It is about time. I read a prediction recently that due to expanding population and economic trends by 2050 6.5 billion people will be living in cities. That was approximately the entire world’s population in 2005. People make noise, and if you pack them together (New York City) you have a lot of it, especially with the injection of police, fire, rescue, and commercial and amateur observation drones that are being projected—undoubtedly they will be propelled by two cycle engines and try to fly low so that the advertising banners they are towing are more easily readable. I realize I should have emphasized noise more in my Good Products, Bad Products book.
The Stanford campus where I live is a good example, as well as the campus itself. It used to be called "the farm". It should now be called "the city". It is in an extended growth and building period, and in addition the local area is doing a large amount of road work, including installing a large new gas main to replace the one which caused an explosion and a fire in a town north of us. One of the wonderful features of my home at one time was the quiet. No more.
We seem to be in the traffic patterns for both San Francisco and San Jose’s airports, We seem to be the only homeowners that do our own gardening (a hobby of my wife), so we are surrounded by professional mow and blow teams that often use multiple two-cycle engines at the same time. In At 100 yards on one side of us is an increasingly busy campus road lined with fraternities that are the scene of parties featuring bands with ever more powerful amplifiers, and 100 yards on the other side is an increasingly busy road that has been the sight of gas main work for at least a year. Even as I write this an even larger and louder garbage truck has stopped outside our house and our neighbor’s mow and blow team and contractor are at work.
Will there be an end to what is sometimes called the noise pollution? There will certainly be more regulations. Past ones have caused vehicles to be quieter and rock bands to have decibel limits (difficult to police). The university gardeners now use quieter equipment, such as four cycle generators to power electrical yard machines. A few companies are now advertising the relative lack of noise from their products.
And maybe the construction in the Stanford area will slow down some time—or maybe we are like an airport and are doomed to constant “improvements” accomplished by heavy equipment.
My experience is that producers and consumers of products worry more about appearance and function than sound. Maybe the time has come when populations have increased to the point where more attention needs to be placed on sound. Actually, this has been slowly happening for years. When I was in high school we could drive our cars around with hardly any muffler (if you are old enough, you remember” straight pipes”.) No longer. When I was in high school the population of my home town (not my high school town) was 1200. Now it is over 100,000. That would be a lot of barely muffled cars.
But as population grows, so does noise, Cars seem to have dealt with being quieter. In fact in The Economist article the author admits that maybe electric cars need to make a bit more noise. Motorcycles lived through the requirement of being muffled. At least heavy equipment is used to raze buildings and dig up pavement rather than explosives. But how about private planes and small internal combustion engines. And how about more extreme punishment for people who use their automobile horns to express anger, rather than give warnings.
And I think that one contributor to the increasing noise problem is the present fad of “open office” architecture. More about that in my next post. But to get you thinking, Facebook is about to build a ten-acre open office for 2800 engineers (see Forbes article here) Not for engineers like me!