Inside Quietest Place On Earth Where No One Has Lasted Longer Than 55 Minutes

One of the quietest places on earth was created by the multinational giant Microsoft in 2015. However, it took the company close to two years to properly design it. This place is currently located at the headquarters of the company in Redmond, Washington. While the anechoic chamber could sound like paradise in the beginning, it soon turns into one’s worst nightmare if they are asked to stay in it. [1]

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From the outside, it would look like a veritable heaven- especially if you are surrounded by noise. But if you were to venture inside and stay, the voices in your head will get too loud. Eventually, it will feel like they are eating you from the inside. It has been documented that the eerie and complete silence in the room could also lead to some ringing in your ears. Speaking to CNN, one of the spokespersons for Microsoft, Hundraj Gopal stated, “The longest continuous time anyone has spent inside the chamber is about 55 minutes.

The Quietest Place on Earth Is Situated At the Microsoft Headquarters in Washington

Before Microsoft built its chamber, the quietest place on Earth was located at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota. It is said that no one can deal with the engulfing silence in the room for more than 45 minutes. This room is so silent that the background noise is measured in negative decibels. The founder of the lab, Steven Orfield, stated, “We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark- one person stayed in there for 45 minutes. When it’s quiet, ears will adapt. The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You’ll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.”[2]

Incidentally, the main reason why Orfield laboratories created the anechoic chamber was not to torture people into insanity. On the other hand, this room is routinely used by companies to test the volume adjustments of their new innovations. Even NASA has utilized the features of this room. They send in astronauts who would have to adapt to the total silence of this room as preparation for when they go up to space.

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The anechoic chamber of Orfield Labs.
Image Credits: Orfield Labs

But for normal people, the silence in the room can get quite disorienting. Not only do people hear their own heartbeat, but they also have problems walking. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Orfield further mentioned, “How you orient yourself is through sounds you hear when you walk. In the anechoic chamber, you don’t have any cues. You take away the perceptual cues that allow you to balance and maneuver. If you’re in there for half an hour, you have to be in the chair.

This Chamber Is Used to Develop New Audio Technology For The Games

A video was shared by Microsoft on the YouTube channel, which was focused on the quietest place on earth in their possession. Following that, Hundraj Gopal, the Principal Human Factors Engineer, took the audience through the chamber. This chamber is also built from over six layers of steel or concrete to keep any form of sound out of the room. As it turns out, the room does hold the Guinness record for the quietest place on Earth. The walls are further covered with fiberglass wedges- which also cover the ceiling and the floor. These wedges are placed strategically to break up the waves of sound before they start reverberating through the chamber. 

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The wedges in the quietest place on Earth do serve a two-fold purpose. First, it does look quite cool- something similar to a science fiction movie. But, the fiberglass also traps the low frequencies further back, while the higher frequencies are completely absorbed. And finally, the chamber rests on top of some vibration-damping springs. When taking the audience through the marvels of this room, Gopal is standing on a steel cable. When speaking directly into the camera, his voice does sound pretty normal. But when he starts rotating around the room, the sound starts fading. 

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The main purpose of the quietest place on Earth at Microsoft is to develop new technologies when it comes to the field of audio. Gopal explained, “From measuring Xbox’s console fan noise for example, or the components in a surface – some of the components make sounds – very low level – but they are they, we measure them in this clean environment which is the purest form of recording without being interference from the walls or from the outside. So, we better our products for audio performance. Anything to do with audio where we have microphones, loudspeakers to measure distortion, or for surface products, our consoles – these types of chambers become extremely important for us.

Sources

  1. Inside quietest place on earth where no one has lasted longer than 55 minutes.” Unilad. Gregory Robinson. January 3, 2023.
  2. Earth’s Quietest Place Will Drive You Crazy in 45 Minutes.” Smithsonian Mag. Rose Eveleth. December 17, 2013.
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