The wretched sound of rhetching tops worst sound list

Jennifer Harper:

Cover those ears, folks. The worst sound on the planet has now been identified, and it's neither a dentist's drill, a cell phone nor a filibustering lawmaker.
It's that guttural heave and splat of someone vomiting, said Trevor Cox, a British acoustical engineer who has gauged people's reactions to assorted sounds, human and otherwise.
More than 1 million people listened to sound clips of screaming babies, seasick violins and nauseous moments, then ranked them according to "horribleness," said Mr. Cox, who released his findings yesterday.
Retching drew top honors, followed by the distinctive scream of microphone feedback, a group of howling babies and the heavy-duty squeal of train wheels. Rounding out the top 10 was the piercing squeak of a rusty seesaw, the dissonant screech of bad fiddle playing, the curt sound of flatulence, a single wailing baby, a shrill argument and, last but not least, the disquieting hum of faulty electrical connections.
"I'm driven by a scientific curiosity about why people shudder at certain sounds and not at others," said Mr. Cox, a professor of acoustical engineering at Salford University in Manchester.
There is more. I think this study may have some application in developing non lethal crowd dispersal "weapon." Other noises and water hoses just could not compete in effectiveness.


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