High-frequency tone ‘legit and well-founded on physics’
Students have now gained another weapon in their arsenal to secretly use their cell phones in the classroom.
A high-frequency ring tone, called both the Mosquito ring tone and the Teen Buzz, is being used by students as a way to receive phone calls and text messages in class without the knowledge of adults. High-frequency hearing is lost with age, so children and teens can hear the 17-kilohertz ring tone clearly, and most adults cannot hear the frequency at all.
Physics professor Mike Dubson calls the technology “completely legit and well-founded on physics.”
He runs an event each year where he broadcasts a high-frequency sound to the crowd and asks them to raise their hands when they can hear the buzz. Preschoolers raise their hands at about 20 kilohertz, he said, but the older people in the crowd don’t begin raising their hands until the sound becomes much lower in frequency.
Some students on campus have heard of the technology, but most said they didn’t think it made cell phone use any easier.
“I seriously doubt people could even answer a phone call in class,” said Hanna Kirlin, a junior integrative physiology major. “I don’t understand why people can’t just use vibrate.”
Kirlin’s mother is a high school teacher and asked her daughter to listen to the ring tone. Kirlin could hear the sound perfectly, but her mother couldn’t hear it at all, Kirlin said.
“It’s a good idea, but not to be used in the classroom. It might be a good way to get a call in a public place,” said Jeff Adams, a junior psychology major.
Dubson pointed out that young people are not the only ones who can hear at very high frequencies.
“When the best album ever made was recorded, that would be Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, John Lennon asked for a high-frequency tone during the run-out,” he said.
The run-out, he explained, is when the needle moves across the outer edge of the record at the end of the album.
“No person can hear at that high frequency. But dogs, who can hear at 30 to 35 kilohertz, would all start barking,” Dubson said.
Modern compact discs aren’t designed to encode a sound above about 20 kilohertz, so the frequency had to be lowered quite a bit when the format changed from records, he said.
The technology for the ring tone was borrowed from a British security company who was using the sound to drive off groups of teens loitering at shopping centers, according to the British newspaper Metro. The newspaper reports that the ring tone is popular among British school children.