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Finally, a Likely Explanation for the “Sonic Weapon” Used at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba

Researchers say bad engineering, not a deliberate attack, may be to blame

4 min read
Photo of the closed U.S. embassy in Cuba.
Sonic Mystery: At least 24 employees of the U.S. embassy in Cuba heard high-pitched sounds between December 2016 and August 2017, and suffered injuries thought to be related to the noise.
Photo: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Last August, reports emerged that U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba had suffered a host of mysterious ailments. Speculation soon arose that a high-frequency sonic weapon was to blame. Acoustics experts, however, were quick to point out the unlikeliness of such an attack. Among other things, ultrasonic frequencies—from 20 to 200 kilohertz—don’t propagate well in air and don’t cause the ear pain, headache, dizziness, and other symptoms reported in Cuba. Also, some victims recalled hearing high-pitched sounds, whereas ultrasound is inaudible to humans.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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