Why Microwave Auditory Effect Crowd-Control Gun Won't Work

Experts say you'd fry before you heard anything

2 min read

22 July 2008— New Scientist magazine recently reported that Sierra Nevada Corp., based in Sparks, Nevada, plans to build what it calls a nonlethal microwave ray gun with the ability to beam irritating sounds into people’s heads. But experts in the underlying biophysics say it cannot work: the device would kill you well before you were bothered by the noise.

The gun, which is being built by Lev Sadovnik at Sierra Nevada, would take advantage of a phenomenon known as the microwave auditory effect. When microwaves are delivered in short pulses, the cochlear tissue in the ear expands. That expansion is heard as an audible click to anyone receiving the radiation, a sound much like that of two rocks being hit together underwater. The company says that the device, called MEDUSA (for ”mob excess deterrent using silent audio”), could be used for crowd control.

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Restoring Hearing With Beams of Light

Gene therapy and optoelectronics could radically upgrade hearing for millions of people

13 min read
A computer graphic shows a gray structure that’s curled like a snail’s shell. A big purple line runs through it. Many clusters of smaller red lines are scattered throughout the curled structure.

Human hearing depends on the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear. A new kind of cochlear implant for people with disabling hearing loss would use beams of light to stimulate the cochlear nerve.

Lakshay Khurana and Daniel Keppeler
Blue

There’s a popular misconception that cochlear implants restore natural hearing. In fact, these marvels of engineering give people a new kind of “electric hearing” that they must learn how to use.

Natural hearing results from vibrations hitting tiny structures called hair cells within the cochlea in the inner ear. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged or dysfunctional parts of the ear and uses electrodes to directly stimulate the cochlear nerve, which sends signals to the brain. When my hearing-impaired patients have their cochlear implants turned on for the first time, they often report that voices sound flat and robotic and that background noises blur together and drown out voices. Although users can have many sessions with technicians to “tune” and adjust their implants’ settings to make sounds more pleasant and helpful, there’s a limit to what can be achieved with today’s technology.

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