World’s Most Powerful Sound Systems Can Kill You

By Anupum Pant

In the past we’ve seen sound systems that used plasma instead of magnets to produce sound. Well, those plasma sound systems were pretty well equipped to kill you, but they would do it in a different manner – by electrocuting you. This one we are talking about today, literally kills you with sound.


European Space Agency uses an extra-large speaker that throws extra-big sound at test objects. It is known to recreate the sound that a launcher produces while taking off and travelling through atmosphere. This speaker, known as, the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF) in Netherlands, is used by the European Space Agency to test satellite parts.

The Glory: They say that if any person listens to sound playing on this speaker, he/she won’t survive. This is the reason, the most powerful sound system in Europe, is enclosed in a facility that has walls that 17 meters in height, are half a meter thick and are overlaid with a resin on the inner walls that reflects sound & does not let it escape. Also, it has a safety mechanism that doesn’t allow anyone to power it on, if the doors are not shut properly.

Nitrogen is pumped in great amounts through the huge ear-canal-like thing which enables it to produce sounds up to 154 decibel! If you are wondering how loud 154 decibel is, you should check this out – How Loud Can it Get. In short, it is loud enough to rupture your eardrums and probably kill you too.

I came across this equipment first at [PopSci] More information at [ESA]

So I wondered, if this is the most powerful sound system in Europe, are there more powerful ones elsewhere in the world?
Duh! Yeah. And as expected, it is in USA.

Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility (RATF)

Orion-Integrated-Environmental-TestingThe Orion Integrated Environmental Testing at the NASA Space Power Facility (SPF), a huge facility which looks pretty much like a nuclear power plant from afar, houses several other testing facilities, and the world’s largest space environment simulation chamber, also has the worlds most powerful sound system – The Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility. [Image]

The horns that produce sound here, are also powered by Nitrogen and there are 36 of them. It is able to produce a total sound pressure of 163 dB, which is a lot more than what LEAF can produce (because dB scale is not linear) – About seven times more powerful than standing next to a jet engine or a Formula 1 race car. In here, it is far too easy to kill a full grown man.

Gamburtsev Mountain Range – The Unexplored

By Anupum Pant


First, think of something that is 1,200 km in length, 3000 m in height and yet it is complete buried under the Antarctic ice. A whole mountain range called the Gamburtsev Mountain Range in Antarctica has remained unexplored, buried for centuries under a 2 to 4 kilometer thick sheet of ice. The range is named after Grigoriy A. Gamburtsev – a Russian geophysicist.

It amazes me how something of the size of European Alps, right here on earth, has remained unexplored for decades. Scientists estimate that these mountains are several millions of years old. But, till date they have no concrete idea on how they were actually formed.

In the words of Robin Bell, a geophysicist at Columbia University:

Amazingly, we have samples of the moon but none of the Gamburtsevs’.

Discovery: year 1958

In the year 1958, these mountains were discovered by a Soviet expedition. For exploration, this expedition investigated the surface using seismic sounding at around 10 points. During this time, not much detail was known.

Year 2000: It was only in the year 2000 that a project by British Antarctic Survey was able to produce a fairly detailed 3D map of Antarctica to date. As a result, some more information about these mountains was gathered. Still, it wasn’t enough for finding out their origins.

To solve the mystery of their origins, in the year 2011, aircrafts equipped with radars, lasers and various other meters were sent out by researchers to image the last unexplored mountain range on earth. They flew a distance of around 3 times the earth’s circumference over Antarctica – about 120,000 kilometers.
In the end, this flying around returned good results.

This Image gives you a rough idea about how deep these mountains are buried. [PDF]

I hope that in the coming years, scientists will be able to drill through the ice that has accumulated there for millions of years. And then, probably they’ll be able to retrieve real Gamburtsev rock samples for detailed investigation.

Note: Pardon me if I’ve been writing too much in the “Earth” category for the past few days. Trust me it is just a coincidence. In my defense, It is completely possible that a truly random die roll can land 6 consecutive 6s.

The Feynman point is one such example. It is a sequence of 6 nines somewhere in the decimal digits of pi. In short, you cursing me for writing under the same category for the past few days is not justified, logically.

Feynman point