Right to Quiet Society Noiseletter
Spring 2013, page 3

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Creating energy from noise pollution

By Kristen Avis

Soundscrapers could soon turn urban noise pollution into usable energy to power cities. An honourable mention-winning entry in the 2013 eVolo Skyscraper Competition, dubbed Soundscraper, looked into ways to convert the ambient noise in urban centres into a renewable energy form. Noise pollution is currently a negative element of urban life but it could soon be valued and put to good use. Acoustic architecture, or design to minimise noise, has long been an important facet of the architecture industry, but design aimed at maximising and capturing noise for beneficial reasons is an untapped area with great potential.

The Soundscraper concept is based around constructing the buildings near major highways and railroad junctions to capture noise vibrations and turn them into energy. The intensity and direction of urban noise dictates the vibrations captured by the building’s facade. Covering a wide array of frequencies, everyday noise from trains, cars, planes and pedestrians would be picked up by 84,000 electroactive lashes covering a Soundscraper’s light metallic frame. Armed with Parametric Frequency Increased Generators (sound sensors) on the lashes, the vibrations would then be converted to kinetic energy through an energy harvester. The energy would be converted to electricity through transducer cells, at which point that power could be stored or sent to the grid for regular electricity usage.

The Soundscraper team of Julien Bourgeois, Savinien de Pizzol, Olivier Colliez, Romain Grouselle and Cédric Dounval estimate that 150 megawatts of energy could be produced from one Soundscraper, meaning that a single tower could produce enough energy to fuel 10 percent of Los Angeles’ lighting needs. Constructing several 100-metre high Soundscrapers throughout a city near major motorways could help offset the electrical needs of the urban population. This form of renewable energy would also help lower the city’s CO2 emissions.

The energy-producing towers could become city land-marks and give interstitial spaces an important function. The electricity needs of an entire city could be met solely by Soundscrapers if enough were constructed at appropriate locations, also helping to minimise the city’s carbon footprint.

Source of article

Editor’s note: As great an idea as this is, one should be concerned about this encouraging more noise, rather than preventing or abating it, especially when noise becomes more profitable than its prevention or reduction.

Effects of cell-phone conversations

Overheard phone calls are more memorable, rated more distracting than other background talking.

A one-sided cell-phone conversation in the background is likely to be much more distracting than overhearing a conversation between two people, according to research published March 13 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Veronica Galván and colleagues from the University of San Diego.

The authors studied the effects of overhearing either one side of a cell-phone call or a chat between two people on the attention and memory of people who overheard these conversations. Participants in the study were asked to complete a task involving anagrams. As they performed the task, researchers carried out a short, scripted conversation in the background about shopping for furniture, a birthday party or meeting a date at the mall. Half the participants overheard one side of the conversation carried out on the phone, and the rest overheard the discussion as a conversation between two people in the room with them. Participants were unaware that the conversation was part of the study.

Galván says, "This is the first study to use a realistic situation to show that overhearing a cell-phone conversation is a uniquely intrusive and memorable event. We were interested in studying this topic since cell-phone conversations are so pervasive and could impact bystanders to those conversations at work and in other settings of every-day life."

Participants who overheard the one-sided cell-phone call thought the background conversation was much more distracting than those who heard it as a chat between two people. Not only did participants rate the cell-phone conversation as more distracting, they also remembered more words and content from the cell-phone conversation, and made fewer errors when recognizing which words were a part of the phone call.

"Research suggests that unintentional eavesdropping on cell-phone calls can be explained by the additional attentional resources needed to understand the unpredictable content of the conversation. Not knowing where the conversation is heading is what makes cell-phone calls more distracting", explains Rosa Vessal, a co-author on the study.

Citation: Galván VV, Vessal RS, Golley MT (2013) The Effects of Cell-Phone Conversations on the Attention and Memory of Bystanders. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58579.
Link to article

Editor’s note: How regrettable that the human hearing is unable to convert this type of unwanted noise into precious energy to power our brain and other body functions in the same or a similar way as the Soundscrapers would.

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Entire contents 2013 Right to Quiet Society. Cartoon, 1996, Right to Quiet Society

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