by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Some encouraging news this week from the BBC on the EU’s effort to develop quiet, fuel-efficient aircraft engines. Here’s how the BBC summarizes the situation:
Modern jets aren’t nearly as noisy as their predecessors from a couple of decades ago, but they still make quite a racket on landing or takeoff. If your house is close to the airport that’s bad news. Electric motors are a lot quieter, so they could allow more night flights, especially in airports close to city centres. And of course, there’s the question of emissions. Electrified aircraft, like hybrid cars, should be cleaner than conventional models.
If you live near an airport or beneath a glide path, you’re certainly wondering how soon “quiet” aircraft might appear, right? Well, according to the BBC, so do Airbus and it’s partner Siemens, as the BBC writes that “[t]he firms want to fly a demonstrator version of the plane by 2020, with a commercial application by 2025.”
In addition to serving as vice chair of the The Quiet Coalition, David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: The Acoustics Research Council, American National Standards Institute Committee S12, Workgroup 44, The Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Working Group—a partner of the American Hospital Association. He is the lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0 (2012, Springer-Verlag), a contributor to the National Academy of Engineering report “Technology for a Quieter America,” and to the US-GSA guidance “Sound Matters”, and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics (LARA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He recently retired from the board of directors of the American Tinnitus Association. A graduate of the University of California/Berkeley with graduate degrees from Cornell University, he is a frequent organizer of and speaker at professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
In “Living loud in China’s lively public spaces,”Stephen McDonell, BBC News, writes about noise in China’s bustling cities. McDonnell states that “[t]here is something incredible about the way in which societies, cities, subcultures find their level in terms of acceptable public volume.” For example, he notes that there are “bustling cities – rammed with millions of people – where you could be frowned upon for disrupting others with a raised voice: Seoul, London, Tokyo… especially Tokyo.” But McDonnell has lived the last 12 years living in China, where, he notes:
There are some societies where people are expected to avoid being noisy in public and they behave accordingly. Then there’s China.
He describes the “cacophony of chaos” he experiences in a cafe, where someone “starts a phone call at the top of their voice,” as two buddies loudly play video games on their phones, and “a young convert to Christianity sits down next to [him] and starts praying” just as a nearby “hippie looking Chinese bloke has booted up his laptop and Coldplay starts belting out of the speakers.” This experience is not atypical, he writes, and adds that, looking around, “nobody but me has reacted as if this is anything but completely normal.”
Interestingly, he says that there is only one other city where he has seen this phenomenon–New York–where he describes a similar experience in a diner. McDonell ponders, “[m]aybe you have to speak up in order to be heard amongst a huge population?” That is, maybe it’s the space and not just the culture that determines the “acceptable public volume?” After all, he asks, “what noise does a Chinese farmer have to compete in the field?”