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Acoustic imager makes sound visible

Image: Acoustic image
A color-coded image of an industrial site pinpoints sound coming from a passing truck as well as from equipment on the other side of a buildling. (Credit: Signal Interface Group)

Not even the click of a pen or the rustle of a shirt goes undetected by Signal Interface Group’s acoustic imager. But how about a person’s, um, rude noises?

“We don’t record those,” the company’s president, Neil Fenichel, says with a smile.

The gizmo that Fenichel demonstrated this week at Signal Interface Group’s office in Bellevue, Wash., is designed for higher purposes: to find out why an elevator is whining, where an air-conditioning system is leaking, which fluorescent light is buzzing, why a car’s engine is making a funny sound, or even how a hummingbird does its buzz.

The imaging system, developed in cooperation with Bellevue-based OptiNav, combines several tricks of the acoustic trade.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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