Scientists create “the loudest sound possible.”

The loudest sounds I’ve ever heard date back to the early 80s when I saw Anvil play at the Norlander in Winnipeg. Not only was their structural damage to the building, but cars in the parking lot required re-torquing of their chassis bolts. It. Was. Loud.

There are other loud sounds. A jet engine. The crack of certain rifles. And angry spouse. Yet nothing has ever been louder–on Earth, anyway–that this sound created by scientists.

Hold on, though. Before we go any further, I need to amend that last sentence. We’re speaking of the loudest possible sound underwater. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

According to New Atlas, a team from Stanford University used the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser to create tiny jets of water. This is a noisy thing, apparently, because they registered a sound pressure level somewhere north of 270 decibels.

For comparison, the loudest rock concert you’ve ever been to hasn’t gone beyond 150 dB. Still, that’s insanely, painfully, dangerously loud. And it’s also very close to the threshold of what air can handle.

Scientists tell us that as a medium for sound waves, air has a built-in speed limit. It’s physically impossible for anything to be louder than about 194 db. It just can’t carry/propagate acoustic energy at higher pressure levels than that.

Water, though is different. Because it’s thicker than air, it can transmit more acoustic energy. In this case, the upper limit is around 270 dB. That makes this LCLS-generated noise about the loudest anything can get anywhere on the planet.

If Anvil is reading this, please don’t try to beat this record. Please.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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