Japan: The Fresh Start

Roar. Rattle. Bump-bump-bump. Bee-eep beep. Clang. Rat-tat-tat. The illuminated sign at a Nishi-Ginza intersection in downtown Tokyo blinks a tentative 80, then flashes to 82.

Red light. Screech! North-south traffic stops. The number blinks: 81, 79, 78. Ready, eastwest? Engines whine. Clutches out. Getaway! Flash goes the sign: 79, 81, 82—84!

Tokyo being Tokyo and gadget-minded Japanese being gadget-minded Japanese, some campaigner for municipal quiet has dreamed up the idea of erecting an electronic billboard to measure Nishi-Ginza's sound level, translate it into phons (decibels), and transmit it in illuminated numbers to...

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