What started as a mysterious news item coming out of Cuba has begun to take the shape of intentional international interference involving some sort of sonic weapon. First reported at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, attacks involving an enigmatic sound have left victims with health issues including hearing loss and mild brain damage.
Yet are these even attacks at all? Some speculation has arisen that the phenomenon experienced at embassies in Cuba and China may be merely have faced exposure to ultrasonic abnormalities with common equipment. Ultrasonic frequencies are used all around us in everyday life, in everything from door sensors to pest control and the possibility persists that strange sounds may be linked to some form of interference or malfunction with these common signal senders.
Speculation on the situation started in the autumn of 2016 with people working at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba reporting an unusual sound and subsequent physical and mental health issues. Witnesses to the event reported hearing a strange tone accompanied by physical discomfort.
Without much evidence outside of witness reports, speculation began on the internet about what may have caused the incident, including the possibility of a sonic attack with infrasonic and/or ultrasonic frequencies.
Since the event in Havana, other American diplomats have reported unusual sounds and symptoms. Reports have included dizziness and balance issues, tinnitus and hearing loss, visual disruption, fatigue and cognitive difficulty. A recording of a questionable sound was released to the public.
Because the recording was not made with equipment that could detect frequencies outside human hearing, evidence of the presence of infrasonic or ultrasonic frequencies is not present. On the positive note, this means the recording can be listened to safely by others and used to compare reported incidences. Analysis has found that the recorded tone may be comprised of 20 or more frequencies working in tandem.
Currently, security and health screenings have been stepped up in the diplomatic community to raise awareness of a potential threat and to help those abroad recognize a potential attack.
When a frequency is ultrasonic it means it is projected at a frequency that is higher than the range of human hearing. These sound waves can be incredibly useful, accomplishing tasks in the world around us without contributing to noise pollution. At the same time, overexposure to ultrasonic tones can produce anxiety and adverse health conditions. Although ultrasonic waves can disrupt human activity without being sensed, they also cannot travel far distances, making them harder to weaponize.
Infrasonic frequencies are also beyond the range of human hearing, operating at disruptive lower frequencies. Infrasonic exposure has been shown to cause organ damage in the bodies of mice and deep sea divers. Like ultrasonic wave, infrasonic tones cannot be perceived by the ear, even as they vibrate throughout the body.
In modern times, sound waves have been weaponized by military and police forces, most noticeably for crowd dispersal and control. In the U.S., police “sound cannons” have been used against protesting crowds at the Ferguson Unrest in 2014 and the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest of 2016 s well as being present at protests around the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh and the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City.
Using dangerous sound frequencies, in particular infrasonic frequencies, as weapons presents a dangerous and real possibility. With no person or party taking responsibility for the incidents affecting U.S. Embassies, the diplomatic sonic scares have been shrouded in speculation.
Some analysts believe the reported attacks in Cuba and China are nothing more than minor ultrasonic interference and the health symptoms that accompany them. In late June, the Associated Press reported that 26 people have suffered medically confirmed injuries from the incidents, while doubters question the metric of such health reports.
Others believe something far more insidious than errant ultrasonic waves may be targeting diplomats. With the intelligence community encouraging diplomats to use caution and encouraging medical screening for embassy workers, it seems much of the situation may be still up in the air.
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