Nothing but crickets? Scientists: US-claimed 'sonic attack' actually was insects

After punishing Cuba for an alleged 'sonic attack' against US diplomats in Havana, scientists conclude it was crickets

Oh man, who would have known that crickets could cause a new Cold War? After nearly two years of finger-pointing and economically and diplomatically punishing Cuba for an alleged 'sonic attack' against nearly two dozen diplomats stationed in Havana, it turns out 'lovelorn' crickets may have been to blame.

Two scientists have now presented evidence that the high-pitched sounds heard by US diplomats in Havana that allegedly caused strange and damaging neurological symptoms were not so mysterious after all. They were made by crickets, the researchers concluded.

That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added — only that the recording is not of a sonic weapon, as had been suggested.

Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds made by diplomats and published by The Associated Press.

“There’s plenty of debate in the medical community over what, if any, physical damage there is to these individuals,” said Mr. Stubbs in a phone interview. “All I can say fairly definitively is that the A.P.-released recording is of a cricket, and we think we know what species it is.”

When Mr. Stubbs first heard the recording, he was reminded of insects he came across while doing field work in the Caribbean. When he and Dr. Montealegre-Z downloaded the sound file, they found that its acoustic patterns — such as the rate of pulses and the strongest frequencies — were very similar to the songs of certain kinds of insects.

Male singing insects produce regular patterns during courtship. Females are attracted to certain males based on their songs, which has led to the evolution of different songs in different species.

It turns out, this guy is the culprit:

(Photo: Indies Short-Tailed Cricket)

The song of the Indies short-tailed cricket “matches, in nuanced detail, the A.P. recording in duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse,” the scientists wrote in their analysis.

Experts on cricket songs said the analysis was well done. “It all seems to make sense,” said Gerald Pollack of McGill University, who studies acoustic communication among insects. “It's a pretty well supported hypothesis.”

But will this new scientific revelation change the Trump administration's hostile actions towards Cuba? Any chance of an apology or a return to normal diplomatic relations in both countries? Probably not, considering the 'cricket' incident was used to implement the same aggressive policies towards Havana that Trump has promised the hardcore anti-Cuba delegation that supported his presidential victory.

(Reporting from The New York Times)

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