In the 1973 movie "To Live and Let Die" of the James Bond franchise, a character is killed 1 minute and 50 seconds into the beginning of the film because his headset was hijacked.

His death is almost instantaneous.

Does this scene have any ground in real medical fact, or is it pure fiction? Details are welcome.

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  • 1
    Even if you can, I highly doubt that standard commercially available earphones can do it, as depicted in your screenshots. Did the movie specify the exact mechanism? Was it the loudness of the sound or did they presuppose a sound pattern which magically triggers something akin to a self-destruction mechanism in the brain? Movies from that era tend to reflect a fear of brainwashing which seems to have been perceived as a realistic cold-war threat.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 13:11

1 Answer 1


Sound is merely the vibration of molecules in a wave pattern and so the absolute theoretical answer to your question is, yes. Something that can vibrate your molecules has the power to kill you. It just requires a great enough intensity or decibel level. (If you get anything loud enough it could shake you apart.) How loud, well a grenade is about 164 dB. You would probably die from the explosion that caused that noise level first though.

In the example of your question, volume would not work, as any sound loud enough to kill you in that way would obviously affect others in the room. That leaves the question of frequency. If in theory you could find a resonance frequency of a particular anatomical structure and produce that frequency for a long enough period and isolate all other structures from it then you could in fact kill someone in that way. For example eyes, in this NASA Technical Report 19770013810 they found the frequency of eyeballs.

While not exactly the same as in your example the theory is plausible though extremely unlikely. There are far to many variables and limits with current technology to implement the headphone assassination. But here are some other sound weapons that begin to enlighten the realm of possibility.

Additional Info: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/index.html

  • Thanks, Dr.! Your NASA link doesn't work, though. Please correct it so I can mark your answer as accepted! Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 3:27
  • Sorry, the link worked yesterday. It's from 1976, so it's a lousy copy pdf. It is from a military site. The edit should fix it for now. Interesting read. DOC ID 19770013810, “Mechanical Resonant Frequency of the Human Eye in Vivo” is available as a full-text PDF online via the Defense Technical Information Center: dtic.mil/cgi-bin/… Reference physicsforums.com/threads/…
    – Dr. Duncan
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:46
  • There is a maximum limit to the level of a sound after which it becomes distorted.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 23:53

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