The Science of Shh!


Imagine you’re living in the heart of a major city, surrounded 24/7 by the roar of traffic, yet when you step into your home, the noise dies away as if someone just turned the volume of the world down.

As Sara reported recently, the world – ourselves included – needs some peace and quiet to get on with the important business of living well. Obviously, stopping noise in the first place is wisest, since noise is wasted energy. But what about the clamorous world we live in today? Earplugs don’t seem to be much of an answer.

Science has a better idea. The picture below: that’s your imaginary house in the city. The lines are sound waves. In fact, it’s a computer model of a sonic cloak of the type currently in development by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain. The theory: thanks to the sound-bending properties of advanced walling material, outside noise is diverted around your house and doesn’t have the chance to transmit through your walls – resulting in near-silence inside. (I have to wonder: so is it twice as noisy behind your house?)


And filling the gap while this material filters through into the mainstream, we have Green Glue, a new soundproofing material for wall cavities with a previously unheard-of capacity for mopping up sound and vibrations. And how green is Green Glue? “No volatile organic compounds” is music to our ears. So maybe the human race can learn to stop being such noisy neighbours after all.

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Images: moriza, sonic waves by Duke University, via Physicsworld

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.