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News Link • Science, Medicine and Technology

Scientists create the loudest possible sound

• by David Szondy

Using SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, the researchers blasted tiny jets of water to create incredible sound pressures above 270 decibels.

There is loud, really loud, and rock concert loud, but how loud really is too loud? Surprisingly, there is an actual upper limit to just how intense a noise can be.

Most people who've taken science class have heard of the decibel scale, which measures the loudness of sound. At the very lowest end of the scale there's the limit of human hearing – things like the buzz of a mosquito 10 feet away. At 55 decibels we have the sound of normal conversations, an alarm clock hits 80 decibels, a chain saw at 100 decibels, and the painful sound of a jet taking off 100 m (330 ft) away at 130 decibels. The scale goes the way up to that of a rock concert at 150 decibels (and you thought we were kidding).

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