Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

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Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby tvelection » Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:29 am

In some large concrete/steel structures (like apartments/offices) I’ve lived there’s a phenomenon that causes the walls to resonate from within. Call it “structural resonance,” I know it from experience. I think it’s caused by Heating and Air Conditioning units in large vertical structures. Be they rooftop or in interior columns, I’d call it a design flaw but I’m not sure most architects would consider it. The H/AC units vibrate the walls from inside creating a "resonation" and not necessarily that apartment's AC but more from the others. It's very intense (tones) and yet barely perceptible because the sounds blend into the background noise. When you are not aware of the resonance you never really single it out. When you do become aware (and it can take years) you can’t miss it and there’s no escaping from it from room to room because it comes out from the walls and not in through the windows. In fact you can block the windows off completely and this sound is not one bit less intense. It is of course intermittent too.

To be clear this is not like someone (a homeowner) with an AC unit they can “hear” outside a window or a nearby neighbor’s that they may hear running. It is not the “sound” of an AC unit (or if it is it maybe the scream of bad bearings). It is the structural vibration made by multiple AC unist in a larger structure at a different frequencies depending on distance (and the phenomena is strongest in the hot summer, or according to use). What happens in such high-rises is that the cement ceilings and floors trap some of the frequencies that are then powerfully emitted through the drywall. You can hear it (very slightly but “perfectly” intense) even through an ear that’s fully pressed into a pillow at night. It’s written off as noise, some machine, even as merely the “sound” of air conditioners. The multiple peaks are the different units at different distances sometimes the frequencies interfere and the hearer hears a wavering/choppy sound, as you walk through a room you begin to recognize pockets of intensity, hopefully that’s not where your bed is. Let me guess at the diplomats’ symptoms, they include, waking-up dizzy at night, dizziness, bouts of tinnitus, lack of sleep, poor sleep, and a sudden loss of hearing (of high pitches) greater in one ear than the other.

In Havana they need to understand that when the air conditioners turn-on on the adjacent floors below and above (or from large roof or basement units) the vibration in some buildings carries through walls as resonance, extremely intense and yet barely noticeable. I don’t think it’s an attack as much as it is a design flaw that has a concentration point near that apartment/office’s area. In fact it should still be the case to this day and this situation what I’m suggesting could easily be tested or then ruled out.

(1) When the sound is heard by those who recognize it, have them press their ear against any load bearing wall and they will hear it inside the wall too.
(2) The easiest way is to live there for few days and wear machinery ear-protectors and occasionally every 15 minutes lift only one side/one ear protector, then you’ll hear it clearly. The surrounding rooms should have a similar problem but sometimes I’d imagine (especially if it is a corner apt/office that some offices will collect/emit a greater intensity). Hallways can create a buffer zone and some internal offices may not have resonance at all.
(3) Turn all the air conditioner units off in the building and the “mysterious” sound should go quiet.
(4) Move the US Diplomats to another location in the embassy building.
(5) Also test and record offices/apts adjacent on the same floor and also directly above and below the ones in question.
(6) Get an architect, a sound man, HVAC expert, and the locations of AC units, and a stethoscope for the walls. Ask them if this explanation could be the case and ask them to examine the building.

If the issue is not what I have described then I have no other reasonable explanation. I think the “concerted attack” theory is probably wrong because the pattern of an “attack” does not fit a multi-peak wavelength very well. If that stretch were to be made then it would be by this method but resonance induced through an adjacent unit. More likely structural resonance on an old building with old units or possibly bad bearings in some AC units creating a “summer” of constant resonances. It all depends on how the air conditioning is built into the highrise.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby Edward Marcus » Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:17 am

You suggest a plausible explanation for what occurred that could be easily tested. A lot of the natural frequencies of a structure can be excited into resonance by HVAC, passing vehicles, or the wind. Perhaps some expert decided to throw in some insidious design flaw in this way to make the US embassy environment a bit less hospitable. If that is the case, I would not call it an attack -rather a case of acoustic poisoning.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby robert 46 » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:32 am

The above is a reasonable explanation, but it should be recurrent and detectable by suitable instrumentation.

Although I have a dead band in my hearing between 5000-8000 Hz from a childhood condition, when in a collectible-coin store, and in the coin room at the Smithsonian, I heard a high-pitched squeal which is quite loud and unpleasant. Others with me did not hear this sound. I believe the many fluorescent lamp ballasts produce a resonance in the coins creating vibrations greater than 20 KHz which I am somehow sensitive to.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby tvelection » Sat Oct 14, 2017 3:13 am

Edward Marcus wrote:
Perhaps some expert decided to throw in some insidious design flaw in this way to make the US embassy environment a bit less hospitable. If that is the case, I would not call it an attack -rather a case of acoustic poisoning.


It’s difficult to assume intention isn't it? The question some might ask would be, why only the American diplomats? But that could be coincidence, circumstantial, don't know how cynical to be concerning the cause (intentional v. unintentional). Maybe the building’s caretakers were aware of an annoying sound but did not see it as a threat, much like the diplomats. But it is like a sonic/acoustic “poison” as you mentioned, even an unintended resonance, good analogy. It works slowly leaving those exposed to it unaware of the consequences for the most part until cumulative damage occurs.

As far as I’ve heard it keeps occurring and which might mean something more accidental or innocent . . . if it has continued unabated since then. Although the summer heat is much less intense it may be less frequent or intense. Maybe the embassy might have generators running somewhere too, not sure. If it were a weapon I'd have thought that it would have stopped in an attempt to conceal the source. I read that they are giving a recording to the Navy, which might be the wrong direction (sonic weapon theory) at least give it to a forensic sound lab to separate out frequencies and try to match the sounds to something.

Robert46,
I’m familiar with the droning buzz of faulty fluorescent ballast. At a gas station I had worked at there was a canopy that had one and it was a constant intense buzz. Fortunately I was never out there more than maybe 30 minutes. In the early evening when all the cars were passing it was still there but masked by traffic but at 2am it would be surprisingly loud (and yet at the same volume). People who never dealt with ballasts would come in and ask what the buzzing sound was.

Ballast buzz resonating coins, interesting, I'd have thought the ballast alone as the problem. I'm a little skeptical but can't rule out the coins either (that you heard some of them ringing doesn't seem so unreasonable). That would take some convincing though (measurements). Then again it does seem possible that silver coins could resonate at a proper frequency (like wine glasses). It would be a good lab experiment. The crystal/glass of the coin cases might resonate slightly too. The sound I dealt with most was like a struck high-pitch tuning fork, all day, periodically on and off; it wasn't loud, didn't seem harmful so I became accustomed to it. Some sounds are strange in that the volume/amplitude v. the frequency seems harmless but still has an ear damaging intensity. (almost like electric with amperage and voltage ratios). As for coins it's hard to miss the ring of old silver in change.

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Many people do not (neither did I at the time) take such sounds seriously because they have no immediate effect. It's an annoyance, but like a running fridge we learn to tune out, only occasionally we hear it and think, “There’s that sound again.” I wish a US diplomats could read this because I expect they would agree with everything I've said.I suspect that when they told people at first they were not taken seriously, it really seems like no big deal. But even as a person sleeps the ear is still being manipulated by sound waves while the audio nerve is somehow shut down. It’s more common to think hearing loss comes from only the loudest noises, jack hammers, fireworks, sirens, or workshop circular saws operated without ear protection (and it certainly can) but there are also these intense ambient sounds mentioned here that are often ignored. Some intense ambient sounds probably pass right through the ear drum and wreak havoc on the middle ear and vestibular/balance sense. Breaking the fine hairs/cilia in the cochlea. As for ballasts buzzing, when brought to someone’s attention it seems more like an annoyance too, but to a worker or owner who's exposed to it for an entire shift it might be much more destructive than someone who passes through. Usually with any constant resonant sound/tone, at home or at work, one ear gets directly hit due to the “normal” location one has in a room.

As much as I like rock concerts they can be way too loud, that ear ringing for a few hours is actually temporary tinnitus (overstimulated nerves/cilia). Some concerts even have decibel warnings as you enter. Machine shops, cooler condensers, motors, grinders, juicers, ice machines, refrigerators, fans, air conditioners, loud music through ear buds, radios, airplanes overhead, loud sports crowds, television, cellphones, computer fans, these days our ears are bombarded by sound and I would not be surprised if people start loosing some hearing early in their 40s in a "modern" life of constant sound and noise. Even an ambulance or fire truck can be ridiculous in decibels but those are obvious. What is not so obvious are high-pitch, steady buzz or whines and whirs or machines, for hours, things which seem less intense and are assumed harmless. Maybe these resonances and pure (sine) tones vibrations' after a while damage the little hairs/cilia in the cochlea or over-stimulates them.

This may have nothing to do with hearing loss but if you've ever lived near train tracks the long ground waves of an approaching train that can be felt heard long before the train itself is heard. Maybe in Chicago or New York City the underground structures cause some unintended resonant vibrations above. A subway passes by where I live with its metal wheels squealing loudly on the metal tracks sometimes. There are machines and motors constantly sounding in ears, coolers/refrigeration devices and ear-buds. It’s much easier to understand after even minor hearing loss how delicate a sense hearing can be.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby robert 46 » Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:57 am

tvelection wrote:Robert46,
Ballast buzz resonating coins, interesting, I'd have thought the ballast alone as the problem. I'm a little skeptical but can't rule out the coins either (that you heard some of them ringing doesn't seem so unreasonable).

The squeal was only at places where there were tables of coins. Ballast buzz is not at all similar.
That would take some convincing though (measurements). Then again it does seem possible that silver coins could resonate at a proper frequency (like wine glasses). It would be a good lab experiment. The crystal/glass of the coin cases might resonate slightly too.

The glass could contribute to the resonance.
As for coins it's hard to miss the ring of old silver in change.

This is a problem for technologists to study. One would think that designing a coil spring was an easy matter, but for repetitive mechanisms resonances can occur in a spring causing a mechanical device to not work properly- requiring extensive redesign.

Due to my hearing loss, I cannot hear the alarm frequency of a digital wristwatch unless it is right next to my ear. Sitting in a courtroom once, the proceedings abruptly stopped at 9 a.m. Everyone was looking around the room. The person next to me nudged my shoulder and pointed to my wristwatch. I put it to my ear, and, sure enough, it was ringing. Stopped by itself before I could figure out the buttons to push to turn it off. Embarassing to disrupt such proceedings unintentionally and unknowingly, but perhaps the judge recognized I was unable to hear the alarm and let the matter pass. The every-day motions of wearing the watch caused the alarm to be enabled, since I never had any reason to use it.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby tvelection » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:24 pm

Robert wrote:
The squeal was only at places where there were tables of coins. Ballast buzz is not at all similar.


On this point I see what you mean. The high-register ring (or "squeal") is not a sound at all similar to the steady mid-range ballast buzz. So it was most likely not the ballast alone as you suggest, agreed. You heard something else distinctly different. The only question then being what was the other source of what you heard? Seems like a plausible claim.

Funny court story. I guess the judge already had his first cup of coffee too (else, "Bailiff, remove this man from the courtroom immediately!"). Oh the ways such a watch/hearing issue could get you into trouble, a Seinfeld subplot in that one. "If there is anyone here who thinks this man and this woman should not be united in holy matrimony please speak now or forever hold your peace . . ." "Beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep . . . " Apparently the superstitious bride thought it was a sign from on high and backs out.

I remember with many older tube TVs, many also emitted a high pitch ring that I could hear when I was young but probably not anymore ---if they were still around (on the whole).

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As for structural resonances I had years working out this issue because in one apartment in was minor but in another it was "major." It never really hurts the ears at the time (only after a while, cumulatively). I practiced piano/keyboard for hours with one ear being directly hit by the intermittent sounds. Slept with a fan on that masked it. It all started with "that funny sound" Maybe a year or two later the idea of blocking it from coming in the window. Then being shocked at the fact that the sound could not be blocked, as if it were gravity! It penetrated everything apparently ---including all the walls. One day I put a drywall cut-out into the window and when the sound still occurred. It wasn't coming in through the windows which was the rational assumption for years. First you hear a "far away (in the building) machine turn on and hum, then after 10 seconds the resonance rises up to a constant tone. The drywall did nothing and then I tried something I never considered. I pressed my ear up against the wall. That's when everything became clear. You can't block it.

I think also, like in Havana probably, that a building without much insulation would contain more resonance, that thick insulation might dampen the overall effect. So after that 3 years of a mysterious sound, and since then, I heard on the news that the US Diplomats in the embassy in Cuba have a mysterious sound that they cannot figure out. If the cases have the same cause, the reason I know is that I had 3 years to determine what was going on, and much like the diplomats I bet, in the beginning, never took it seriously or mentioned it to anyone.

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And here's my funny story concerning the issue. Besides, that is, having the landlord come over before I knew it was air-conditioning resonances in the building's walls. He got there on a cool evening and the sound was gone, and I'm like . . . just listen, . . . wait . . . and . . . nothing! Murphy's Law: Whenever you try to show something to someone, a mechanical problem, it doesn't happen. Ya know, like the odd sound the old car makes!

Anyway, back to the story, when this was occurring and I was bringing up the drywall for the window there was a new, attractive, woman who just moved in on my floor. I had never met her. This was my "George Constanza" or "Ross Geller" moment. I open the stairwell door as she's coming out of her apartment, we almost collide, I say hello and we have that small talk, " Did you move in recently? I put a mislabeled package outside your door did you get it?" And then the conversation went quiet and yet did not seem to be over because she did not turn away and I said, "Have you heard the sound in the apartment building? ("No" )It actually goes through the walls of my apartment. Listen for it sometimes." And then I had nothing else to say (shouldn't even have said that) and I said "Nice meeting you" and went to my door. I got in the apartment and asking myself ". . . did I just tell that woman to listen for a sound that travels through walls?" Oh my god no! She's on her phone somewhere telling a friend about the crazy guy that lives on her floor! Call it a flirt fail. Problem was her side of the building was across the hall and on the back of the building with a whole different column of air conditioners. Oh well, first impressions can be misleading.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby Edward Marcus » Tue Oct 17, 2017 12:55 pm

tvelection wrote:As for structural resonances I had years working out this issue because in one apartment in was minor but in another it was "major." It never really hurts the ears at the time (only after a while, cumulatively). I practiced piano/keyboard for hours with one ear being directly hit by the intermittent sounds


Structural resonances are probably difficult to muffle with anything of a scale which is smaller than the wavelength, yet one property of resonant noises is that the location of the high db levels (antinodes) and the locations of the lower db levels (nodes) probably remain stationary- so the very noisy and noise-free locations probably don't wander around very much between different times of the day and an active (anti-phased) cancellations of these stationary patterns might be possible.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby tvelection » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:00 pm

Edward Marcus wrote:
Structural resonances are probably difficult to muffle with anything of a scale which is smaller than the wavelength, yet one property of resonant noises is that the location of the high db levels (antinodes) and the locations of the lower db levels (nodes) probably remain stationary- so the very noisy and noise-free locations probably don't wander around very much between different times of the day and an active (anti-phased) cancellations of these stationary patterns might be possible.


Exactly, you must have some knowledge of this issue (acoustics/sound waves). I had to do some reading for general knowledge when it all occurred. As you say there are high level areas. I call "hot spots." In these places the noise/tone penetrates ear plugs (but I found over head/over ear industrial grade noise blockers worked. That is the only thing that will protect the Embassy workers if this is the case (not earplugs). As for the antinodes and cancellation mine had a lattice, checkerboard effect that I guessed was caused by wall studs. But you are exactly right, the zones were stationary.

Anyway I could sit still at a table and almost keep my head in a cancellation zone but it never lasted because the slightest movement and at least one ear would get it. It also changed with height. In some places some of the frequencies cancelled while others remained. The head of my bed was in a hotspot against the building's air conditioners column, just out of coincidence. I actually woke-up with the hearing loss. I moved it only a full year after that! (still thinking the reasonable assumption that sounds come into windows). I would have never thought it was through the walls in every room. The piano/keyboard next to that same main wall in the living room. It mangled my right middle-ear. I did have one good idea I did not try because of expense, noise cancelling headphones.

You're point about active cancellation is probably the way a professional could handle it, because passive blocking cannot cover the surface area of the walls effectively.

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http://www.chron.com/news/politics/article/US-says-2-more-American-victims-confirmed-in-Cuba-12293863.php

This recent article is about one day old at the time of this posting, like others I've read, only further confirms my belief. Down in the symptoms section it mentions two points not mentioned in earlier articles, ones that I mentioned (ringing in the ears and vestibular dysfunction) the blurred vision is difficult for me to determine because the my right eye has slightly weaker vision. I can't confirm that the noise caused that though. What is interesting here is the statement that some Canadian Ambassadors were effected too. This seems to belie the concerted "attack" theory because Canada has had normal relations with Cuba for years. I doubt an attack would be so sloppy as to include "non-enemies." What may be possible is that the Canadians share adjacent walls but I don't know.

I'd forward my conclusion to a gov't agency but do not want to deal with all the red tape, repeating the story, being put on hold, and giving my own information which they do not need to just hear me out. My hope is someone with connections will read this and eventually have some of the effected Ambassadors come and read this and see what they think. Otherwise, if structural resonation is not the cause of the Cuba problem ---and I'm 90% sure it is, they can do tests and rule it out. When they've turned all air conditioners and generators off, they can turn them all on again each alone or all, one at a time. Regardless, I doubt this just occurred in my apartment building and would suspect that thousands of people are dealing with hearing loss from high-rises (maybe some homes too ) unintended structural resonances all over the country, all over the industrialized world. Only that few or no one has yet scientifically established the cause of the problem, ignored the sound or assigned other causes . . . or were simply too afraid to suggest such an odd phenomena. I mentioned the hearing loss in "The Power of Music" thread when it happened. I couldn't explain it. I would never have mentioned all this but for the Cuba problem because if you haven't been exposed to it it's hard to believe. If it were a sonic attack in Cuba, and I highly doubt it, then the two similar phenomena have the same effect, one intended and targeted, one unintended. I could be wrong of course, but I fully expect In the future to see an article that will say the cause of the Cuban mystery sound (not an attack) is what I've said in here all along.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby Edward Marcus » Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:51 am

Had a look at pictures of this embassy building and the design looks ripe for resonances at harmonics of the window spacing. Also the windows appear to be inset to concrete slabs running the vertical length of the building- creating channels to funnel in and capture sound. If the windows and the concrete frames which surround them transmit sounds at different speed, then it becomes a formula for the support of standing waves. From a political perspective it is interesting to observe how much finger pointing is happening and how any consideration of potential natural causes is missing from the public discussion.
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Re: Explanation for mysterious sound at Cuban embassy

Postby tvelection » Thu Oct 26, 2017 12:19 pm

In the context of machine-to-structure resonances, articles like this link make more sense. Nobody there seems to not know what's going on, at a loss to explain the sounds, or the source of the problem. Sounds so familiar, when you haven't pinpointed it yet, it makes no sense, you're not even aware of it in the beginning (may even be aware of a sound but not concerned with it).

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/cubans-deny-any-role-in-us-diplomats-mystery-ailments/ar-AAu0kSI?li=BBnb7Kz

Edward Marcus,
Yes, that building pictured in some articles, the classic old cement sandwich high-rise. When reading articles like the link above it's like seeing what they're missing. How else can anyone explain it? For me the problem would be coming up with any other explanation than the one offered in this thread, now that would be puzzling.

And in fairness to the "truth" of the situation, if I'm wrong on this one I take responsibility for suggesting an error (of false cause). I don't want to lead you or anyone in the wrong direction; I appreciate though that you see that it's at least a reasonable, plausible, suggestion. (while there is an absence of any reasonable public explanations by those investigating.)

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In the link I had in the previous post there was one item that I needed to explain. It suggested that the US embassy workers thought it might have been in their homes too. I don't know if they mean houses or another building (check all the buildings' walls involved, embassy offices as well as bedrooms) but if it's houses then there is no surprise that they'd believe that. When you don't know the cause is a resonation (at the Embassy building) then you are not even aware of the cause (of say, hearing loss) and do not know "where" that loss is happening at home at work or both (or even by physical/internal ailment) . . . point is that if they don't know the cause of the hearing loss or when it's happening then it is even more difficult to figure out the cause. In my case I could have just as easily believed that all the sounds of the machines at my job (constant running coolers) was the cause but those sounds were harmless, normal, and lacked the intensity, more ambient sounds. Structural resonance is not at all the same. The apartment sound was as if someone struck a tuning fork and had it next to your ear so much so that you thought it was just such an ambient background noise some non-descript machines running intermittently outside somewhere. The difference is that if you put foam ear plugs in then all the normal sounds like the refrigerator or fan will go silent as the pressed "memory" foam expands in the ear ---until one sound remains, the resonance. Their answer for the "mystery sound" is a resonance in the walls not a cause/attack coming in from outside the building or through the windows.
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