Episode 25: Brown Note, Water Torture

Air Date: February 16, 2005

A person will be propelled violently backwards if hit by a bullet.

busted

A bullet fired by a gun cannot hold enough momentum. According to Newton’s third law, if the bullet were to knock the target 20 feet (6 metres) back, the shooter would have to be knocked back 20 feet (6 metres), as well.

(This myth was revisited in episode 38 and it was busted again.)

The infrasonic brown note can cause a human to lose control of their bowels.

busted

Even after testing a wide range of sub-audible and near-sub-audible noises on him, not once did Adam lose control of his bowels. Some discomfort was reported however, due to the effects of low-frequency sound on the lungs.

Chinese water torture can cause one to become insane.

confirmed

The required torture equipment (and involuntary movement restrictions) is highly effective even without adding the discomfort of the water drip. The water drip itself, without the equipment, is almost negligible.

45 Comments

  1. Damron says:

    Although they brought in some experts to assist with the Brown Note experiementation, they would have learned more if they brought in a real scientist that understood sound waves and shockwaves better. Sound waves are smooth waves of different frequency and amplitude. Shock waves can cause spasms, nausea and loosening of the bowels. Even epileptic seizures have been reported. Shock waves are violent in nature and the effect of being in proximity to a supersonic turbo-prop blade (tip speed) is like being shaken to death. They should have considered more than just the frequency and amplitude of a common sound wave – they should have looked at a variety of wave types. I have experienced this horrible feeling before around turbo-props – I felt dizzy and almost threw up. Losing bowel control would not have been beyond reason if exposure had been longer. The is documented stuff – how did the MB guys fail so poorly in their research?

  2. Mirzero says:

    They set out to bust the myth, and thats what they did. The Brown Note myth involves infrasonic sound waves, more-or-less generated through normal speaker means. Like at concerts and stuff. It isn’t talking about waves generated by a turbo prop, or weaponized methods. I’m sure a significant enough shockwave could kill a person, which would effectively make them lose control of their bowels.

    Although it would have been interesting for them to take it to the next level with shockwaves, that is outside of their actual goals, and thats why they didn’t do it.

  3. Damron says:

    If you watch the segment again, you will see that they start with a simple premise, a subsonic tone can be played that will loosen one’s bowels. Played by what and by whom? They mention military research in this area, but then ignore it – pursuing a very limited experiment. I wouldn’t have minded, but they mentioned the military and the use of such technology as a weapon, but fail to pursue that idea. If they would have researched the use of sound waves as a weapon, they would have quickly found a wealth of information about shock waves. They oversimplify the whole idea of waves, suggesting that frequency and amplitude are the only factors that matter.

  4. daniel newman says:

    the brown note works after and an hour later i had head achs and i said in the bathroom for about 50 min. please try it again

  5. shawn says:

    a friend JR installed 6 15″ PPI flat piston subs in a 1985 honda civic,the SPL and vibration was so intense with 6000 watts I was unable to breath,its not the note, its the vibration,you will not be able to feel weather or not your squeasing or pushing,

  6. jamoecw says:

    the vibration can cause the muscles to relax, exactly what happens when you die. shawn hit the nail on the head, it is all about the vibration.
    as a side note, has any one seen the howard sten movie, he uses vibration to give a girl an orgasm over the radio, after all sound is vibrations.

  7. Mario says:

    I just have a simple question: if it is said that the “brown note” makes your bowels loose, BUT all of the involved used some type of ear protections. So, how can the body sense the actual note, if the ears were protected? ok, thats counting with safety precautions, BUT, why did they tested the note so near the speakers, and why are the effects of the note considered to be instantaneous???

  8. David says:

    As far as I read on the Meyer website regarding the brown note test, they used not only pure sinewaves, but tightly banded noise. What they didn’t use was music. They call it the disco dump, but no disco was used. No high powered ribcage thumping kick drum. Personally, I think they missed out by not attempting dance music.

  9. John Wyckoff says:

    re: a fired bullet’s effect on subject, you have determined that ‘No’ that a body would not ‘fly’ through the air when hit by a bullet. However, regardless of Newton’s Law (which you have incorrectly applied) I would challenge your findings and your ‘re-findings’ as you continue to miss a vital point. This point is that bullets are engineered to penetrate and the amount of ‘shock’ to a target body is determined by the penetration or lack of penetration of the bullet. A steel-jacketed bullet passes through the body with the least amount of shock but a bullet with great expansion capabilities, ‘mushrooms’ and may infact stop within the target body. If it does totally stop, then the entire shock is delivered and if it calculates out to be greater than the weight of the target, then it will indeed ‘fly’ like Dirty Harry. Ask any big game hunter whether prey reacts to the shock of the bullet or not. The closer a bullet gets to entirely stopping within the target, the greater the chance that it will exhibit the shock externally. If the bullet passes entirely through the target as yours did, then ‘yes’ there will be little if any exhibited effect such as the movies show. Test the same pig carcass with a 1/2″ steel plate just under the first layer of skin of the animal and see then if the carcass moves or not!

    Thanks.

    • MSpears says:

      It won’t. Because the mass of the bullet affects the amount of energy being imparted. There’s just not enough mass.

  10. John Wyckoff says:

    A simpler way to refute your busting of the bullet with the Dirty Harry effect is just to shoot a b-b gun at a tin can. The b-b cannot penetrate the can and thus THE CAN FLIES! Similarly, if a bullet is stopped within the cavity of the man (target, pig, etc.) it too would fly.

    • MSpears says:

      No. It will not. The weight of a tin can is about 400 grams. BB’s are about 0.25 grams.

      By comparison, if the target is the size of a 150-pound adult male, that’s approximately 68,000 grams. Even a .50 caliber bullet is only about 41 grams. That means that the bullet weighs about .000062 times as much as the target.

      The ratio of kinetic energy transferred to the target is the same as the ratio of the masses AND IS COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO THE VELOCITY OF THE BULLET. Which means that there’s just NOT ENOUGH ENERGY to throw the target backwards.

      Gunshot victims do frequently fall or collapse when shot; this is NOT a result of the momentum of the bullet pushing them over, but is primarily caused by physical damage or psychological effects, perhaps combined with being off-balance.

      • Domino4120 says:

        I disagree with you. Your argument sounds well informed, but you clearly have never shot a tin can with a BB, it does indeed fly backwards.

        The mass of the projectile is only part of the equation. Yes, if I tossed a bullet at you, it would do nothing because it weighs so little. However a bullet shot from a gun has so much kinetic energy that it would in fact knock a target backwards if it encounters resistance such as bone and is stopped within the body.

        • Cameron says:

          I’ve never shot a tin can, but I have shot many many empty aluminum cans. BB pellets weigh about 1.76% as much as an empty aluminum can (at most), and will only cause the can to “fly” about a foot backwards.

          Compare this to a bullet (9.7g, high estimate) vs the weight of the average human (62kg, 137lb), which comes out to a percentage of 0.16%, over ten times less.

          After you take into account the fact that the bullet will make a more elastic, and forceful, collision when impacting metal vs human skin (plus the can is much more rigid), it’s easy to prove that the average human would not be moved any more than an inch from even the heaviest of bullets.

      • Spectraman says:

        I know this thread is very stale, but please check your physics. The formula for energy of a moving object is E=0.5*M*V^2. So the velocity of the moving object is VERY relevant. However, I AM much persuaded by the argument that the shooter is imparted the same kinetic energy as the person being shot. Unless the bullet has some sort of rocket propulsion whereby it gains speed as it flies through the air, it cannot get any more kinetic energy than it had when it left the muzzle of the gun.

        • Kevin says:

          Of course, you’re also looking at it from an academic perspective and not a pragmatic one. For example, let’s say that a soldier is lying prone on the ground and fires a .50 bullet that flies and actually slows. First, the shooter actually has more resistance to being knocked backward because of the added friction with the ground. Yet a standing target is more likely to be knocked backward if standing, and especially so the higher above the targets center of mass the bullet strikes.

          Now, I certainly agree that no bullet is going to make someone go flipping 20 feet through the air, but I served in the Army for 8 years. Don’t try to freakin tell me that bullets don’t knock someone back or knock them down. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

  11. Chad says:

    For the bullet making a man fly back test it seems they have missed a key factor. That of the reaction of the person getting shot. It is natural instinct to recoil from pain. Thus if a live person is shot they will add to the blow back by automatically recoiling from the impact. Go online and look at any “shock factor” websites and watch someone acually get shot. Most do fall backwards, however I will admit that hollywood will inhance such things to make the effect “cooler” for the movies.

  12. Matt C> says:

    Low velocity bullets such as a 45 cal 1911 semiauto will indeed lift a man off his feet. Low velocity bullets expend ALL of thier energy by not passing through the body.
    I have personally witnessed this several times

  13. Darren davis says:

    The infrasonic brown note can cause a human to lose control of their bowels the israel military thve playing with u.l.f.freq using dish R.F very dangerous
    you need a sub transmitter ask the navy

  14. AJ says:

    In each test the “body” was supported in some way which completly negates the test a supported body will not react correctly
    I have seen a Kangaroo do a complete backflip when shot with a .222

    • Cameron says:

      Quite obviously, that was the kangaroo’s own reaction to being shot, not the actual force of the bullet. If the bullet’s impact was forceful enough to flip a (presumably) full-grown kangaroo, it’ll knock the shooter down as well.

  15. Abranson says:

    In response to many notes left;
    David: kick drums are not “heard” at 10 hz. In fact, most (99% or higher) cannot hear beyond 20 hz, a full octave higher.
    Mario: I repeat…you cannot hear 10 hz. Thus the term, infrasonic, below hearing.
    Damron: Firstly, the term “brown note” denotes a musical wave, or sonic wave. I understand that there are many kinds of waves. Secondly, John Meyer has been building speakers for 30 years now, and his boxes are known as some of, if not, the best speakers available today. So, I would say he is an expert if there ever was one.

  16. Gerard says:

    Mythbusters,
    Please tie Buster to an airplane and fly 60 miles and drop him from an altitude of 115 feet. My brothers and I would like to see how damage Buster suffers. We hope that you will air the footage in an upcoming show.

  17. Dragonfyre says:

    For the bullets; yes, people would recoil when shot, but not fly through the air. If you shoot a can, it has a relatively low mass, so if it’s fired at, it will move a substantial amount…a human, however, is much heavier, meaning a larger bullet is required to apply a force on them to move them backwards.
    It’s also a matter of kinetic energy. A car moving at 60 mph has a lot more kinetic energy than a bullet at 1500–2000 feet/second. If a person gets hit by a car, they will fly, or move a substantial amount. A bullet…recoil, yes…part from the ground, no…unless they jump backwards in surprise. Also, a bullet is not large enough to impart a lot of its energy into its target, only being exerted where the point of the bullet is.
    Myth busted…it’s not going to happen.

  18. Mr. Acoustics says:

    From Solid research in the sound field it was proven that at 14Hz with atleast 115 dB’s of sound pressure they’re be a loss of controle in the human bowels. I normal speaker cannot produce this, this experiment has nothing to do with what we here, its how our body’s resonate

  19. nick perry says:

    why want you use a kid instad of a adult i mean like a 16 year old kid

  20. Lou says:

    I always thought the brown note was a very hi-pitched sound, not a low-frequency pitch. Something around 3000hz @ near pain threshold db levels. I kept waiting for them to try the whole pitch range instead of concentrating on just the low end. I hope the revisit this one.

  21. mangoldz says:

    After the chinese water torture experiment whan he was sitting in the recliner, he did crap himself

  22. snlng says:

    A person will be propelled violently backwards if hit by a bullet. Myth-busted. I was stuck by 2(M2) 50 cal bullits in my leg and propeled backwords while maintaining a tight grip on the steering wheel. see DAV websight archive magazine May 2009 Friendly Fire. Explain how one hits my left knee and femur then another hits the same leg in the calf. One bullet bounces off the transmission and comes up through the floor board between my legs, the other comes through the dash and passes through the drivers seat where my heart is, if seating in the drivers seat. I still have my leg or what is called a leg. But I almost broke my neck on the kevlar wall behind the passenger seat on the right side of the vehicle. Yes we had a gunner but due to the mission he was in the seat behind the driver (me). When we were engaded he reached for his weapon in the hatch I struck him while going over my seat, with my gear on, throwing him back into his seat. The bullet that passed through my calf passed through his seat in the same place. Myth busted confermed energy from a bullit can be tranfered if conditions are right. Pass on please or let me know how to chalange the myth I want to know what are the odds and can it be recreated. I remember everthing down to how the bullet felt when striking me and the sound of the bullets striking the vehicle, about 200 rounds fired at my compartment, about 19 penetrated the vehicle. He was gunning for me because he though I was a VBIED at 400 meters. OK, scared more like it. Help me chalage this myth

  23. soccerluuvv54 says:

    Chinese water torture hurts!!!!!

  24. Alice says:

    It’s like if someone set out to test the myth of the microwave and only tested the visible light range to see if it could cook food. The myth would be busted by these standards.

  25. DAC8 says:

    A 12 gauge shotgun slug produces at least 2000 foot pounds of force, which means someone hit with a 12 gauge slug wearing a bullet proof vest and weighing 200 pounds would be thrown 10 feet, theoretically. More likely half that far with losses of energy but still enough to pick someone up. Similar for an M-16 etc.. Only hitting bone reduces the impact force and passing through might not impart much force at all.

    • Cameron says:

      You’re oversimplifying things. Fill a bucket with dirt or something…anything to make it kinda heavy. Then suspend it from a rope and shoot it with the most powerful gun you have. I guarantee that bucket won’t move more than a foot.

    • noneyo says:

      Foot-pounds is not a measure of froce… distance times force is energy typically measured in joules (Newtons force times meters distance). Energy or momentum are distinct quantities that (if conserved) you can use to account for acceleration or a change in speed. That 200 pounds bit you are starting to confuse mass with force. Nothing you are saying is consistent with an understanding of VERY basic physics…

  26. Rhys says:

    I call busted on this myth busting.
    1. The speakers they used did not go low enough to hit 5 hz.
    2. You need to be far away from subs before the wave form develops. 18″ sub needs 26′ or something similar to hear at 20 hz signal.
    3. You need to try again with this bad boy. http://www.rotarywoofer.com/ They have one at the Evergreen Aviation Museum and had to turn that thing off because it set off the earthquake detectors in the elevators. You will also note that they require a long thrown before they work, similar to the length of the barrel of a gun. Standing beside the bass boxes and going to do sh…

  27. Chris says:

    Too bad he was wearing ear phones the entire time. And yes it has already been proven that it is real. The U.S. Government even thought to use it as a weapon of some kind.

  28. genie says:

    According to the wind industry you can’ hear or feel infrasound below 10mghtz. I like Rhys’ comment which does demonstrate the action of infraound as I know that a study of infrasound in one area of wind turbines showed 7-8 kilometres had the most effects of infrasound although these people had the most responses.

  29. C.Spicy Weazel says:

    I think the brown note needs to be revisited!

    I agree with Rhys. Furthermore I feel that the testing process was rather inconclusive. Plus I am fairly certain I have seen the “brown note” in action: with a bass amplifier (more on this later).

    I agree that they didn’t allow the waves sufficient distance to develop: the lower the frequency the longer the wavelength and therefore the nodal points of its standing wave will be further apart. I got the impression that the crew were feeling more of the effect than Adam.

    Hearing protection removal? I doubt it would affect results plus with those SPLs it would be not just unsafe but insane to even consider this. Plus I would suggest that we are looking at a physiological effect of sound waves rather than a purely psycho-acoustic effect. If there is a psycho-acoustic factor it would be due to resonance of the the body/organs causing some kind of nervous stimulation.

    I suspect that ther may be something to the comments about the system used in the test not being up to the task and that specialized speakers may be needed? More to the point that the arrangement of the rig was not ideal. However the Meyer engineer’s certainly know their trade and I would also suggest that some serious calculations were performed. I do know from personal experience that systems with multiple subs have a tendency to cause pockets of unullment particularly when side by side and would suggest a linear array of carefully delayed subs would be easier to calibrate?

    Plus the instance I mentioned above where I believe I saw the phenomenon in action had only one 4×10″ bass cabinet in the equation. Basically several years ago my brother and myself would jam from time to time and every time I had the sub harmonic enhancer on the amp turned up, playing heavily on the lower register my brother would need to trade the drum throne for the porcelain throne after 5 minutes or so. It became a bit of an in joke that I would start off low and heavy just to get the intermission out of the way. Maybe less is more in regard to number of system elements?

    Also the fact that I would be fine unless I was more than 2 metres from the cab would suggest that distance is needed. And believe me I could still feel the LF content from the system standing right next to it but it didn’t cause any urges until I was some distance from the source. Perhaps moving the subject around the test zone slowly would allow the location of the butter zone?

    Plus there are plenty of stories kicking around regarding extreme low frequencies and customised bass rigs causing ques in bars/clubs. Maybe the use of more natural generation of sound would offer a better sonic palate due to the harmonic composition or maybe a more musical pulsation of LF content is the key? The idea being that there is an even slower pulse to the sonic content at play as well.

  30. crazy thing says:

    dhdgrjrgdhehdbfhfb fbrirfh fhdirhrythfksksjwkwkwwwjdhhrjhdjjrj djdjmdmmd. jrjjejjjrjjjejjjrjjjrjrjmrm

  31. Janina sherman says:

    My next door neighbour has a cat deterrent device. They resonate at 26Hz. When it goes off in the night it makes me have an anxiety attack and Bowel movement. I usually hear it as low droning which, added to the sound of the Grid, has affected my quality of life. I use a fan at night but still the pulsing thundery muffled drone overrides it and as soon as I am up I’m in the toilet. Of course they say you can’t possibly hear it as our children don’t! See world map of the HUM. It is everywhere. 2% hear/sense it. I heard it in my 29s “the Bristol Hum” when there were fewer sufferers and I had to keep quiet. But today there are thousands of scholarly studies proving it. One produced for DEFRA. Salford Uni, Alan Moorhouse , has published on HUD website 6 sounds which you need a subwoofer to hear. But I hear clearly on my ipad, sounds numbers 4&5 not even at full volume. Cardiac rhythms speed up also. It’s the fight or flee animal response in the primitive brain types. It was emitted during a concert at the RFH and some of the audience got fearful morbid depressed, some cried. On YouTube you can listen 0-30Hz. I hear from about 25Hz which is the wildlife deterrent device range. I’m in the uk where wind turbines can also emit that range and echo over distances. It’s getting worse as younger and younger people are having their lives made misery. I’m middle aged, professional who loses weight overnight due to the hum

  32. DN8 says:

    Air is a poor conductor of sound. I believe the study of the brown noise should have been done UNDERWATER! Therefore to me the myth is NOT busted.All possible mediums should be explored with water being the most obvious.

    • Janina says:

      It’s wind turbines. Put the global hum map superimposed on the turbine farms map. Realise I’m in the middle of a tripod of wind turbines. Only sound to mask it is a fan white noise machine. Done masses of research. The rotation drone vibration can travel over 20m … Much further than was originally stated. Those turbines are enormous and the noise, according to many academic studies, AMPLIFIES over distance! Big cover up as there’s money involved subsidised by Government. Developers powerful and the university studies with no vested (conflict of) interests have been ignored. The next BSE/thalidomide. Don’t be pregnant and live near one. Horses being born deformed with turbines near the once successful stud. Horrible stories..

  33. Janina says:

    Plus, employees at the us embassy in Moscow received compensation after the soviets zapped the embassy with infrasound waves in the 70s. They were made very ill.

  34. Spectraman says:

    Since I have not seen the episode, I cannot judge the validity of the experiment, but in my experience (which is considerable), a woofer array large enough to create high SPL below 10Hz would be the proverbial “wall of woofers”. And these woofers would need to have significant travel as well, not just any pro sound woofer made to create a lot of upper bass thump. So in order to disprove the idea, you would need to construct a dedicated device to enable sound pressure levels well over 120dBSPL below 10Hz. Someone in front of a couple of very good HT subwoofers doesn’t even come close.
    FYI: although there are a lot of people who erroneously believe that the lowest frequency we can perceive is 20Hz, this is untrue. I don’t know who started this myth, but it has been disproved by experiments many years ago, documented in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. Those experiments show that we can HEAR and even detect PITCH in sound waves as low in frequency as 4Hz. This was done in a couple of different ways which were not even using body vibration coupling. It is obvious that when tactile sensation is factored in, extremely low frequency sound (even below the 4Hz mentioned) can be perceived, given enough sound power. Considering that the “equal loudness curve” is very steep in the bass, you begin to appreciate why it is difficult to create loud bass in the single digit range. I have over 30 years experience as an audio engineer, and would be happy to consult if re-visiting this issue is contemplated.

  35. Mark says:

    The puzzle test is inadequate. There is alearned response. And why not have the subject mive away from the speakers ie test at different distances as well?

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