Vanya is initially portrayed as being the weakest member of The Umbrella Academy, exhibiting no special talents other than a rare flair for music.
But during early childhood her power to influence sound waves had proved far too hot for her to handle, resulting in many hours spent in a padded room isolated from the family and then on medication to suppress her power.
As the story unfolds she learns to unleash that power… but controlling it never comes easy.
Once again, when it comes to our understanding of sound, the electromagnetic spectrum holds the key, with frequency and vibration being incredibly powerful phenomena.
Experiments in sound or acoustic levitation have challenged physicists for centuries, with researchers managing to use sound waves to levitate and move tiny particles and liquid droplets but so far the techniques developed have not allowed the manipulation of heavy or large objects.
Experiments have been successful in levitating lightweight polystyrene balls greater in size than the wavelengths used to elevate them, which represents an important step forward in the management of the force of concentrated sound.
One of these experiments, carried out by a joint team of researchers in the UK and Brazil in 2016, lifted a 50mm polystyrene ball several centimetres off the ground, where it remained suspended for as long as the sound waves were generated. Just one year later, another group of researchers working out of the University of Bristol successfully levitated a polystyrene ball of two centimetres in diameter.
These experiments might seem unimpressive but the researchers used two entirely different methods for achieving the feats. The 2016 experiment aligned three ultrasonic transducers (devices that convert electric energy into sound energy) in a tripod arrangement to create a stationary sound wave that negated the force of gravity in a localised area.
The University of Bristol team, on the other hand, combined a single ultrasonic transducer with a sound reflector to manufacture a standing sound wave, which maintained its stationary status after being repeatedly reflected back on itself.
These studies prove that levitation through the manipulation of sound waves is possible and more than one way exists to do it… adding weight to theories that the pyramids and other megalithic monuments were built using some form of acoustic levitation.
Another creation that many believe is the product of sonic or acoustic levitation is the Coral Castle, built by Latvian-American immigrant Edward Leedskaln in southeastern Florida between 1923 and 1951. A sprawling complex, the Coral Castle is constructed from nearly 1,000 tons of rock, which Leedskalnin somehow cut, shaped, lifted and manoeuvred into place all by himself.
Leedskalnin refused to allow observers on site while he was working so there are no eyewitness accounts detailing his construction methods. There were no reports of mysterious sounds coming from the castle’s vicinity during the construction phase, but sonic levitation could rely on the use of sound frequencies inaudible to humans anyway.
Leedskalnin at one point divulged that he knew how to tune into “the music of the stars”, claiming he had discovered the secrets of the pyramids and “found out how the Egyptians and the ancient builders in Peru, Yucutan and Asia, with only primitive tools, raised and set in place blocks of stone weighing many tons”.
There are also many anecdotal tales of acoustic levitation that come from travellers in the Far East, who claim to have encountered mystics who possessed the ability to levitate objects, sometimes with the assistance of sound.
One fascinating story tells of a Swedish doctor brought to a remote area of Tibet in 1939 to treat a Buddhist monk suffering from an unknown illness. After spending some time among the monks he eventually gained their trust and witnessed a demonstration in sonic levitation that left him spellbound.
In a clearing, the monks arranged 19 musical instruments (13 drums and six trumpets) in an arc around a large stone. On cue, they began to play these instruments in unison, singing and chanting at the same time. After a few moments the stone suddenly lifted into the air and it continued to rise until it landed on a hilltop about 250 metres above the ground.
And one of the most famous stories from the Bible comes from the Book of Joshua and tells how the Israelites, in their conquest of Canaan, marched around the walls of Jericho once a day for six days with priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
Then on the seventh day they marched around the wall seven times and then blew their trumpets… and amazingly the walls crumbled.
And what about the idea that when a singer reaches a high note it emits enough energy to shatter glass? This is a recognised phenomenon but it’s not as simple as it sounds, requiring very specific conditions for it to happen.
Like electricity, sound energy travels through substances in waves, which "excites" the substance's particles and causes them to vibrate at a certain frequency, the number of waves passing through a given point over a given period of time.
Every substance has a natural, or resonant, frequency which its own atoms vibrate at. As an example, the sound of a bass guitar can crack the plaster on walls when a low, driving bass line is played. The frequency of a bass guitar's lower notes run from 40 to 150 hertz, with the quality of the amplifier also affecting the sound. Thus, the plaster's resonant frequency must fall somewhere in that range, because when a substance encounters a frequency it matches, it absorbs the energy rather than reflecting it.
Glass-shattering waves carry more energy because they're shorter and "choppier", thus more of them pass through per second... at roughly 556 hertz. So to shatter glass, the note's frequency must be the same as that of the glass.
This is the first condition that has to be met but it also has to be done with intensity, which is measured in decibels. While conversational tones average 50 to 60 decibels, a trained vocalist might have the ability to approach the 105 decibels needed to break glass. Even then, he or she would have to be so close as to risk serious facial cuts if the glass exploded... unless there was a boost of electronic amplification.
Finally, the glass must be strategically selected. A wine glass is a good choice. It's fine and thin – unlike, say, a beer stein – which maximizes the amount of stress per particle. An empty glass cracks more readily (although less dramatically) than one containing wine; air, being less dense than liquid, carries sound better. And if you can find a wine glass with a flaw in its structure, even an invisible one, that helps by providing a weak spot.
Resonant frequency also forms the basis for ultrasonic testing used to determine the safety of structures ranging from pipelines to planes. Ultrasonic testing is a type of non-destructive testing (NDT), which allows engineers to monitor the integrity of construction materials where and while they're being used… which is preferable to otherwise having to dismantle a building or aeroplane for analysis in a laboratory.
In most common UT applications, very short ultrasonic pulse-waves with centre frequencies ranging from 0.1-15 MHz, and occasionally up to 50 MHz, are transmitted into materials to detect internal flaws or to characterise materials.
A common example is ultrasonic thickness measurement, which tests the thickness of the test object, for example, to monitor pipework corrosion. Ultrasonic testing is often performed on steel and other metals and alloys, though it can also be used on concrete, wood and composites, albeit with less resolution. It is used in many industries including steel and aluminium construction, metallurgy, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and other transportation sectors.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has also devoted huge sums of money into researching military applications of sonic and acoustic weapons, with the The Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) one application of that research.
LRAD is an acoustic hailing device brought to the market by LRAD Corporation, now renamed Genasys, to transmit messages and warning tones over vast distances and at a higher volume than conventional loudspeaker systems.
The systems are intended for long-range communications in a variety of applications and as a means of non-lethal, non-kinetic crowd control.
According to the manufacturer's specifications, the systems can emit sound in a 30-60 degree beam at 2.5 kHz and range in size from portable handheld units to larger models which require a mount to stabilise them.
The power of LRAD means the sound beam produced can penetrate vehicles and buildings whilst retaining a high degree of fidelity, meaning verbal messages can be conveyed as well as disruptive sound waves to disperse protests.
We all know how disruptive car and house alarms can be… well LRAD has the power to be a far more invasive technology.
And the technology is already being deployed in the field, with the Ferguson, Missouri, protests of 2014 an example of its application. One of the countermeasures employed by the Ferguson Police Department to quell civil unrest included the use of LRAD sound cannons capable of projecting voice commands over a distance of nine kilometres.
The devices are also capable of inflicting grievous pain on anyone within 100 metres of the sound path, although the makers Genasys are careful to call their products “devices” rather than “weapons”.
Another incident affected US diplomats stationed in Cuba soon after the detente between the countries which began in 2015. Many of the US diplomats sent to the newly reopened US embassy on Cuba started reporting a sudden and permanent loss of hearing, with investigators concluding they had been hit with an advanced inaudible and unnamed acoustic device that causes irreparable damage to the ears and brain of anyone in its path.
This incident was considered so serious that the United States expelled two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington. However, the exact nature of this LRAD-like device and the identity of the agents responsible for its use on American officials are still unknown.
The apparent sonic attacks on the US embassy in Cuba rekindled decades-old fears about a different kind of secret weapon. In 1965, at the height of the Cold War, the Pentagon discovered that the Soviets were blasting the US embassy in Moscow with extremely low-frequency (ELF) microwave radiation. While far too weak to cook anything, it was determined the so-called Soviet signal carried the possibility of affecting the health or altering the behaviour of the embassy staff.
But instead of doing anything to stop it, the Pentagon decided to study the potential effects of the signal and attempt to mimic them. DARPA, then a new branch of the Department of Defense, subsequently founded an initiative called Project Pandora and began researching the effects of ELF microwave radiation on primate subjects.
Though the results were inconclusive, project leader Richard Cesaro remained convinced until Pandora’s disbanding in 1969 that ELF radiation posed a serious threat to the national security of the US.
It’s even been demonstrated that the signals emitted and received from cell phones have an effect on the functioning of the mind that frequently shows itself in the disruption of natural sleep cycles. Today’s world is absolutely saturated by invisible signals that keep us connected and informed. But how much do we truly know about this all-pervasive radiation and how it might be affecting our health and even our thoughts?
Other studies have been done into how sound, frequencies and vibrations can reprogram our DNA. In 2011 Russian biophysicist Pjotr Garjajev conducted several experiments modifying DNA using only sound and light frequencies, with his team successfully transforming frog embryos to salamander embryos simply by transmitting the DNA information patterns through frequency alone.
About 97% of our own DNA is useless and appears to have absolutely no purpose… “junk DNA”, which could be the key to unlocking our full potential and activate not only self-healing but many other abilities that are considered supernatural.
On a more basic level we know that in the natural world animals are able to detect and manipulate sound in ways that are very different to our perception of it.
Man’s best friend, the dog, freaks out at the sound of fireworks because it has a very different perception of pitch far beyond the normal range of human hearing.
When it comes to low frequency sounds dogs and people are quite evenly matched but in the higher frequency range dogs are way ahead, able to detect high-pitched sounds far more effectively than we can.
The human range of hearing is considered to be from around 20Hz up to 20kHz, while for dogs their range runs from about 40Hz to 60kHz.
Bats also have amazing abilities when it comes to detecting sound. They use a biological sonar system, called echolocation, to locate prey and navigate. Chirping and clicking as they fly, they rely on the resulting sound waves to help them navigate and hunt.
And bats are not the only animals to use echolocation in this way. Instead of the darkness of isolated cave environments, dolphins need to find a way to navigate and catch their prey in waters that can often be murky and impenetrable to the eye.
So by emitting a series of chirps or clicks they are able to use the echo that is made when those sound waves bounce off objects to identify food sources and steer clear of obstacles.
Elephants also have some of the best hearing around. They can hear at frequencies 20 times lower than humans and it isn’t just their ears that perceive sound; they also have receptors in their trunks and feet that are excellent at picking up low-frequency vibrations.
Pigeons also rely on sound to find their way and are perhaps the best navigators in the animal world… picking up low-frequency sounds by registering how they reflect horizontally off hillsides. They can also hear sounds that come from nature, including faraway thunderstorms, the movements of oceans and even seismic shifts. This preternatural hearing, combined with their own special built-in compass that works by accessing the earth’s magnetic field, make pigeons extremely well-oriented creatures.
So the power of sound waves has many applications that our understanding of science is only beginning to uncover… but the simple car alarm is a clear illustration of how uncomfortable it can make us feel.
By tapping into different frequencies and using powerful amplification methods sound has clearly become a very potent weapon… even showing the potential to affect our own DNA. Combine that with CRISPR and sound manipulation is clearly a power to be reckoned with. Could a person be equipped or engineered to wield that power? It’s a force I wouldn’t rule out!
In the final instalment, Part Seven, of this series find out more about the mystery behind the character of Sir Reginald Hargreaves, his cyborg wife Grace and simian assistant Pogo.
About the Creator
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