used with permission from microsoftToo much of anything is never good, and surprisingly, this also applies to silence. Welcome to the quietest place on earth: the anechoic chamber at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where it’s so quiet that noise is actually measured in negative decibels.
Sure, peace and quiet might sound nice, but this echo-free chamber has driven some of its visitors out in just a few seconds. The reason for the quick turnover rate? Apparently, an overwhelming sensory experience.
used with permission from microsoft“The chamber’s primary purpose is to ensure an acoustically controlled environment. This is needed for making scientific and engineering measurements for the design, development and testing of awesome audio technologies in Microsoft’s products,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.
Since the primary purpose of the chamber isn’t to test out how long humans can stay in there without “going crazy,” Microsoft hasn’t specifically tested out how people react to the silence. “It is unusual that anyone is in the chamber for more than about 45 minutes at a time, though we’ve had people stay for up to an hour,” says a Microsoft spokesperson. “Others ask to leave after just a few seconds. The reaction to the silence varies a lot.”
used with permission from microsoftThe chamber’s measurements are as low as -20.35 dBA (decibels A-weighted), far below the human threshold of hearing, which is zero decibels. Because ambient noise is so low, people inside the chamber can hear physiological sounds they otherwise wouldn’t, like the sound of their heads turning or blood rushing in their ears. Your own breathing even sounds somewhat loud, according to a spokesperson.
While Microsoft’s chamber is not open to the public, the second quietest place on Earth is publicly accessible. The previous winner of Guinness World Record’s “quietest place on Earth” is the anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, which has a dBA of -13. The longest anyone has stayed inside is one hour. “Most people can immediately hear the sounds of their ears in sensory deprivation,” Steven J. Orfield, founder of Orfield Laboratories, Inc, writes in an email. “They can also hear the sound of their stomach gurgling and anyone else’s experiencing a little digestion. By 45 minutes, they will hear their heartbeat, the sounds of their joints as they move in their arms and legs, and some will hear their lungs flowing in and out with air.”
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