Covid-19: recreating the containment silence bubble

Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, March 22, 2020, the sixth day of confinement in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. (PHILIPPE LABROSSE / HANS LUCAS / AFP)

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Earth scientists call containment “anthropause,” the time when human noise has paused. Seismologists were able to hear the Earth move like never before. Even in the city, the calm marked the spirits. According to a survey by the noise information center: 57% of city dwellers questioned have become more sensitive to it.

Noises obviously have effects on hearing and since the coronavirus can make us lose our taste and smell, we will try to preserve it. People exposed to aggressive sound environments lose their hearing earlier than others. A quarter from 30 years old, especially if they often have headphones with very loud music on their ears. But noise also causes stress, insomnia and therefore can have cardiovascular effects.

Researchers from the CNRS and Mines Telecom have captured the calm of the confinement in dozens of cities around the world as early as March. Their project is called Silent cities and is now used to model what reduces noise and therefore to better develop the city. For example, by changing certain working hours, the noise is spread over the day and is reduced, putting cycle paths in certain streets rather than in others makes it possible to limit the reasoning of engines and horns, finally it also allows to test the sound difference with electric motors, much quieter.

Several companies are working on quieter road surfaces or buildings that absorb noise, and some companies are even creating bubbles of silence. Thanks to boxes placed in the room: as noise is a wave, loudspeakers in these boxes send an inverse wave to neutralize the sound. When it works it’s good, but when it doesn’t work it creates unpleasant interference. Today, the Silentium company is working on a bubble of silence that promises to cut 90% of outside sounds.

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