The Quietest Place on the Entire Planet Is Located in the United States
Everyone longs for a bit of peace and quiet, but can everyone handle the quietest place on Earth?
Located at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the quietest place on the planet isn’t a forest or a field or the valley of a mountain range. It’s actually an anechoic chamber.
What does that mean? How do you go there? Well, let’s find out!
What is an anechoic chamber?
In order to understand what an anechoic chamber is, you need to understand how sound works. In its simplest terms, a sound is a vibration. This vibration moves through air (or water or any other medium) and that interaction produces what we hear as a sound. When a vibration hits an object, it reflects off the object, producing an echo.
In an anechoic chamber, there are very few echoes. The surfaces of the room are designed to stop reflections of vibrations, making it astoundingly quiet in the room. When you’re in the anechoic chamber, you can hear direct noises but no reflected sound. This means that if you yelled “Hooray,” you’d hear yourself yell it, but there would be no echo.
Scientists have compared the result of an anechoic chamber with being in an empty field. It’s odd and unsettling how quiet a field can be when empty, and an anechoic chamber is similar! However, an anechoic chamber is more quiet than a field, in reality.
The Orfield Labs Quiet Chamber
The anechoic chamber that is the quietest in the world is called the Orfield Labs Quiet Chamber. If you look at the photographs of this quiet room, it looks similar to a recording studio. Fiberglass acoustic wedges sit on the wall in a specific pattern for maximum sound absorption. Beneath the wedges are double walls of steel and concrete.
Building the room, then, was no small feat. What looks like wedges stuck on a standard wall is not so! The quiet room’s design was incredibly intentional in order to produce such fantastic, quiet results.
While individuals can visit the chamber, it’s often used for corporate purposes. Companies like to rent out the space to test their products. It’s a great way to get a true sense of the noise produced by the product. Harley Davidson has used the room to test-drive a motorcycle, in fact! It’s also been an important place for gaining knowledge on the way architecture informs sound. Overall, the Orfield Labs Quiet Chamber serves a very legitimate scientific purpose.
How loud is the quietest room on Earth compared to other things?
It can be difficult to conceptualize noise levels without a base to compare them to. In general, a conversation is around 60 decibels. A quiet library as you rustle through a book is 40 decibels. A quiet room in your house without any TV or chatter is between 25-30 decibels. The Orfield Labs Quiet Chamber, however, measures -9.4 decibels! Wow!
What does it feel like in the quietest room?
The Orfield Labs Quiet Room is constructed to absorb 99.99% of all the sound created in the space. The result of the silence is that you can start to hear bodily functions. This tends to have a very eerie effect on folks in the room. Think about it: have you ever even tried to hear your heartbeat without a stethoscope? Have you ever heard your lungs taking in air?
The result can be pretty eerie! Most folks are disturbed very quickly by the sounds they start to hear in the silent space. Because the room is so silent, the sounds feel very loud and can quickly overwhelm a person. The longest visit to the quiet room only lasted 45 minutes because of this!
How do you go visit?
You can visit the Orfied Labs Quiet Room but for a steep cost. It is $200 per person, with a minimum of $400 per visit. Visitors are only permitted to stay in the room for a short time (to keep the insanity to a minimum). You can book a trip to the Quiet Room by logging onto their website’s reservation page.
The tour lasts for an hour and a half and includes more than just the Quiet Room! The Orfield Labs are home to some other very cool facilities, including other multi-sensory labs and an art gallery. You’ll also see the world’s first recording studio as you tour the lab.
If you’d like a more intense immersion in the anechoic chamber, you can pay $600 per hour. Orfield Labs is beginning to study the effect of silence on the human mind, and if you’d like to investigate the effects personally, you can sign up for a longer trip into the Quiet Room!