They're Just Like People, Only Cheaper
A recent Dominic Casciani story for the BBC
explained that, "Papers newly released by the British Government
reveal how scientists tested Concorde's sonic boom for damage
against humans - by firing it at French chickens in a barn."
In 1969, everybody knew the Concorde was coming; but no one knew
just how its sonic boom would affect the people below the
commercial supersonic transport's flight path, especially as it
would be repeated, hitting the same people, day after day.
Britain has a rule similar to the US's Freedom of Information
Act, called the "30-year Rule," and under it, reporters found out
how those who run things determined that the Concorde would be safe
for the psyches of the ground-bound.
Engineers really didn't know how humans would react to repeated
exposure, so, lacking proper human subjects to experiment on, they
used nature's closest relative: the chicken. OK -- so it's not the
closest thing in Nature to a human, but chickens were plentiful,
available, and (if all didn't go well) relatively cheap.
The first tests were made using authentic sonic-boom sounds on
eggs. The chickens that hatched from those eggs were examined for
any ill effects of either physical or nervous nature. After the
chicks hatched, their reactions, both auditory and affective, were
noted, when subjected to additional sonic boom stimulation. No
differences between the previously-subjected, egg-tested chicks and
the control group were discerned.
A different test, on live broiler chickens, was set up. The
engineers were to test, on 2800 living birds, the effect of the big
boom. The scientists didn't know, going in, whether the
chickens would panic; of if they might ignore the noise. They
didn't know if it would affect their weight -- or it it might
provoke them, lemming-like, into some societally-destructive
A few blasts of the boom-horn settled that hash.
The chickens' reaction, according to the report, was the,
"...sudden and complete immobility of all the chickens. There was a
simultaneous cessation of all the cheeping for a maximum of 40
seconds - whereupon normal activity resumed. ...There was no
evidence of collective hysteria crowding or crushing due to fright
- even during the critical period when the feathers are grown."
They tried and they tried, but, "Repetition of the booms had no
economic effect on the industrial raising of chickens subjected to
the booms compared with those which were not."
Since chickens, presumably, are (at least to our rulers) just
like people, Casciani reported, "The scientists told the officials
all their studies suggested the 'probability of immediate direct
injury to persons exposed to sonic boom is essentially zero.'"
One wonders why those results didn't yield more-tolerant
supersonic flight rules...