Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

“Sonic Weapon” or Accident?

PostedMarch 18, 2018

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Anchor Lede: Investigators are exploring the possibility that a mysterious “sonic weapon” may have been used against U-S and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, who suffered a variety of symptoms. But there might be simpler explanation.

Randy Atkins: When the Associated Press released an audio clip of the sound that affected U-S embassy staff heard, Kevin Fu, a professor at the University of Michigan, looked at the wave pattern and noticed an unusual ripple. So he and some colleagues went to work in the lab and found…

Kevin Fu: …we could reverse-engineer ultrasonic inaudible tones that would lead to that same effect.

Randy Atkins: Fu says such ultrasound is used for applications like pest control, automatic light switches, and eavesdropping…and he thinks interference from such sources is a more plausible explanation for the harmful sound than a sonic weapon.

Kevin Fu: In other words, it seems to us like this could just be bad engineering rather than intent for harm.

Randy Atkins: But others are still investigating. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.