Scientists Create Gun That Physically Stops You From Talking

| 1 Mar 2012 14:01

Doom's BFG makes way for Japan's STFU

If you're like me, by this point in time you've probably already accumulated a long list of people who you wish you could just magically stop from ever speaking again. People like my Uncle Mortimer, that needling Protoss guy, and for those of you still trying to maintain the fa├žade of the Matrix, Thomas A. Anderson. Well, good news, everyone! A scrappy team of researchers has just designed a weapon that physically stops its victims from speaking, and all of our evil dreams can finally come true (assuming we can get within 100 feet of the loudmouths). Thanks, Japan!

The gun, called the "SpeechJammer" (because everybody knows that hip scientists don't use the spacebar), was developed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan. And while the effect it produces sounds a bit science-fictiony, the mechanics behind it are actually quite simple to grasp. Basically, when we speak normally (which is to say, without weird futuristic sonic weapons in our face), we don't simply project noise by moving our lips and tongue while pushing out air. That's part of it, sure, but we also use our ears to actively listen to our words to guide our speech. This is part of the reason why deaf people often sound different than those who can hear.

To describe it simply, the SpeechJammer is a speaker and a microphone, both designed to accurately target a small cone of direct sound. As it "listens" to its victim, it quickly projects the words back at him or her with a small delay of two hundred milliseconds, creating what nerds call "Delayed Auditory Feedback," and what boring people call "annoying echoes that make me sound funny." It may not seem like much, but it's enough to jumble up even the stoutest of would-be Ciceros.

According to the team who put this 1984 2012 wonder together, their purpose was twofold. The first was for use in what the public comfortably considers "quiet spaces," like libraries and movie theaters. The second was to disarm "louder, stronger" voices from dominating conversations.

"We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking," the paper explaining the SpeechJammer reads, "However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately interrupt other people when it is their turn in order to establish their presence rather than achieve more fruitful discussions. Furthermore, some people tend to jeer at speakers to invalidate their speech."

So, essentially, they invented it so people would be forced into polite conversational tactics at gunpoint. Nice.


Thanks to Nick Burch for the tip!

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