponded extensively.”

Click the link to read more about misophonia and Marrese’s battle with the disease.

Thanks to Charles Shamoon for the link.

Smart skin patch listens to your body sounds,

body-photo

from heart to gut.  New Scientist reports on a new “electronic tattoo” that picks up noises inside the human body, including “sounds made by the heart, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract.”  The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign research team behind the electronic tattoo believe it “could be useful for monitoring a broad range of medically significant sounds,”  including “keep[ing] tabs on biological implants [and] alerting doctors to potential medical issues or mechanical failures.”

Link via @QuietMark.

Electric cars must make noise after September 2019:

car-bmw

“Quiet Car” rule will require all electric vehicles to make noise, so pedestrians can better hear and avoid them.  CNET.com reports on the long-awaited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rule requiring auto manufacturers to add waterproof, temperature resistant sound generators to hybrid and electric vehicles sold after September 1, 2019.  Referred to as vehicle warning sounds, the sound will be automatically activated when a car travels at speeds below 18.6 miles per hour.

Electric and hybrid cars are noticeably quieter than cars powered by an internal combustion engine.  This fact drew the attention of advocates for the blind and visually impaired a decade ago, ultimately leading to the passage of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (PSEA) of 2010.  The PSEA is intended to reduce the risk of harm to blind and visually impaired pedestrians, as well as cyclists, or anyone unable to hear the very quiet approach of these cars, by requiring electric and hybrid cars to emit a minimum added sound.  The issue regarding this requirement is complex and contentious, and it has generated a lot of research and extended discourse both for and against added sound.  Many electric and hybrid cars have used added sound for years; samples of some sounds can be found online.

A significant concern is that some automakers see the need to comply with the rule as an opportunity to invent branded sounds, while critics of branded sounds would prefer sounds as similar as possible to a vehicle engine, noting that discordant or unusual sounds could actually create confusion.  In addition, environmental advocates and soundscape preservationists have expressed concern about adding more noise to an overburdened soundscape.

One problem with reaching a sensible solution is that the instructional videos produced by industry tend to show cars and pedestrians interacting in open spaces, but real world experiences are more likely to occur in busy parking lots or residential streets.  Measures such as traffic calming and slow zones could result in a growing number of areas where driving below 20 miles per hour would be the norm in order to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.  One thing is clear, vehicle engineers must incorporate these details into the planning of current and future warning sounds.

Asked about branded sound design, Jeanine Botta, who runs the Green Car Integrity Project blog, said that she hopes sound designers will follow the rule’s requirement that sound be recognizable as a motor vehicle in operation, and let go of branding concepts.  “Our attention is already stretched to its maximum potential.  No pedestrian – or cyclist or motorist – should have to quickly process and interpret any sound, especially one intended for safety.  If a sound is the least bit discordant, it runs the risk of being misinterpreted and ignored.”

Automotive product developers considering new and improved added quiet car sound should include industry outsiders in the research and development process.  Consultation with environmental psychologists, environmental health researchers, acoustic ecologists, and soundscape preservationists would be a step in the right direction.

 

Anti-social miscreant nabbed by cops

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Photo credit: El Segundo Police Department

Joseph Serna, L.A. Times, reports that “praise poured onto El Segundo Police Department’s Facebook page from ecstatic residents” this past Sunday, November 13th.  Why?  Because “'[t]hey found the air horn guy!!’ wrote Jenn Birch.”  Yes, John W. Nuggent, pictured above, outfitted his “little blue four-door, 2006 Chevrolet Aveo” with “an air tank with hoses connected to a device near the car’s gas pedal.”  When the officer tried the car’s horn, he heard what sounded like the horn of “a big truck or train.”  Nuggent then admitted that he was the guy who had been driving down the middle of the street for six weeks, waking up the residents with his horn, all to annoy one specific resident with whom he had had a dispute.

Nuggent was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace.  We suspect the prosecutor should get an easy conviction.

 

 

OSHA announces hearing-protection technology contest winners

lightbulb_innovation

Four inventors have been recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration for their innovations in developing technology intended to combat work-related hearing loss.  The winning designs include a custom-fitted earpiece that offered workers protection, wearable sensor technology that detects noise levels, and an interchangeable decorative piece that attaches to silicone earplugs.

Link via @jeaninebotta.