Henrik, one of our “scientists in residence” has written a long-awaited paper on tracking down external environmental noise using very basic tools. I will feature prominently on this blog and on the Hum Map website for the near future. I hope that this paper will not only help create a purer dataset for our project but will aid people who are suffering from nuisance, low-frequency noise that arises from classic anthropogenic sources.
The paper is written in two parts.
Google cancelled its Fusion Table feature, which drives the Hum Map. We are in the process of switching over to a “homebrew” solution with the help of Jason Lewis, our young and highly talented programmer.
We’ll be back online soon. And, thanks to Henrik’s keen eye, we are about to deploy a highly valid and reliable data set.
(I was taught in high school that “new developments” was a redundancy. Perhaps it is, but in either case, it gives the reader the sense that something interesting has happened, and that it is a development).
While I was in Russia, living on Marata Street in St. Petersburg, I was contacted by a Post-Doctoral Fellow working and studying at a serious university in Germany. I am protecting his identity because he fears – rightly so – future employers, for example, looking askance at his association with something that might be construed as some type of mental disorder. I wore him down on that point, and he conceded that he, I, and we, are all experiencing the same thing and that we should work together to figure out what is causing it.
It is very real. Most Hum Hearers are just everyday people, representing both genders about equally, and mean and median age distribution curves normally distributed and in tight correlation with population density. There are no such things as “hot spots” unless what they are hearing is actually emanating from a mundane source, such as an industrial roof-mounted fan unit. Henrik has written a seminal article on this topic, which also gives people who hear low-frequency noises a field-guide to tracking down what exactly is causing their local sonic disturbance. One thing we don’t understand yet is why fully ambidextrous people are much more likely to hear the Hum. Also, it appears there is a moderate correlation between Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Autism in Hum Hearers and their families. These are examples of what we have learned. The phenomenon is so well documented now that I think it’s time for serious people to start talking about it.
And I’m told they are about to. I am expecting to learn the initial results of some serious lab testing conducted recently at the previously-mentioned university lab in Germany. I’ve always said that once a serious lab was involved, within 18 to 24 months the answer would be at hand. If that lab’s results are accepted for peer-reviewed publication, then the Hum will enter mainstream serious scientific literature for the first time. Numbers of previous articles and data sources have appeared in journals that also published some far-out and in some cases outlandish science. A mainstream journal is important for all kinds of reasons. If and when that happens, the biggest part of the struggle will be accomplished. Ear-nose-and throat doctors, among other specialists, will get involved and so will their research dollars. It then becomes a race to see who will get the credit for solving it.
And when the answer comes I hope it also provides relief for people who are suffering from this. I feel lucky that it doesn’t bother me a lot, but it would nice to experience full quiet in a quiet environment; like almost everyone else, when I go into a very quiet environment later at night, I can hear it. I love the forest, and I’d like to eventually enjoy it without the Hum. I’m ready to have this solved and then move to other projects. But until then, we’ll keep working at it.
I might be accused of click-baiting with titles like this one, but it nevertheless seems appropriate.
For the past year, I’ve been living in a condominium situated above a loud and busy section of town, replete with constant traffic, roof heaters, refrigeration units, and so on. The noise is relentless, and therefore I can’t hear the Hum here. Seeking some respite from the cacophony, I spent the night with friends whose house is situated near the end of a long cul-de-sac, and borders on a large forest and campground.
The Hum was very loud and unmistakable. And when I stepped outside, it stopped. It seems that my only complete break from noise in my world is when I am alone, outdoors, in a large forest. I feel thankful that I am not tormented by the Hum but rather intrigued by it and its unusual properties.
I will be making some technical announcements over the next few weeks regarding changes surrounding Google Fusion Tables (which drive the Hum Map and Database), as well as my upcoming trip through Europe where I will meet with Hum hearers in a number of countries during July.
Philip Jaekl has penned an excellent article for the Guardian on the Worldwide Hum. Not everyone will agree with every aspect of it, but we’ve been waiting for a piece like this one for quite a while. If you have reached out to me by email, please be patient. And note that very soon I’ll be overseas for several weeks, and I won’t be able to answer inquiries.
For those of you who are new to Worldwide Hum Research, visit the main page at www.thehum.info so you can get up to speed on things.
Here’s where I think we are and what we need to do:
- The Hum Map and Database. I think the new and improved Hum Map is serving its purpose well and has been at the centre of media attention. I will continue to update the Map. I think it’s time for a statistician to start crunching the data, based on some things we know or are speculating on.
- The Media. Most of the major media outlets (and many smaller ones) have done reasonably serious pieces about the Hum. Unfortunately, there has been some awful science reporting as well, and of course, I can’t leave it unchallenged. I expect I’ll be doing a fair bit of correcting the record in 2019.
- Physical Experiments. I have given specific advice on what needs to be done, but nobody has done it. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. And there are more.
- University and other corporate labs. Essentially no progress has been made on this point. Occasionally a university scientist is asked for an opinion regarding so-called “Sky Trumpets” (most of which I solved this summer) or other “mystery noises”. I’ve made a few efforts to reach out to established experts in several fields, but nothing has resulted. Eventually, a famous or powerful person who hears the Worldwide Hum will provide the impetus we need to get this solved.
- Honing our skills and techniques for tracking down human sources of low-frequency sound and infrasound. There are two papers from Henrik on the main page at www.thehum.info that are paving the way for this.
One of the main goals of this project is to raise awareness of the Worldwide Hum and to make it the subject of serious medical and scientific inquiry. We’ve had some tangible successes in that direction, but we’ve also experienced a number of setbacks. Scanning the news headlines this morning, The National Post – one of Canada’s national newspapers – reports “A strange, low-intensity hum near Vancouver Island may help predict when the next killer earthquake will strike. “
This was obviously an exciting headline. The writer of the article is Joseph Brean. I’m not interested in the various controversies and conflicts he is involved in, but rather his science reporting. After reading a few paragraphs, I realized that his grasp of basic science is about as weak as we’ve come to expect from major media outlets. One notable and very welcome exception to this is Nicole Mortillaro of CBC, who is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, among other accomplishments.
The research was reported in the journal Nature Geoscience. As interesting and potentially important as their study might be, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Worldwide Hum. This is roughly the same group of French researchers whose work was conflated with the Worldwide Hum in 2017. At the heart of the problem, again, is lazy translation. Check your favourite dictionary, and you’ll see that in every usage, the word “hum” refers to an audible sound. This is annoying because the French language has ample choices for expressing this or vibrations in general. The seismic vibrations reported by the researchers are far below the range of human hearing (both in frequency and power). There is no sound involved. Perhaps one of the researchers has basic English skills and was looking for a cute and catchy phrase that would appeal to lay readers.
Regular readers on this topic might say, “Wait a minute; didn’t you speculate that some sort of seismic or geological activity might be causing the Hum?”. Yes, I did, because there is some evidence from amateur British scientists who reported on audible events preceding earthquakes in England during the 1800s. But of course, that has nothing to do with the present French research, which makes no claims about audible sounds.
It is ironic that we have won some major battles against the lunacy and pseudoscience that used to be associated with the Hum, and now we work to undo the damage done by educated and serious people who are misreading and misinterpreting genuine science, on a different topic.
[UPDATED] I’ve found a primary source of the so-called “Sky Trumpets” noise. I inadvertently captured it on my phone in Russia (video)
UPDATE: I’ve heard this now in a number of places, including right near my condo when the big trucks are making their deliveries. It’s dismaying how easy this was to solve, and breathtaking how much massive media attention this has garnered. I’m calling this one solved, and I should probably move on from it.
Well, the word “found” is self-congratulatory – it was painfully easy to find with a few minutes of searching. What triggered this was that a few days ago I was being interviewed by a reporter who was curious about my thoughts on the so-called “sky trumpet” noises. I suddenly remembered that not only did I hear it myself, but I captured it on video (posted below). I had just arrived in Moscow, and I was at the Ismailovo Hotel complex (Beta Hotel). I was highly distracted (if not stressed) at the time because of a major paperwork problem (my apologies for the video – it is a private travel video and it caught me at a moment when I was in quite a predicament). At the time I made a mental note to comment on it later. In the video below, you can clearly hear it from about 0:03 through 0:10.
Sorry if I disappoint anyone, but it is a mechanical noise, caused by the brakes on large trucks travelling at lower speeds. Large machinery, trains going around curves create similar sounds. Other mechanical sources can create similar sounds. This has been reported for years over the internet by professional mechanics and amateur enthusiasts alike. All the sensationalists and fabulists had to do was take 20 minutes and go find it. Here is a sample of the sound coming from a smaller truck. And here is another reference to the “blue whale” noise caused by malfunctioning brakes. This poster talks about a “dying whale” noise. And another. And here. There are hundreds of references to it.
And of course, there may be other equally mundane causes of unusual noises, but the fundamental issue here is that tracking them down takes work and many people are in general lazy. So it’s the job of killjoys like me to dismantle the silliness. However, from what I now understand about psychology, education, sociology, and religion, there will always be a subset of people who will desperately and fiercely latch on to explanations that invoke the mysterious, the supernatural, and the conspiratorial. Some of them do this even when they should know better, such as the Science Education professor I knew at the University of Manitoba who believed in Velikovsky, or university graduates I know who believe the Earth is 6000 years old, and many other examples. As science continues to unveil how the universe works, these people don’t retreat, they simply bounce to the next magical and untestable claim, or the next exciting conspiracy.