Sonic weapons

I was looking for an ultrasonic rangefinder kit the other day (I’m still looking, but that’s another story) and I stumbled across a few sites selling ‘ultrasonic force weapons’ - allegedly these project a burst of sound so powerful that it can stun humans and cause great discomfort at up to 30 feet.

Are these devices as effective as they are made out to be?
Has anyone been on the recieving end of such a weapon and if so, what did it feel like?

[sub](I haven’t posted a link in case it comes under the heading of ‘unsuitable material for the SDMB’)[/sub]

They’re called “boomboxes”, usually playing rap. And, yes, they are extremely useful in making people writhe on the floor in pain, but with ranges far greater than 30 feet.


The are sonic weapons but most of this stuff advertised on the Web is just useless.

The Master addresses the issue in a column from last year Can a noise be loud enough to kill you?.
The conclusion is that noise can kill, but it has to be pretty damned loud. There’s no telling what the army might have in their labs, but most scientists are sceptic.

Do you think I am I allowed to post a link to the site in question?

I don’t know, but I’d be greatful if you emailed it to me - i’m dying to have a look.

One of the factoids that floats around the low circles I move in is “The Germans in WWII had a machine that could kill with sound at a range of fifty feet”. But I’ve never seen anything that would actually back that claim up.

The Second World War brought a lot of nutcase inventors out of the woodwork - there was a special department of the War Office that dealt with fringe scientific ideas; I believe Patrick Moore worked there for a while. I’ve always remembered one comment on a proposed electromagnetic death ray: “I have to concede, though, that if you could get a German soldier to stand in front of it, perfectly still, for twenty-four hours, wearing a copper waistcoat, it would make him feel pretty seedy.”

There are any number of “concept” weapons in developmant out there that use sound or some variation of air pressure for effect. Most are simply demonstrations of “Gee Wiz” scientific odditites, but one or two have potential to actually be useful, in limited circumstances.

The problem with using sound as a weapon is that air is a crappy medium for transfering energy.

There are two concepts that currently look somewhat promising, although they have a long way to go before becoming practical, and even then will only be useful in very limited conditions:

  1. A controlled, directed vortex device, which basically creates a high-subsonic ‘smoke ring’, which can apply a fair bit of force over short ranges, and might be useful in hostage or crowd-control situations.

  2. A combination high-frequency - low frequency device that can make you puke or crap yourself. This works by using rapid-fire detonations (Gasoline or Natural Gas) in the chamber of a directional device, which produces a fairly well-directed beam of high frequency sound. You take two of these devices, separated by 10 or 15 feet, and aim them at the same target. Where the two beams of sound intersect, they produce an Ultra Low Beat Frequency the intersection, where they heterodyne. If a person happens to occupy that intersection, the ULF sound may cause nausea or uncontrolled defecation. Or maybe not. If it works at all, this system allows fairly tight control over the area of effect, allowing rather precise targetting. Wouldn’t that be a politico’s dream? He’s on stage, speechifying, when a heckler starts harrassing him from the crowd. What to do? No problem! The security team leader just takes aim, and Blammo! The heckler craps himself in public, while all around him, no one else is affected. Problem solved!
    Just call me cynical

The second system looks like it might have more real-world use, but is still quite limited in application and range.

Hmmm, Brown notes* eh?

I’m not going to post a direct link to the device (even though Tuba said it would probably be OK), but the page was one of many that I found when I Googled Sonic stunner.

*I was sure that Cecil had done a column on Brown Notes.

I’ve got a picture of a prototype in a Time-Life book. I can’t find the book, but the picture’s caption says that it would probably kill a person at one hundred yards… if that person were dumb enough to stand in one place for several minutes. As you might have guessed, it’s and elliptical speaker and looks a little like a satellite dish.

IIRC, interference does not change frequency.

It’s not about interference, it’s about the combination of two high-freqeuncy waves, on slightly different frequencies, combining to produce effectively a low-frequency wave where they intersect. If no one’s standing there, nothing happens, well, because no one’s standing there. If some one is standing there, and the resulting low-frequency sound is of the correct frequency and amplitude, they may feel anuseous, or lose control of their bowels. Or maybe not. The effects of low-frequency sound on people varies from person to person.

“they may feel anuseous, or lose control of their bowels”

Wouldn’t that be the same thing? :smiley:

Not necessarily… Nausea makes you puke, or want to puke. Losing control of ones bowels means you just crapped yourself, generally. Why? Does my spelling error have a medical meaning…?

“Why? Does my spelling error have a medical meaning…?”

Not as such, but it does contain the word “anus”.

Survival Research Labs used to use a sonic cannon in one of their shows. I’ve not seen them for years so I don’t know if they still use it.

One year they had the cannon out front and used it to play football with a large metal cube. The sound blasts would toss the cube about the stage area, mashing in the sides. They sontinued this until the cude looked like a wadded up piece of tinfoil.

Another year I saw them they had the cannon again and were blasting it over the heads of the croud and into the croud on the other side of the stage area (perhaps 200 or more feet). I was about 50 feet form the cannon and when that thing whipped over my head it pulled my hair and shirt up a little. I wouldn’t want to get blasted from that thing at less then 50 feet.

I’m not sure what powered it.

D’oh! Talk about missing the joke… :stuck_out_tongue: