In 1960, biologist Allan Frey, then 25, was working at General Electric’s Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University when he was contacted by a technician whose job was to measure the signals emitted by radar stations. The technician claimed that he could “hear” radar.

Frey traveled to the facility where the man worked and stood at the edge of the radar beam. “And sure enough, I could hear it, too,” he said. “I could hear the radar going ‘zip, zip, zip’.” Frey went on to establish that the effect was real—microwave radiation from radar (and other source) could somehow be heard by human beings. The “hearing,” however, didn’t happen via normal sound waves perceived through the ear. It apparently occurred somewhere in the brain itself, as microwaves interacted with the brain’s cells, which generate tiny electrical fields. Frey proved also that many deaf people and animals could hear microwave radiation. This phenomenon came to be known as the Frey effect, or simply “microwave hearing.”

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