The brown note is a hypothetical infrasonic frequency that would cause humans to lose control of their bowels due to resonance. Attempts to demonstrate the existence of a "brown note" using sound waves transmitted through the air have failed.
The name is a metonym for the common color of human feces. Frequencies supposedly involved are between 5 and 9 Hz, which is below the lower frequency limit of human hearing. High power sound waves below 20 Hz are felt in the body, not heard by the ear as sound.
Physiological effects of low frequency vibration
Air is a very inefficient medium for transferring low frequency vibration from a transducer to the human body. Mechanical connection of the vibration source to the human body, however, provides a potentially dangerous combination. The U.S. space program, worried about the harmful effects of rocket flight on astronauts, ordered vibration tests that used cockpit seats mounted on vibration tables to transfer "brown note" and other frequencies directly to the human subjects. Very high power levels of 160 dB were achieved at frequencies of 2–3 Hz. Test frequencies ranged from 0.5 Hz to 40 Hz. Test subjects suffered motor ataxia, nausea, visual disturbance, degraded task performance and difficulties in communication. These tests are assumed by researchers to be the nucleus of the current urban myth.
In February 2005 the television show MythBusters used twelve Meyer Sound 700-HP subwoofers—a model and quantity that has been employed for major rock concerts. Normal operating frequency range of the selected subwoofer model was 28 Hz to 150 Hz but the 12 enclosures at MythBusters had been specially modified for deeper bass extension. Roger Schwenke and John Meyer directed the Meyer Sound team in devising a special test rig that would produce very high sound levels at infrasonic frequencies. The subwoofers' tuning ports were blocked and their input cards were altered. The modified cabinets were positioned in an open ring configuration: four stacks of three subwoofers each. Test signals were generated by a SIM 3 audio analyzer, with its software modified to produce infrasonic tones. A Brüel & Kjær sound level analyzer, fed with an attenuated signal from a model 4189 measurement microphone, displayed and recorded sound pressure levels. The hosts on the show tried a series of frequencies as low as 5 Hz, attaining a level of 120 decibels of sound pressure at 9 Hz and up to 153 dB at frequencies above 20 Hz, but the rumored physiological effects did not materialize. The test subjects all reported some physical anxiety and shortness of breath, even a small amount of nausea, but this was dismissed by the hosts, noting that sound at that frequency and intensity moves air rapidly in and out of one's lungs. The show declared the brown note myth "busted."
In popular culture
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- In the comic book series Transmetropolitan, the main character, Spider Jerusalem, wields a "Bowel Disruptor" that operates using ultrasonic waves, with varying settings of intensity.
- In Season 3, Episode 17 of the animated show South Park, "World Wide Recorder Concert", the brown note myth is featured prominently; the boys rewrite the music for a worldwide recorder concert to include the brown note (for kids from New York who kept insulting them), with the unintended result that everyone in the world defecates almost simultaneously.
- In Season 4, Episode 13 of The League, "The Curse of Shiva", Taco (Jon Lajoie) has found a use for the thousands of discarded vuvuzela instruments left over from the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa. The instruments were tinkered with to produce the brown note with hopes that it could then be sold to the military as a weapon.
- In Season 5, Episode 5 of Orange Is The New Black, CO Luschek tries to sing the brown note during the prison riot, in an effort to get another CO to defecate in a bucket while they are in captivity.
- In Season 1, Episode 4 of the Adult Swim show Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories, "Angel Boy", the character Scotty sings a note that causes attendees at a birthday party to have intense gastrointestinal distress and defecate uncontrollably.
- In Season 1, Episode 7 of the show Moonbeam City, "Cop Con", a fictional weapon utilizing the brown note is used by police.
- In Season 6, Episode 4 of the FX show Archer, "Edie's Wedding", Dr. Algernop Krieger is shown with his experimental "K-9000 Infrasonic Pulse rifle", a weapon intended to produce the effect of the brown note on its targets. Lana opines that the baby's soiled diaper was induced naturally, not as a result of the device.
- In the Gaijin Entertainment game Cuisine Royale, players can use the “Brown Note” as a ritual, which creates a low pitched hum for about 30 seconds.
- Acoustic resonance
- Feraliminal Lycanthropizer
- The Mosquito, a commercial device that deters loitering by emitting sound with a very high frequency
- The Republic XF-84H, an experimental aircraft that produced enough noise to cause headaches, nausea and seizures among its ground crew
- Tesla's oscillator, a vibrating machine which is claimed to have the effect of a "mechanical laxative", causing subjects to run straight to the bathroom after use
- Tempest, W. Infrasound and low frequency vibration (1977). Academic Press Inc. (London) Ltd
- ProSoundWeb: some effects of low end (bulletin board entry by Tom Danley)
- The Matterhorn
- "Brown Note | MythBusters". Discovery. 2012-04-11. Retrieved 2016-05-29.
- "Brown Note". Meyer Sound. 2000. Archived from the original on 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2006-08-30.
- "Meyer Sound 700-HP UltraHigh-Power Subwoofer datasheet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-21. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
- "Meyer Sound Gets Down to Basics in MythBusters Episode". Meyer Sound Laboratories. September 2004. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved September 1, 2010.
- Kelly, Kevin. "Set Your Bowel Disruptor To Explosive Diarrhea". io9. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
- AVClub: The League: A Krampus Carol / The Curse of Shiva (by Margaret Eby)
- "Angel Boy - Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories on Adult Swim Video". Adultswim.com. 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2016-05-29.