Last year, back in September 2017, the US State Department issued an official Travel Warning to Cuba after roughly two dozen diplomats there began experiencing bizarre symptoms. The symptoms that they experienced included “ear complaints and hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping.”
Disturbingly, since the travel warning was issued, 19 other tourists to the country have reported that they’ve also experienced the same kind of unusual symptoms. Unfortunately, though, while some suspect the use of sonic weaponry, as of now, the cause of the symptoms remains unknown.
“Since September 29, the Department of State has been contacted by 19 U.S. citizens who reported experiencing symptoms similar to those listed in the Travel Warning after visiting Cuba,” explained a spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs in a statement about the afflicted tourists, adding, “we continue to urge U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Cuba.”
According to State Department reports, some investigators believe that the people reporting the bizarre experiences are victims of a sonic weapon attack. Cuban officials, however, have emphatically denied the allegation, calling it “science fiction.”
In a tweet, Johana Tablada, the deputy director for North America at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added, “regrettable to see officials of @StateDept using the word #Attacks with #ZERO evidence to prove it happened. Ignoring the essential aspects of the topic, including the [USA] and [Cuba] specialized professional agencies opinions, it is not the right way to go.”
Many, though, aren’t convinced by their denial. This is because, if they were deliberately attacking US citizens, then they obviously wouldn’t readily admit to it.
But, while this is definitely a possibility, it may not the case as numerous independent scientists and experts in acoustics have also pushed back against the claim that a sonic weapon was being used.
One of the people who has challenged the claim, for instance, is Dr. Toby Heys, the leader of Manchester Metropolitan University’s Future Technologies research center.
“Ultimately, devices working in either spectrum could cause hearing damage but it is unlikely to be infrasonic given the size of the speaker required to produce the requisite frequency and decibel level…Infrasound is also very difficult/next to impossible to direct, within current technological dictates,” explained Heys in a statement to Fox News.
“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” added Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine, when asked about the matter.
With regards to ultrasound, Heys mentioned that while “ultrasound could be directed at a target’s head,” it “would require extremely precise targeting within a building’s infrastructure,” and thus, likely wouldn’t be used in the Havana attacks.
“Ultrasound cannot travel a long distance,” added Dr. Jun Qin, an acoustic engineer at Southern Illinois University. By saying this, he’s referring to the fact that the further the sound goes, the weaker it gets. So, unless the sound was coming from somewhere very close, it likely wouldn’t be strong enough to harm anyone.
On top of this, Dr. Steven L. Garrett, a retired acoustics professor who was formerly employed by Penn State University, also poked a hole in the theory that a sonic weapon was used. He did so by pointing out that the humidity on the island would weaken the ultrasound waves as well. This also means that any ultrasound waves likely wouldn’t be powerful enough to cause any kind of significant damage.
Moreover, another problem with the theory that a sonic weapon is being used is the fact that there are reports of brain damage. “I know of no acoustic effect that can cause concussion symptoms,” explained Dr. Jurgen Altmann, a physicist at the Technische Universitat Dortumd in Germany and an expert in acoustics.
Given all of the apparent problems with the theory that a sonic weapon was used, experts believe that the cause may be something else. Dr. Qin, for example, believes that the symptoms could be caused by something in the environment, such as toxins or a bacterial or viral infection.
Dr. Timothy Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at Southampton University offered an alternative theory. “If you make people anxious that they’re under attack from an ultrasonic weapon, those are the symptoms you’ll get,” he reasoned, suggestings that the diplomats were simply being delusional.
Dr. Leighton’s theory is shared by Cuban scientists. Specifically, following a 9-month investigation looking into the bizarre symptoms and alleged use of sonic weaponry, Cuban scientists concluded in an official report that the diplomats likely suffered a “collective psychogenic disorder,” or mass hysteria.
Some, however, like science writer Alex Berezow, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology, don’t believe that the problems that the symptoms being reported are just the result of a mass hysteria. In fact, the mere suggestion left him utterly outraged.
“The fact that the Cubans would issue such an insultingly stupid report means that they aren’t taking America’s concerns seriously,” wrote Berezow in an article published several weeks ago about the situation.
Hopefully, investigators are able to ultimately get to the bottom of what’s really going on in Cuba. And if it’s found that Cuba is, in any way, connected to the cause of the symptoms, then it’s imperative that they are punished as severely as possible to hopefully deter others from engaging in something similar in the future.