In 1964, the US government conducted an experiment in which it bombarded Oklahoma City with eight sonic booms a day, every day, for six months, in order to test community reaction. The experiment was part of a large-scale program to build a supersonic transport (SST), an aircraft that would have produced sonic booms affecting many millions of people. This article explores the history of sonic booms, with special focus on the causes, contexts, and consequences of the Oklahoma City experiment. It argues that within the political economy of the Cold War, sonic booms became a new kind of state power that touched people through their senses and functioned as a kind of “technopolitics” that intruded upon the practice of everyday life. The final section considers the legacy of sonic booms and the militarization of sound in the twenty-first century.
1 January 2015