Audio producer Cory Choy was reporting on the 2014 Black Lives Matter protests in New York City when he first experienced sound as a weapon.
“Horrible, nauseating pain hit my body,” he tells Popular Mechanics, “and then I realized it was sound. At first you just think, ‘What’s happening to me?’ Your body goes into complete pain and panic mode. It’s the sound equivalent of looking into the sun.”
Despite his professional-grade headphones, the effect of the weapon—a long-range acoustic device, or LRAD—was so disorienting at first that Choy couldn’t tell which way to run and was forced to randomly pick a direction. But he was lucky.
“People in the direct line of fire [of the LRAD] didn’t run,” he says. “They just dropped to the ground and started screaming.”