The fantasy device I settled on is called Quiet. The idea is that a portable controller uses sound waves to cancel out all other sound waves and create a pocket with no sound. The most obvious use for this would be to create a personal space that is silent—to help read on a crowded subway, sleep at night, or just to walk around with a new perspective on the world. It would also be cool to leave the device in a room and wait to see how people react when they enter the room. Here are some of my original sketches.
I imagined it as an Etch a Sketch interface, with dials that could draw the space where you wanted to cancel all the sound. It could be a standalone device or an app for a phone like this one:
I realized that it was probably too complicated to draw silence zones in 3D space and decided it was easier to simply control the height and width of a sphere originating from the device itself.
After settling on Quiet and thinking about it for a while I realized that all of the devices I had come up with were geared towards personal comfort or convenience. I tried to think of something with other people in mind, something that would really help the world. I didn’t really come up with anything. I comforted myself with the idea that Quiet is used mostly for personal comfort, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit other people. Clearly other people would probably find use in it. I also thought of another use for Quiet—you could use it as a “silence bomb” by discreetly placing it near people who are being annoying and then destroy all of their sound.
I was pretty sure that there was no way this would actually be possible to make, but I did some research and I kind of think maybe it could. I read about physics on this site, which said:
Now if a particular location along the medium repeatedly experiences the interference of a compression and rarefaction followed up by the interference of a rarefaction and a compression, then the two sound waves will continually cancel each other and no sound is heard. The absence of sound is the result of the particles remaining at rest and behaving as though there were no disturbance passing through it. Amazingly, in a situation such as this, two sound waves would combine to produce no sound.
So I’m not sure it’s very possible, but maybe possible. My other concern, after doing some more research, is that it could be harmful to users.
Sonic weapon, from Wikipedia
So then I built a very rough “prototype” of the device, just to give a sense of what it would feel like to use the dials and hold the power of silence in your hands.
After Long Silence
Speech after long silence; it is right, All other lovers being estranged or dead, Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade, The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night, That we descant and yet again descant Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song: Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young We loved each other and were ignorant.