February 25, 2020

The Rise of the Pod People

“After 30 minutes in the anechoic test chamber, you start to hear your heart beating. Then, you can make out the joints crinkling in your arms and legs, the carotid arteries pumping in your head, and maybe, if you listen very closely, the air flowing in and out of your lungs.

“Every sound [people inside] hear is the sound of their own body,” said Steve Orfield, who runs Orfield Laboratories, an acoustic lab in Minneapolis where scientists test the decibel levels of Harley-Davidsons and the way sound reverberates off concert-hall chairs.

Of all the very quiet spaces in his lab, the anechoic chamber is the quietest. It was once the Quietest Place on Earth, holding the Guinness World Record as such until 2015, when another chamber out-quieted it. Spending too long in a tank like this can drive a person crazy. But people visit from all over the world, paying hundreds of dollars for the chance to deprive their senses in small doses. One of the reasons they are seeking quiet and calm, Orfield says, is because all around them is chaos and noise.”

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