Axel Volmar: “Listening to the Cold War: The Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations, Seismology, and Psychoacoustics 1958 - 1963,” in Osiris, Vol. 28 (2013).
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This article shows how sound was used as an epistemic tool for seismological research during the Cold War, when the ability to distinguish underground nuclear explosions from natural earthquakes, the so-called detection or discrimination
problem, became a critical issue of international arms control. In 1960, the psychoacoustician Sheridan Speeth created an “auditory display” for presenting seismographic records to the ear. Despite promising initial results, neither seismologists
nor military offi cials seemed to welcome Speeth’s work. I place his efforts within a Cold War framework and show how the sounds of science can be politicized and why it is important to take into account the disciplinary and sociopolitical contexts in which research enterprises are embedded.