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AstroChuck's avatar

Could a sound kill?

Asked by AstroChuck (37420points) July 4th, 2008 from iPhone

You see it in movies. Is it possible to kill someone or something by hitting a certain frequency? I know sound is vibration and obviously you can reach a dangerous decibel. But what about a lethal pitch?

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24 Answers

osullivanbr's avatar

Very doubtful I’d have to say. The mythbusters couldn’t even find the dreaded brown note and it took some effort to even break a glass. Looking at that I’d have to say its impossible.

Planning something are we eh?

robmizelldotcom's avatar

the resonant frequency of the brain would kill you. (And the attackers too!)

Harp's avatar

Pitch alone won’t do it. For a frequency to have destructive power, as in the breaking of a glass, it has to match the natural resonating frequency of the object. A glass has such a natural frequency (the note it sounds when you tap it), but us mushy organisms are lousy resonators. The object would also have to have very little elasticity in order to break with vibration; again our mushiness saves us.

joeysefika's avatar

Well theoretically if you could get a frequency high enough it would convert the sound energy to heat energy when it hit our bodies and could melt our brains. (you would need a very, very high frequency)

robmizelldotcom's avatar

BTW, the frequency of our brain is low, around what the low bass notes of large pipe organs.

xyzzy's avatar

@joeysefika, you just described roughly how a microwave oven works. The frequency for that is 2.4Ghz.

AstroChuck's avatar

A microwave frequency refers to light, not sound.

XCNuse's avatar

You know they did have that secret weapons episode where they showed off that weird speaker machine thing that looked like a big flat pan and would shoot a high energy sound frequency in a straight beam towards people forcing you to put your hands to your ears and dropping what you’re doing.

Match the res. frequency to your brain whatever that could be and you’d have the worst headache in the world, and it could possibly give you a migraine and kill you?

Either way it would suck and be enormously painful!

bluemukaki's avatar

The only sound known to kill is the sound of bagpipes.

whatthefluther's avatar

Personally, I go to great lengths to avoid any sound emitted by Barry Manilow or Michael Bolton…I’m not certain it would kill me, but I am certain it would cause irreparable damage.

Standswithacane's avatar

Maybe if you add water. I’m pretty sure internal damage to dolphins and whales caused by Navy sonar has had a deadly result.

joeysefika's avatar

@Bluemukaki, What’s wrong with the bagpipes?

playthebanjo's avatar

bagpipes alone won’t do it. You must add the accordion and banjo to it. Then the power of the musical cacophany is yours and you can rule the world. (insert evil laugh here)

richardhenry's avatar

If the sound was loud enough and lasted long enough, the vibration would literally shake the victim to death. So pure volume is an option for whatever it is you’re planning.

richardhenry's avatar

@robmizelldotcom: Our brain would have to be brittle to be broken by resonant frequency, surely? If a glass was made of tough jelly, it wouldn’t shatter at it’s resonant frequency.

XCNuse's avatar

Ever seen a bridge “vibrate” at its RF?
it keeps shaking more and more and more and more until it breaks it, which is why the military breaks step when crossing bridges.

I’m sure you’re right though, I don’t think jellies or anything like a brain can have a RF because of it’s different components.. probably not but if it does… ouch

Harp's avatar

As Standswithcane says, navy sonar can be deadly, but that’s largely a function of volume. It’s said to be the loudest pitched sound produced by man. If you consider volume (which this question excludes) then it’s perfectly possible to kill with sound.

Here’s an article about the ultimate “boom car” competition, in which car sound systems compete to produce the loudest 3-second sound burst. The cars have to be specially constructed with 2 in. bullet-proof glass and massively reinforced roofs. These cars can generate up to 169 decibels, which, if there were actually anyone in the car, would probably be fatal.

AstroChuck's avatar

As I mentioned in my comments, though, I’m not talking about decibels. Sound is vibration and I know you could destroy pretty much anything with enough volume. A particular frequency is what I was wondering about. I would think that various militaries around the Earth have looked into this. I suppose it isn’t likely reading many of your answers. However, the bagpipes theory intrigues me.

robmizelldotcom's avatar

The United States Military experimented with sound during the vietnam war. They used the resonant frequency of the bum and of the brain. Only problem was that they were so low they were omnidirectional. Which meant that they couldn’t point them anywhere, they’d just go through the speakers.

We’re talking low here. Inaudible. Anyways, I learned about it in an audio class, unfortunately, I do not know where that notebook with the info in it is. Trust me, this was the sort of thing a student remembers!

mcbealer's avatar

I’m thinking if a boom-type of sound was loud enough and sudden enough, it could probably stop my heart kaput.

XCNuse's avatar

Like a sound so strong that the shock kills you?

Shock kills…

dunno almost sounds like a movie or an Aerosmith CD whatcha think lol?

BronxLens's avatar

From Wikipedia, “Although many real sonic and ultrasonic weapons are described as “non-lethal”, they can still kill under certain conditions – link

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