Science: Audible Illusion

When a jet plane passes overhead, most people hear an earsplitting, nerve-jangling wail. But it may be only "an audible illusion," says General Electric Co. After measuring both with decibel tests, G.E. announced last week that the air-to-ground noise of a jet engine is actually about the same as or even less than that from a piston-driven plane of equal horsepower. A jet just seems louder because it travels faster and its noise strikes the ear more abruptly. Also, said G.E., the shriek of a jet is a comparatively new sound and thus attracts more attention.

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