Monday, April 23, 2012

We all crave it, but can you stand the silence?

Full Article:

They say silence is golden – but there’s a room in the U.S that’s so quiet it becomes unbearable after a short time.

The longest that anyone has survived in the ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is just 45 minutes.

It’s 99.99 per cent sound absorbent and holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s quietest place, but stay there too long and you may start hallucinating.

The Anechoic Test Chamber at Orfield Laboratories was deemed the quietest place on Earth in 2004 - a record it still holds to this day

It achieves its ultra-quietness by virtue of 3.3-foot-thick fiberglass acoustic wedges, double walls of insulated steel and foot-thick concrete.

The company’s founder and president, Steven Orfield, told MailOnline: ‘We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark - one reporter stayed in there for 45 minutes.

‘When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You'll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly.

‘In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.’

And this is a very disorientating experience. Mr Orfield explained that it’s so disconcerting that sitting down is a must.

He said: ‘How you orient yourself is through sounds you hear when you walk. In the anechnoic chamber, you don't have any cues. You take away the perceptual cues that allow you to balance and manoeuvre. If you're in there for half an hour, you have to be in a chair.’

The chamber is used by companies all over America – including Nasa, which puts their astronauts to the test in there, floating in a water-filled container, to see ‘how long it takes before hallucinations take place and whether they could work through it’.

As Mr Orfield explains, space is like one giant anechoic chamber, so it’s crucial that astronauts are able to stay focussed.

The chamber is also used by a multitude of manufacturers, which test how loud their products are...

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