NASA scientists are trying to mute the ear-splitting boom caused by supersonic flight into more of a sonic rumble, Wired reports. Researchers using modified F-15 jets have been experimenting with different wing shapes to spread out shock waves from breaking the sound barrier so they sound more like thunder than the telltale boom; they predict a quieter supersonic plane could be airborne within 5 years.
"Big picture: We want to learn how to build a plane with a low sonic boom," NASA's project manager says. "Understanding shock waves is going to help get us there." Public opposition to sonic booms was one of the reasons supersonic travel never really took off in the US; NASA's work could help make a 2.5-hour trip from LA to New York a reality.