Three Quiet Cheers for the Baron

LISTEN to this: 1.Thung, thung, thung, thung, thung.

2.Sssisss-klablam-chungslam!!

3.BBLLAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!

4.Creeeek-WHAM!!

5.EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEa!!!

6.Mmmmmmmmsshmmmmmshhssssssmmmmm.

7.Rooaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! (lots of echo).

8.Mrrahhhhhmmmmmmrraahhh.

9.Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

10.Plick, plick, plick, plick, plick.

These noises are:

1.Helicopters of unknown origins over my apartment.

2.Huge garbage trucks eating and belching across the street at the hospital at 5 a.m., possibly 6 a.m.

3.Some kind of gargantuan explosive release from a monster compressor somewhere on a roof at 3 a.m.

4.The door to a hall stairway slamming at 5:30 a.m. as the man (whistling) who delivers the morning paper goes from my floor (6th) to the 5th down the stairwell instead of taking the elevator.

5.Sirens (wailing, wailing) anytime of the day or night.

6.The festive street cleaners' parade at 2 a.m.

7.Happy jets on a nearby flight pattern from Logan Airport on weekends.

8.Low and constant traffic roar from nearby Storrow Drive, day and night.

9.Errant car alarms going off in the night.

10.Short, quick steps of a large woman in spiked slippers on the rugless, wooden floor in the apartment above mine.

Over a 24-hour period, the above noises were heard from my apartment in Boston. I noted this cacophony instead of blocking it out (with the exception of the compressor noise, which yanked me out of sleep and left me bolt upright in bed), because of neighborhood ice cream trucks in Denver.

The city council there decreed that the familiar tunes of the little trucks could not be amplified to 80 decibels. The new limit is now a soothing 55 decibels which, in my neighborhood, is barely a whisper.

What we have here is the familiar problem of urban noise, a reminder, I think, that this is not really the age of computers or ice cream, but the age of unsettling noises.

Baron Fourier to the rescue. In the early 1800s, the good Baron discovered that any periodic oscillation, such as sound, can be broken into a series of simple, regular wave motions.

Using Fourier analysis, scientists today are discovering that by measuring the frequency of unwanted noise they can broadcast a mirror image of the noise - the peaks of one wave coincide with the troughs of another - and the noises cancel each other out. In a word, we now have ``anti-noise.''

For example, the garbage truck creates a predictable noise. By wearing headphones or equipping my bedroom with loudspeakers, an anti-noise can be created that cancels the growling yet enables normal conversation to continue. I can say to my wife, ``I can't hear the garbage truck.'' And she can say to me, ``Why are you awake and talking to me?''

And I can say, ``I can't get used to the quiet.''

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