Ig Nobel Awards – Teen Repellant

From CNN:

BOSTON, Massachusetts (AP) — The sound sets teeth on edge, makes skin crawl and sends a shiver down the spine. Just thinking about it gives some people the heebie-jeebies.

But what is it about the sound of fingernails scratching a blackboard that elicits such a universal reaction?

Randolph Blake and two colleagues think they know — the sound’s frequency level.

Their research has earned them an Ig Nobel, the annual award given at Harvard University by Annals of Improbable Research magazine for weird, wacky and sometimes worthless scientific research.


What started as a small event in 1991 to honor obscure and humorous scientific achievements has grown into an international happening, with some of this year’s winners traveling from Australia, Kuwait and France. The awards are given out by real Nobel laureates, including Harvard physics professor Roy Glauber, who stays after the event to sweep up.

The nails on a blackboard research was part of a bigger, legitimate project, said Blake, a Vanderbilt University psychology professor who specializes in vision. He, along with Dr. D. Lynn Halpern and James Hillenbrand, did the research two decades ago while at Northwestern University.

Blake remembers some volunteers refusing to participate after learning they’d have to endure the obnoxious screeching.

Howard Stapleton’s research into noise has more practical applications. He invented teenager repellant.

His device, called the Mosquito, emits a high-frequency, siren-like noise that is painful to the ears of teens and those in their early 20s, but inaudible to adults.

The invention grew out of his 15-year-old daughter’s trip to the local store last year to buy milk. She came back empty-handed, having been intimidated by a group of teenage boys loitering outside the store.

Stapleton, who has sold and installed security systems for more than two decades, thought back to when he was 12 years old and he visited his father at work.

“I walked into this room with six people doing ultrasonic welding and immediately ran right back out again the noise was so painful,” Stapleton said. “I asked an adult, ‘What’s that noise?’ And he said, ‘What noise?’ “

Stapleton’s company, Compound Security Systems of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, has sold hundreds of the units to retailers, local governments, police departments and homeowners all over the United Kingdom. The company is shipping its first Mosquito units for sale in the United States next week.

“The success of this has knocked my socks off,” Stapleton said.

The full article is HERE.

CAN YOU HEAR IT? LISTEN TO THE MP3 HERE. Post a Comment to let us know if you can hear it. If you would, please post your age and whether or not you could hear the sound. I’m 43, and I can hear it. Of course, Courtney always says I’m really a 12 year old boy… ;)


One response

  1. Anonymous

    Age 27: I would like to gleefully point out that your article on yobimbo referring to teen repellant — the high pitched noise — can still be heard by me, after all this time of listening to my iPod too loudly. At least at Christmastime last year. Jan played the noise for me and I shrieked in pain. Babe just sat there frowning – she can’t detect it anymore. It was supercool. Like…. superpowers. Superpowers that suck.

    October 12, 2006 at 2:37 pm

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