Science & Hi-Tech

Has the mystery of the strange ‘sonic weapon’ affecting US diplomats in Cuba been solved?

Beginning in 2016, personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured) described hearing strange sounds, followed by development of an array of symptoms - but the source of the health problems has never been determined. The 26th US diplomat has been injured mysteriously in Havana. Pictured: The US embassy in Havana
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The strange symptoms affecting US Diplomats in Cuba are a result of exposure to pulsed radiofrequency/microwave electromagnetic radiation, a leading researcher has claimed.

Beginning in 2016, personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba (as well as Canadian diplomats and family members) described hearing strange sounds, followed by development of an array of symptoms – but the source of the health problems has never been determined. 

In a new study, Beatrice Golomb, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, says publicly reported symptoms and experiences of a ‘mystery illness’ afflicting American and Canadian diplomats in Cuba and China strongly match known effects of pulsed radiofrequency/microwave electromagnetic (RF/MW) radiation.

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Beginning in 2016, personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured) described hearing strange sounds, followed by development of an array of symptoms - but the source of the health problems has never been determined. The 26th US diplomat has been injured mysteriously in Havana. Pictured: The US embassy in Havana

Beginning in 2016, personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured) described hearing strange sounds, followed by development of an array of symptoms – but the source of the health problems has never been determined. The 26th US diplomat has been injured mysteriously in Havana. Pictured: The US embassy in Havana

WHAT IS THE FREY EFFECT? 

The microwave auditory effect, also known as the microwave hearing effect or the Frey effect,  occurs when a beam of microwaves is turned into sound by the interaction with your head. 

It consists of audible clicks generated directly inside the human head without the need of any receiving electronic device.

The effect was first reported by persons working in the vicinity of radar transponders during World War II. 

In 1961, the American neuroscientist Allan H. Frey studied this phenomenon and was the first to publish information on the nature of the microwave auditory effect. 

In the early 2000’s, the US Navy funded research on Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio (MEDUSA). 

This was a ‘less lethal weapon’ which would use the microwave auditory effect for crowd control, although the project was eventually canceled.

 

‘I looked at what’s known about pulsed RF/MW in relation to diplomats’ experiences,’ said Golomb, in advance of the September 15 issue of Neural Computation which carries her paper.

‘Everything fits. The specifics of the varied sounds that the diplomats reported hearing during the apparent inciting episodes, such as chirping, ringing and buzzing, cohere in detail with known properties of so-called ‘microwave hearing,’ also known as the Frey effect.

‘And the symptoms that emerged fit, including the dominance of sleep problems, headaches and cognitive issues, as well as the distinctive prominence of auditory symptoms. 

‘Even objective findings reported on brain imaging fit with what has been reported for persons affected by RF/MW radiation.’

In May, the State Department reported that U.S. government employees in Guangzhou, China had also experienced similar sounds and health problems.

Affected diplomats and family members from both locations were medically evacuated to the U.S. for treatment, but despite multiple government investigations, an official explanation of events and subsequent illnesses has not been announced. 

Golomb compared rates of described symptoms among diplomats with a published 2012 study of symptoms reported by people affected by electromagnetic radiation in Japan. 

She found the cited symptoms — headache, cognitive problems, sleep issues, irritability, nervousness or anxiety, dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) — occurred at ‘strikingly similar’ rates.

Some diplomats reported hearing loss. 

That symptom was not assessed in both studies so rates could not be compared, but Golomb said it is widely reported in both conditions. 

She also noted that previous brain imaging research in persons affected by RF/ EMR ‘showed evidence of traumatic brain injury, paralleling reports in diplomats.’

David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany, part of the State University of New York, was not involved in Golomb’s study but said it illustrates ‘microwave hearing,’ which results ‘from heating induced in tissue, which causes ‘waves’ in the ear and results in clicks and other sounds.’ 

Reported symptoms, he said, characterize the syndrome of electrohypersensitivity (EHS), in which unusual exposure to radiofrequency radiation can trigger symptoms in vulnerable persons that may be permanent and disabling.

‘We have seen this before when the Soviets irradiated the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the days of the Cold War,’ he said.  

The health consequences of RF/MW exposure is a matter of on-going debate. 

Some government agencies, such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute, publicly assert that low- to mid-frequency, non-ionizing radiation like those from microwaves and RF is generally harmless. 

They cite studies that have found no conclusive link between exposure and harm.

But others, including researchers like Golomb, dispute that conclusion, pointing out many of the no-harm studies were funded by vested industries or had other conflicts of interest.  

Cuba has adamantly denied involvement or knowledge. Initial speculation centered on some type of sonic attack owing to strange sounds heard by those affected.

One American government worker at a U.S. consulate in China who also confirmed to have been affected, raising concerns that the incidents occurring in Cuba have spread.


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