The Benefits of White Noise

Some have stumbled onto this trick years ago, but it's worth repeating...

There's a wonderful little magazine put out monthly or so by the local newspaper called Parents Magazine. 

In the June/July issue, there's a small article near the back about "Static Lulls Child to Sleep."

The article talks about various ways that parents have used "white noise" to soothe their child or baby to drift off to sleep for naps or at other times.

Some use the sound of the vacuum cleaner!  Others have audio taped a shower running.  Some tune an AM radio off-station to pick up static and use that to generate "white noise."

White noise, if you haven't already figured it out, is constant noise of the same intensity that masks other intelligible noise that we might otherwise focus on.

We run into this everyday, but we don't pay much attention to it...traffic, fans, air conditioning, a TV playing in the background, etc.

While these are all great ideas on how to use household white noise generators, there's also a memory that this has triggered.

During college, my roommate worked the night shift at an area service station, and slept during the day.  He would routinely come home and put the fan on in our bedroom we split, and flop on his bed. He'd be asleep in minutes...and I'd wake up and leave the room.


But also during this time period (late 60s & early 70s) was a novel use of TV sets to detect tornadoes.
The instructions were to turn your analog TV set to channel 13 (if there was no channel 13 broadcasting in your area, which was the case for the majority of the country) and leave it on overnight, with the sound turned up.

The white noise of the static background would help you drift off to sleep... but when and IF a tornado came near your location, the additional static generated by the lightning would do two things:

First, it would crackle even louder than the background noise, and this would wake light sleepers up.

Second, the static discharge of lightning strikes in the region would produce bright white flashes within the black and white static on the screen.  The brighter and more intense the flashes, the closer the lightning. And the thought was that tornadoes generated a lot of internal static discharges, which we interpret as lightning.

It was a novel application of an "empty receiver"... something that showed up as a plot device in the first "Poltergeist" movie.

These days, as our analog TV sets are being replaced by digital, the theory is still good.

Take your old black and white or color set (as long as it doesn't have a blue screen that pops up when signal strength is too low) and plug it in to power during tornado watches. DON'T CONNECT THAT SET TO CABLE.  Tune to empty channel 13, and presto, you have a tornado detector!

It's worth a try, rather than scrapping that old analog black and white TV that's been sitting on the shelf or  in the garage for months, right?

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