There is value in the sudden quiet

MIT’s Infinite Corridor — Photo credit: Kunal Mukherjee licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

“With more quiet time, more privacy, more stillness, we have an opportunity to think about who we are, as individuals and as a society,” writes Alan Lightman.  Lightman is a physicist at MIT—easily one of the most frenetic, mentally stimulating environments on planet earth. You feel the vibration when you step into the huge domed entry and stroll down the “infinite corridor.” So much energy!

But this physicist relishes the sudden quiet of a pandemic to wonder about how quiet and isolation can — and often have — stimulated innovation. More than that, they stimulate reflection and insight. The opposite of what Henry David Thoreau deplored: our desperate pace.

If you’re looking for some peace amidst the sudden quiet and enforced social isolation, this essay is a good place to start!

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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