Science: Soundless

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"You lousy momzer, I don't know why I ever married you. I'm going back to . . ." "Eddie Tilyou and his big-time melody boys will broadcast by special request 'Culoombia, the Chem of the . . ." "Quack, quack . . ." "Bryant 1840 . . ." "I guess you would like a girl to bow down and kiss your dirty foot whenever you treat her mean, but just lemme tell you . . ." "The shrine of each patriot's devotion . . .',' "Quack, quack . . ." "Not Bryant 1480! How many times should I say . . ." "If you ever lay your little finger on me again I'll holler. I mean it! . . ." "Quack . . . quack . . ." "I want to spik to Ethel . . ."

Thousands of U. S. apartment houses are afflicted with noises like these. Can anything be done to keep you from hearing simultaneously the matrimonial differences of the slovenly young couple upstairs, the radio in 4-A, the quacking of the saxophone across the hall and the telephonic improprieties of the bachelor below? Steel girders, plaster and cement can muffle but never quite extinguish sound; but last week a scientist came forward with the statement that noise can be kept out of a room just as well as a snowstorm can; that a scream can be locked up. He, Dr. Paul Heyl, Chief of the U. S. sound laboratory (Bureau of Standards), has invented a soundproof partition, which he demonstrated in Washington. On a night when two dances were being given in the Mayflower Hotel—a charity ball in one ballroom and a party for members of the Diplomatic Corps in another—he put up his partition between the two dance floors.

Time came for the first dance. A nine-piece orchestra struck up a fox-trot in the charity ball room; in the diplomatic ballroom an orchestra of strings played a waltz. There was no confusion. The diplomats did not hear a single ribald chuckle of jazz; the charity strutters were not bored by the supplications of fiddle strings. Reporters asked Dr. Heyl questions. Said he: "The partition is made of hair felt, supported by thin boards of sugar-cane fibre, and the musical sounds become tangled and lost in this wilderness of hair and fibre. Hair, fibre and similar pliable substances, we have found, enmesh and deaden sound which would vibrate through the strongest steel."