In order to test whether or not a satellite could withstand the sound blast of a launcher as it takes off and flies through the atmosphere, the scientists at the European Space Agency have developed a sound system so extreme it may be able to kill a human being if they stood in front of it.
Engineer Kees van Zijtveldt is standing beside the largest sound horn of ESA’s Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF), capable of subjecting satellites to the same noise a launcher produces as it takes off and flies through the atmosphere.
If you’ve attended a rock concert, monster truck race, drag race, or operated heavy machinery you might consider it wise to wear ear protection. I, for one, always wear some form of ear plugs when at a concert. However, ESA claims that not even ear plugs could save you from the dangerous sound waves that can be emitted from the sound system called the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF). One wall of the sound chamber stands 36 feet, by 30, by 54 and is equipped with two huge sound horns. These speakers can shoot out nitrogen at a decibel level of 154. That’s louder than multiple jet engines taking off. To ensure the staff’s safety the system can only be operated when all the doors are closed; the system is operated within a steel reinforced room that is surrounded in concrete and epoxy coated walls reflect the noise uniformly .
But can 154 dB sound system actually kill a human?
After reading multiple reports on this sound system I did some digging and discovered some interesting little bits of information.
First off, 154 decibels can’t actually kill you – maybe if you had your head stuck inside the speaker for a prolonged period of time. One hundred and fifty decibels is loud enough to burst your ear drums but the actual threshold for death is around 185-200 dB. A passing car is around 60 dB, a jackhammer is about 100 dB, a nearby chainsaw is close to 120 dB, and if you were to stand by a jet taking off or close to an explosion you’d actually experience the 150 dB affect.
The death-by-sound is achieved, generally, when the sound creates an embolism in your lungs, which then moves up into your heart and kills you. Also, another possible scenario is that your lungs could burst from the increased air pressure. After all, energy from sound is just waves of varying pressure; the higher the energy, the higher the pressure, the louder the sound.
So it’s a cool report and all but I doubt the ESA sound system could actually kill a human being. I’m sure it’s just safety measures and a tad bit of exaggeration.