I approached this stunning building (Российская национальная библиотека) looking forward to looking through Soviet scientific literature in order to see what, if anything, had been written about the Hum in the Russian language. The Worldwide Hum is obscure enough, without the added barrier of a (difficult) foreign language spoken well by few people in the West. Therefore I thought there could be a decent chance that the source of the Hum was solved, or at least investigated, during the Cold War, and is now sitting out in plain view, but unknown to us. My Russian is good enough so as to know what to look for, and then if need be, I could follow up by referring to technical dictionaries, Russian Langage study partners with scientific credentials, and so on.
When I walked through the doors, I was met with full-on airport-style security (as is very common everywhere in Russia in places of cultural or historical significance or where large numbers of people gather). As I approached the desk it occurred to me that I needed to choose my words carefully. In my most polite Russian, I said, “Good day; I am a tourist, and I very much like Russian Language, culture, and history (which is all true), and I may I please visit your library?” The most senior of the security guards looked at me with mild incredulity and marched me over to a separate desk where two female officials were standing. I repeated my request, and one of them rejected my notion out of hand, but then seemed to reconsider my request and then looked at me and said firmly, “Show me your passport”.
In Russia, you must always carry your passport with you, or if you are a tourist, a photocopy of it. A photocopy is even good enough for the Police (who, by the way, do not kid around). I explained that I keep my passport secured in my apartment, but I am happy to provide a photocopy to her. She brushed away that idea and I was dismissed from the library.
My readers know that when it comes to researching the Hum, we put aside personal differences and politics and stick to the science. But I trust my readers will forgive this brief comment about what I think is a North American treasure: open libraries and a free press. As I stood outside the library to take the picture you see above, I thought to myself, “This is a library“. I just wanted to go inside and learn.
I’ll keep trying, however. Just before leaving for Russia, I was interviewed by a Russian documentary crew (in English) about the Hum Map and Database, and perhaps by the time next summer comes around, I will have navigated the bureaucracy in advance so that I get access to the information we need.
It’s great to be back.
I heard the Worldwide Hum roughly four days after I arrived in Russia. It wasn’t as clear and distinct as it here on the Sunshine Coast in BC. The city of St. Petersburg is dense and highly populated, home to more than five million people. So it didn’t surprise me that my nighttime window for hearing the Hum was smaller than in my small town on the West Coast of Canada. Presumably, the cacophony generated by such a densely populated and busy city would only subside for a few hours during the wee hours of the night. My apartment was on Ulitsa Pravdy, in the downtown core and just a few hundred meters away from the intersection of two big metro lines. The Metro (subway) system starts up early, comprises more than 1400 cars and almost 200 trains moving fast and deep – in one case almost 300 feet beneath street level. The road traffic is fast, intense, and high volume. There is a rich and high volume audio spectrum, down into the infrasonic.
And now the anticipated answer to the question: What perceived frequency did I hear?
I’m sorry but I can’t answer that accurately. I opened up the online tone generator several times, but I couldn’t get a good match like I can here. I am quite confident that it is the same general range (i.e. low 50s Hz to mid-60s Hz).
I know this is disappointing because had I been able to get a good frequency match, it could have sorted out one issue: the electric grid. Russia has a 50 Hz grid, unlike North America, which uses 60 Hz. A difference in perceived Hum tone would have been significant and possibly diagnostic. Had I heard a different frequency, it could have also lent weight to the theory that the Hum is a conglomeration of noise, with each location having unique sonic characteristics, interpreted individually by people’s auditory systems.
Anyway, it’s great to be back.
This facility is apparently open for tourists. I would very much like a Hum hearer to go inside for a little while and tell me what they experienced.
The Beta versions of the new World Hum Map and Research Tool are located at http://thehum.info/newhum/
A quick video tutorial is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObQD6GSGYME&feature=youtu.be
One major change that will generate discussion is the elimination of more than half the data points from the previous map (the ones now in red). The conspiracy crowd might go wild over this, and some other people will feel disappointed if not invalidated. I made this decision myself, after months of deliberation and only when the time was right. When I started the Hum Map and Database Project, my initial concern was getting points on the map and spreading awareness about the project. Very early on I even imported points en masse from a few other open-source Hum mapping projects. As time passed, media attention gathered and so did the information posted by Hum hearers. As we learned more about the Worldwide Hum, it became clear that a good number of the data points on the Hum Map did not meet the basic criteria for inclusion. I fully believe the people who report that they hear an unexplained low-frequency noise, but if they have invested little or no effort in tracking down the source of the noise, their report shouldn’t be on the Map (yet). Likewise, if the sound is louder during the day than at night, it is almost certainly the result of daytime industrial and commercial activity. Moreover, if the sound is louder outdoors than indoors, then almost certainly we are not dealing with the Hum. So I eliminated all the points that did not meet these basic criteria. That left about 7600 of the original data points. I admit that I am probably eliminating some valid data by doing this, but the benefit is that we now have a much more valid and rigorous data set.
The second major change is the inclusion of the new and detailed data points (they are in blue). They offer rich detail from Hum hearers, including enhanced information about medication use, family histories of certain conditions, dietary questions, and so on. About 600 points from this set were selected for inclusion on the map.
The third and crucial change is the research search interface, done by Jason Lewis, building upon Derek Edder’s template. Finally, researchers can test their hypothesis against either dataset (or both), looking for correlations that might lead us forward. Please let me know if you encounter any difficulties using it.
The video tutorial will be available shortly.