Discord the Story of Noise – Book Review

Noise is all around us – but is it getting worse? Certainly complaints about noise nothing new – people have been complaining about noise for centuries.  In 1724 Lady Arabella Howard took legal action against a group of churchwardens because of the noise made by church bells being rung at 5am. 

Thomas Carlyle commented that in towns, when you left your house ‘you are assailed by vast shoals of quacks, and showmen and street sweepers, and pickpockets, and mendicants of every degree and shape, all plying in noise’. 

Mike Goldsmith has set out to create a history of noise, as well as looking at the scientific basis of how noise is created.  It is certainly different, covering both the science and the history thus providing something for everyone.  There are certainly unusual elements to be found – for example the early Chinese earthquake detectors; and the Funny Sounding Noise laboratory at Rolls Royce to investigate problems with aero engines. 

More seriously it also looks at how noise is affecting both people and wildlife today.  People are much more aware of the issues and problems caused by noise. Even the seas are not exempt – man made noise in the English channel is far greater than natural noise on most frequencies thus causing problems for Whales and other marine creatures.