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One-Way Sound Walls Proven Possible

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-sound-walls-make-good-neighbors dept.

Science 177

disco_tracy writes "Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it. The concept — a kind of one-way mirror for sound — seems imaginary, but two Italian scientists recently pushed this kind of sound manipulating technology closer to reality (abstract)."

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177 comments

Uses (2)

xanthines-R-yummy (635710) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049872)

Sounds like a good use for interrogation rooms...

Re:Uses (2)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050286)

Automotive as well... being able to hear sirens outside the car without broadcasting your Justin Bieber sirens to the rest of us. Nobody needs to hear that.

Re:Uses (1)

egranlund (1827406) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051008)

From a user of a 1980's convertible - road noise gets old. This has limited use in automotive.

Re:Uses (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050960)

You HAVE to be republican

Re:Uses (3, Insightful)

wiedzmin (1269816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051158)

Also submarines.

Really necessary? (3, Insightful)

jspenguin1 (883588) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049884)

What's wrong with an ordinary soundproof wall with a microphone on one side and a speaker on the other?

Re:Really necessary? (5, Insightful)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049934)

Where would we be if people were happy with what they had? There's probably all kinds of situations, and even new inventions, that could use this that we can't even think of at the moment.

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36049958)

the microphone and the speaker?

Re:Really necessary? (2)

mirshafie (1029876) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049988)

I don't expect that the scientists in question longed to solve the problem of the band that needs to play loud music but still hear the people outside. They probably did it for the science itself, which seems fascinating.

Re:Really necessary? (3, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050302)

They missed the obvious use case. Think of the Children!

Parents can hear kiddie outside when he wants a cookie, but kiddie can't hear the grownup sounds inside the bedroom.

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050498)

You got it backwards. I do NOT want my neighbors' kids shouting/screaming/crying through the roof all day inside their house. But I want them to hear when I am shouting about their dogs taking a dump in my backyard.

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050574)

How about when i take a dump in your back yard?

Re:Really necessary? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050734)

Or flip it around. Parents don't have to listen to kids. Kids can be scarred for life. It's a win/win! Somehow...

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050782)

I can see how that Is very useful. I can hear my kid's cry but they can't hear the sexy times going on in my bedroom. Also, i can hear robbers walking up the stairs and they can't hear me loading the gun

Re:Really necessary? (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050002)

Easily found with a bug detector?

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050010)

That's the common sense solution, by god we can't have that.

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050066)

They haven't designed a one way sound wall; this is science, man!

Re:Really necessary? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050084)

What's wrong with an ordinary soundproof wall with a microphone on one side and a speaker on the other?

That's like saying why do we need one way mirror when we can just build a wall and put a video camera on one side and a monitor on the other? I'm sure there will be cases when something like this would be useful.

Re:Really necessary? (4, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050312)

This would be material based and not require additional power?

It would be great for those baby-rooms they used to have in movie theaters. The people inside could hear the movie without the audience hearing the screaming kid.

Lots of reasons (3)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050406)

The same reason why a 1 way mirror is better in some applications than a video camera on one side of a wall with a monitor on the other.

On possible use is in security. People can avoid cameras, and small unseen microphones are not directional. Airports, casinos, police stations, and other security heavy areas will certainly have a use.

Imagine the CIA setting up a room for foreign dignitaries. The dignitaries sweep the room for bugs. But unknown to them, the floor of their room is a 1 way sound barrier, with agents sitting below with directional microphones pointed at the ceiling underneath each room.

Imagine a submarine with a section of the vessel being a 1 way sound room where large microphones reside. All other walls are sound deadened except 1 outside wall. More equipment could sit there than any outside array of microphones, listening for enemy ships... but without an outside sonar signature, and without worrying about hearing internal noises.

Even naturalists would love it. Imagine a retreat in a forrest where every outside wall was 1 way, making it sound like you weren't even in a building, but the animals were not disturbed by the sounds you make snapping pictures and talking.

Re:Really necessary? (2)

Creepy (93888) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050716)

That is done in studios currently, but I think the main downside it requires electricity and someone usually has to push a button to turn it on (in my experience). Not really sure how effective it would be in a studio, though, unless you want a lot of natural reverb. Incidentally, I used to have a room set up with sound absorbing tile for that exact reason, but that all got torn out in a remodel a few years ago (it was in really crappy condition, or in my wife's words, was "fuggly and has to go"). I actually play a lot more acoustic guitar these days, anyway, and the 12 string sounds unbelievable in that small room (my wife also won't let me turn my electric guitars and basses up to 11 [she complains if it's over 1...], either, so they aren't as much fun).

Re:Really necessary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050784)

I used to have a room set up with sound absorbing tile for that exact reason, but that all got torn out in a remodel a few years ago (it was in really crappy condition, or in my wife's words, was "fuggly and has to go").

(Terminator-esque visual overlay)

A) It takes one to know one, honey.
B) *turn facing tile* I know she is, but she's my wife.
C) I know you are but what am I.
D) Hasta la vista, baby.

Re:Really necessary? (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051162)

What's wrong with an ordinary soundproof wall with a microphone on one side and a speaker on the other?

Yeah, we wouldn't want any improvements in sound-dampening technology.

Perfect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36049886)

Perfect for porn consumption! Just don't accidentally install the wall the wrong way around.

Re:Perfect... (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050656)

Perfect for porn consumption! Just don't accidentally install the wall the wrong way around.

I would take it one step further and shape the wall into a parabolic dish pointed at my neighbor's house!

Try the.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36049892)

Moo Shu Pork. It is especially good today. Moo Shu Pork. It is especially good today. Seriously?

Re:Try the.. (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049940)

Looks like they finally got around to fixing the fortune database...

Try to... (1, Insightful)

marcansoft (727665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049998)

not very obviously break the production site by dumping the entire fortune file out with every page.

World to Slashdot calling, it would like you to know about little tiny things called "testing environments". You should learn about them.

Re:Try to... (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050150)

World to Slashdot calling, it would like you to know about little tiny things called "testing environments". You should learn about them.

And exactly where do you think you are now? The best testing environments look exactly like the production environments. Taco is such a smart dude!

Re:Try to... (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050622)

Nice try. I hear that in the test environment they still haven't ironed out the occasional post trunca

Band... (4, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36049928)

Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it.

They can't be a very good band if they can hear somebody talking in the next room while they're playing...

Re:Band... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050060)

It's not mogwai.

Re:Band... (1)

irishPete (21197) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050324)

I am not sure quality and volume are necessarily equivalent. Actually, I can attest that I have heard quite a few very loud, yet horrendous bands on any given Monday night at the Rat. (if you recognize the club, you're probably old too...)

Re:Band... (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050672)

Not only that, but they've got the use case backwards. The proper way to set it up is so that everyone else hears the band, but the band can't hear any of the complaints from the neighbors banging on the walls and yelling at them.

Re:Band... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051114)

In your personal space, nobody can hear you scream.

Re:Band... (5, Funny)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050880)

Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it.

They can't be a very good band if they can hear somebody talking in the next room while they're playing...

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an amp for an air guitar?

Re:Band... (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050928)

Pff, they're everywhere... you just have to know one when you see it.

Joke Variant Unlocked (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36049960)

- "You have a banana in your ear!"

- "I'm sorry, what?"

- "YOU HAVE A BANANA IN YOUR EAR!"

- "I'm sorry, I can't hear you, you're on the wrong side of the wall!"

Re:Joke Variant Unlocked (1)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050122)

"...please call the Bananaphone."

Just imagine - the future is NOW! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050008)

"Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it."

Wow! Who needs flying cars when we can have this!

I can all ready do that (0)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050050)

Although the acoustic technology remains theoretical, the researchers think that it can be built. Lepri cited optics, saying that nonlinear photonics is a well-developed field now.

Couldn't i just sound proof a room, put a few microphones outside the room send the signal in to the room. Doing it passively is cool but there is no way it would be cheaper then some soundboard a microphone and a speaker.

Re:I can all ready do that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050436)

I all ready dislike your title.

In the olden days.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050064)

... a one way sound system was called a radio.

Huh? (3)

tripleevenfall (1990004) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050080)

"Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it."

How does this wall mean the musicians will hear the talking over their own music? Is there one-way sound air coming soon too?

Re:Huh? (5, Funny)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050190)

Time division multiplexing.

Re:Huh? (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051148)

"Imagine a room where a band is playing. Neighbors can't hear the music, but if someone outside the room is talking, the musicians can hear it."

How does this wall mean the musicians will hear the talking over their own music? Is there one-way sound air coming soon too?

They're just trying to explain the concept in very simple terms. Read the abstract instead if you're going to be pedantic.

great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050112)

maybe they'll develop a helmet that your spouse can wear !

Big Deal (0)

necro81 (917438) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050228)

Harry Potter did that, like, five years ago!

Wave diode applicable to light? (3, Informative)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050234)

The article describes the proposed theoretical mechanism as a "wave diode" - I wonder if the same principle is applicable to light? I don't know if "light diodes" already exist in some sense, but that seems like a possibly useful component for optical computing...?

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050342)

I believe the one way mirror mentioned in the summary is precisely the 'light-diode' you're looking for! :)

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (4, Interesting)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050496)

I believe one-way mirrors are completely dependent on highly disparate levels of light between the two regions. This paper describes a totally different physical mechanism.

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050400)

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050532)

That post mentions the exact same paper... I wonder why the blog post focuses on light, and the discovery article focuses on sound, when the actual paper is just about general wave phenomena?

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050872)

Is that significantly different than a one way mirror?

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (2)

kmac06 (608921) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050962)

There is such a thing for light, an optical (or Faraday) isolator [wikipedia.org] , which uses the Faraday effect. It relies on the fact that light is a transverse wave, not longitudinal, so it wouldn't work for sound. Note that because of the large magnetic field required, most optical isolators only have an aperture of a few millimeters (or less), so it would be impractical to build a "one-way" mirror of appreciable size out of it.

Re:Wave diode applicable to light? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36051142)

You mean like a one way mirror?

Kids room? (1)

valnar (914809) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050252)

I'd love this for the walls of my kids bedroom. They can't hear the TV downstairs, but we can hear them yell or cry.

application please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050256)

and they are looking for investors to revolutionise the world of... paranoid musicians... i dunno i got nothing?

 

This doesn't sound (pardon the pun) that difficult (0)

DrPeper (249585) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050278)

Ok so if you can turn a flat surface into a speaker, which has been done. And you can cancel out the sound of a room to the outside using the same technique, which has been done. Why couldn't you just put a microphone on both sides of the surface and only cancel out the sound from one direction?

Re:This doesn't sound (pardon the pun) that diffic (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050458)

That's active noise cancellation. This is a proposed mechanism that uses materials with nonlinear acoustic properties to accomplish a similar effect passively. Both methods might be suitable for different situations.

I hope it works. (0)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050306)

Ever since I was a kid I've dreamed of having a hot/cold pad. It only lets heat go through it one way, cold side painted blue, hot side painted red. Put it around your soda or beer can blue side in, it cools off your drink, remove when it's just right. Put it around your coffee or soup red side in, it heats it up.

It would probably need a special holding case otherwise your backpack would catch on fire while carrying it. :-)

Re:I hope it works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050354)

Peltier effect. Not even worth logging in over.

Re:I hope it works. (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050546)

he wants a passive device. What he's talking about is a thermal diode. thermal and acoustic diodes would be very similar (audible vs phonon frequency matching being the primary issue). if they didn't violate the 2nd law, that is.

Re:I hope it works. (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050832)

That's right. And if you could have a cut off temperature like certain diodes with voltage then you could use it as a temperature regulator and build it into walls.

Re:I hope it works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050388)

See Maxwell's demon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell%27s_demon

Re:I hope it works. (2)

adonoman (624929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050462)

You just need a really tiny man [wikipedia.org] to sift through the molecules and sort them by energy level.

Re:I hope it works. (3, Informative)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050570)

I'm not sure what this had to do with sound, but what you're thinking of already exists and it's called a peltier.

Re:I hope it works. (1)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050976)

Peltier cooling devices need power, though, and tend to amplify the heat output quite a bit more than you'd expect.

Example: Something like this product: http://www.frozencpu.com/products/2408/exp-01/245W_Potted_Peltier.html [frozencpu.com]

Disclaimer: I like FrozenCPU, but I'm not affiliated with them. Just using it as an example of a real-world, purchasable Peltier device, with comments that explain it in a bit more detail.

Re:I hope it works. (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050648)

t would probably need a special holding case otherwise your backpack would catch on fire while carrying it.

No, just fold it in half so that the cold sides were facing out.

Re:I hope it works. (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050720)

No, fold it in half with the hot sides facing out. That way there's a limited amount of heat trapped inside it for it to move out; when the middle reaches absolute zero it simply can't continue moving heat across (actually, it'd undoubtedly be an asymptotic approach, but that's beside the point).

What you suggested would cause the inside to get hotter and hotter, making your backpack colder in the process. And even whatever magical material you used to make the hotpad has to have a melting point somewhere...

Re:I hope it works. (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050916)

Thank you, I have now added a one-way hinge to my imaginary pad.

Re:I hope it works. (2)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050820)

oblig...

In this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics.

Get Smart (1)

KDN (3283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050326)

Sounds like the Cone of Silence from Get Smart. Lets just hope it works better :-)

Re:Get Smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050586)

Sounds like the Cone of Silence from Get Smart. Lets just hope it works better :-)

What?

Re:Get Smart (1)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051030)

WHAT?

Great idea (1)

slackzilly (2033012) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050372)

Until every recording gets polluted by sounds from the outside.
Laughter from the next room, babies crying, fire trucks passing by etc.

Not like a one-way mirror. (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050430)

This isn't really like a one-way mirror. With a one-way mirror light travels through it and reflects from it the same in both directions. It's just that the amount of light reflecting from the bright side is much much greater than the 'signal' which comes through from the dark side.

This is apparently a true 'one-way' material.

Re:Not like a one-way mirror. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050982)

Like my Ex-girlfriend.

How would this be useful to a band? (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050464)

I can imagine it might have many perfectly good uses, but how could it possibly be useful to a band? In a recording situation it would be disastrous! It is difficult enough keeping sirens etc. out of the recording area without actually unviting the sounds into the session.

Re:How would this be useful to a band? (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050544)

I can think of a lot of uses for it, mainly in the research/testing fields:

1: Observing wild animals without worry about noise spilling over.

2: Outer walls of a building to keep sound in (so the neighbor doesn't call 911 because of that awesome drum solo at 11:00 PM), while being able to hear what is going on outside.

3: As stated above, keep the obnoxious music inside the car, while still being able to hear the motorcycle in the blind spot.

Re:How would this be useful to a band? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36051144)

about the house part, it would also keep neighbor's from calling 911 when someone is being attacked...

Can we make this mandatory? (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050526)

Can we wrap children up in this new material? It would make my trips outside of the basement a lot more bearable.

Its here! (1)

keithltaylor (966667) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050598)

The "Cone of Silence"!

Better use: recording studio (1)

Zinho (17895) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050660)

Unfortunately for the neighbors, the band is more likely to install the walls the other way around. Making a room that can be monitored from the outside (by a sound engineer/producer) while rejecting outside sounds would be ideal for a recording studio.

Re:Better use: recording studio (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050752)

Unfortunately, that still doesn't answer the question of "Why would you want the sound to pass through a wall prior to recording it?"

Possible Horrific Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36050682)

I could also see this being used (if it's inexpensive enough once produced) for some possibly horrifying ends... Imagine someone kidnapping someone and instead of putting them in a soundproof dungeon, you have it layered with 1-way material. The person that was kidnapped could scream as loud as they wanted and nobody can hear them. They, on the other hand, could hear EVERYTHING going on on the outside and how close people that could free them could possibly be.

I also see some other uses. TSA lining a wall with the stuff & they put an office on the other side. They can hear everyone as they walk by without alerting people that they're eavesdropping.

Nothing extraordinary; happens all the time. (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050686)

It's called: the irreversibility of impedance! This is why, for instance, a loudspeaker isn't a great microphone, and vice versa.

Re:Nothing extraordinary; happens all the time. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051164)

A good loudspeaker, in fact, makes a good microphone. That voice coil works both ways. It's just a very bulky solution, and you have to basically put your face in it to get the same sound pressure in that you can get out.

Most microphones, though, aren't based on voice coils, and their transduction of sound into variation in an electric current doesn't work the other way nearly as well. Like pushing on a rope.

Here is a simple DIY way to do it. (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050724)

Put the band in a tightly soundproofed room. Put some microphones outside of the room, and amplify the sound from the outside into loudspeakers in the room.

See? Microphone --> amp --> speaker. One way signal with off-the-shelf stuff.

Washington DC's been surrounded by this for years. (5, Funny)

bareman (60518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050766)

We can hear the idiots inside but they don't seem to be able to hear us.

This makes for (4, Insightful)

twentynine (984768) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050858)

a better masturbation chamber...

What about military uses? (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 3 years ago | (#36050940)

This sounds like it would be brilliant for the military. Contain the sound of a craft inside but allow the occupants to be aware of what is going on around them. That is pretty much a priceless advantage.

lobbying booths (1)

erdraug (962369) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051032)

There was a scene like that in Dune.

I dunno (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051040)

A material that allows evergy to only pass one way seems like it would defy some sort of law of physics. Imagine a cube made of this stuff that only lets sound in... Would the energy inside the cube continue to build until it erupted in a sonic boom?

Re:I dunno (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051098)

You mean kind of like what a laser does with photons?

This should be easy with 19th century technology (1)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051048)

Just make a soundproof wall; put some microphones on one side and speakers on the other.

(you'd have to use some basic amplification, otherwise it would work both ways and the speakers would work like mics and vice versa).

Obligatory. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 3 years ago | (#36051168)

Sony's headquarters must be built out of this stuff.

Example fail... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36051180)

Frankly, the band that is playing, won't be able to hear someone talking on the other side of the wall whether they get that kind of wall or not :P

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