Microwave Auditory Effects

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U.S. Embassy worker ailments in the news

Update December 2020: once again, it looks like microwave energy could have been involved in the "Havana Affair" after all.


Speaking of auditory effects, here's an audio version of another "Havana Affair" song recorded back in 1976. Here's the lyrics, if you want to sing along with Joey.

The Ramones, Havana Affair, 1976

Important update, October 2019: thanks to Hadrien, we now know there is a credible, alternative explanation for the brain injuries.  A recent study shows the cause was pesticides used to kill mosquitoes. And indeed Cuba used a lot of them during 2017 when the embassy workers became ill, trying to prevent a Zika virus outbreak. See https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/19/havana-syndrome-mosquitos-cuba-diplomats . Health effect of such compounds, chemically close to chemical weapons, are notoriously bad.

New for November 2018. You may have heard about US embassy in Cuba recently, where 21 employees came down with a mystery ailment that resulted in possible brain injuries. It turns out one likely culprit for this incident is a microwave weapon. Here is a peer-reviewed paper on the embassy workers published in JAMA, you can read a summary in the New York Times.  If you don't subscribe to NYT, shame on you.

In 1961, biophysicist Allan Frey worked at General Electric and was called to investigate a radar technician's claims that he could hear radar signals. Frey was able duplicate the effect, and went on to make a career out of MAE. In fact, he's still working in this field, and we have added him to the Microwave Hall of Fame for his contributions.

Basically, if you stand in in the path of certain microwave emitters that have certain modulations, your ear (or maybe more directly, part of your brain) may pick up the modulation and you can hear sounds, often described as clicks. Some of the most interesting early MAE experiments Frey did were on deaf people. Care to guess if they could hear any sounds? In extreme cases, depending on the configuration and power density, your brain could be getting fried and you will develop physical symptoms.

Because Frey is regarded as the first individual to publish a paper on it, MAE is often called the "Frey Effect." Much of his research was paid for by the Army, and Office of Naval Research (ONR). He left behind a long paper trail of reports that are on DTIC, anyone interested in this phenomenon should download them all. Here are some references, all authored or co-authored by Allan Frey.

Earliest Frey papers

Auditory System Response to Radio Frequency Energy, Presented at the Aerospace Medical Association Meeting, April 24, 1961, in Chicago, Illinois.

Human auditory system response to modulated electromagnetic energy, Journal of Applied Physiology,  July 1962

Papers available on DTIC (public domain, hopefully perma-links)

Electromagnetic Emission at Micron Wavelengths from Active Nerves, Allan Fraser and Allan H. Frey, Biophysical Journal, Volume 8, 1968

Effects of Microwaves and Radio Frequency Energy on the Central Nervous System, Allan Frey, 1969.

Biological Function as Influenced by Low Power Modulated EF Energy, Allan Frey, IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Technique, Feb. 1971. (Special issue on Biological Effects of Microwaves)

A Psychological Study of the RF Sound Phenomenon, A. Frey, R.Messenger, E. Eichert. The 1972 report of a 1969 study concluding that the technology at the time could not induce recognizable "speech".

Some more recent work

Dr. James C. Lin, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Professor of Bioengineering, and Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has been doing research in the biological effects of radio frequency waves for over 20 years. For the last decade or so, he's been putting together a collection of current articles on this topic every couple of years called "Advances in Electromagnetic Fields in Living Systems". As far as we can tell, the most recent edition is Volume 5, focusing specifically on cell phones, available through Amazon. The full title is  Advances in Electromagnetic Fields in Living Systems: Health Effects of Cell Phone Radiation v. 5 (July, 2009)

We get questions...

At Microwaves101 we have lost count of people who write to us to say that the government or other unknown enemies are making them hear voices. It is easiest not to answer stuff like that. There are no shortage of people who oppose cell phones and other forms of wireless data transmission. Dr. Frey himself wrote an article about cell phone research as recently as 2012, concluding that cell phones are NOT dangerous, but that for a variety of political and security reasons, "...we don't have the set of data needed to determine if there is a health hazard of mobile phone use.." The tin-foil hat crowd are not going to be able to grasp any conversation you can enter with them, starting with "it's aluminum, not tin" and ending with "what is a good source for tin foil underwear?" This is not all that different from the Luddites of the 1800s who opposed the Industrial Revolution.

In the end, the real question is always something like "how can I protect myself?"  We think it's highly unlikely that your neighbor is really messing with your mind through his television antenna (such a system would have very limited range, be grossly inefficient, impossible to target on just one person, and probably cost more than your neighbor's entire net worth). But it IS a valid question for corporations, research institutions and government offices situated in hostile foreign territories like that embassy in Cuba.

Here is some advice on some steps that might help to counter this problem before something bad happens.

  • Ask your Congress-person to fund some research on MAE weapons.  Be sure to mention the SBIR program....
  • Ask your local CIA agent for help. Seriously, this is what they do.
  • Install a broadband microwave detection system to sniff out when radiation is occurring. Upping the game, devise a system to locate the source of emissions.
  • An alarm should go off during unusual emissions, to warn anyone that could be exposed. 
  • There should be a safe place where employees can gather during radiation events. This can be the equivalent of an EMI chamber used for antenna evaluations (no cones needed), with metal walls, gaskets on the door, and baffles in the ventilation system.
  • Finally, create an emergency action plan and make sure that everyone who might potentially be exposed knows what to do when that alarm goes off. 

Hopefully, it will never happen, but like the Boy Scouts say, "Be Prepared".  Just please stop bugging us about your neighbors, unless you know that they happen to be evil microwave engineers and have a rainbow unicorn.


Author : Unknown Editor