Where are we at? Let’s review the state of Worldwide Hum Research

Let’s recall that many readers are fairly new to this. So let’s summarize and bring them up to speed.

I don’t think any serious scholar of the Worldwide Hum claims that the clear answer has been found. I think there is a consensus developing that there may two or more independent factors that can cause people to hear/perceive low frequency sounds that have certain characteristics. Those properties are discussed at length elsewhere in this blog.

I identified four hypotheses that pass the most trivial examination. Each has difficulties. One or more of these may only be prerequisite factors, activated by some other condition or conditions.

  1. VLF Radio (3 kHz- 30 kHz) is the culprit. When I entered the VLF-Radio Blocking unit, which out of respect for the author of the concept I named the Deming Box, the Hum was loud and clear. Once my physics of skin depth are confirmed, and once a VLF meter proves the box does what I say it does, then this theory can be discarded if my result are replicated. Note that ELF radio (f < 3 kHz) must be ruled out as well.
  2. The Hum is the result of massive and widespread human activity that creates colossal levels of low frequency sound and infrasound. Busy freeways, for example, can generate sounds and vibrations that can travels for many miles, even further over water. Europe was the first place on Earth to have high density, high speed traffic through high densities of human population. The Hum started there, if the currently accepted history is correct. Soviet research noted that the sounds of surface mining can travel more than 10 km horizontally and at least three km deep. All manner of human activity generates these sounds, and there is the possibility that we have reached some type of acoustic critical mass of sound energy in some regions that can be detected by a subset of the population.
  3. Recent historical research and newspaper analysis (a fancy term for me reading on the internet) finds that there are reports from 19th century England of early seismologists hearing from witnesses who reported acoustic precursors as well as concomitant sounds associated with earthquakes and seismic activity. The Hum may be connected to such a geological or terrestrial process. There is a subset of the population which is profoundly more sensitive to low frequency sounds and infrasound. Members of many animal species have this sensitivity, and they act as a warning alarm for earthquakes.
  4. The Hum is internally generated, as are tinnitus and otoacoustic emissions. If acoustic and electromagnetic prerequisites can be ruled out, and if I find convincing historical evidence for the Worldwide Hum, then I think this becomes a very solid theory. As to why only a small proportion of the population can hear the Hum, these hearers may share an anatomical variation in the auditory system, for example. There is also the possibility that the Hum is indeed a relatively recent phenomenon but results from anthropogenic environmental factors, medication, and so on.

Because the World Hum Map and Database project works on a tiny budget, I can’t conduct the simple experiments that I’ve suggested on this blog. They can be conducted by amateurs who have the resources and motivation to do so. A serious university or private lab could unlock all this in a few months, but for years now we have moved along, inch by inch. Apart from some very rudimentary experimental results, one thing we have accomplished is widespread, mainstream media exposure and some degree of normalization.


A few specific things you can do today to help solve the Worldwide Hum

  1. Conduct historical research at a site such as http://gdc.galegroup.com/gdc/artemis/?p=GDCS&u=bcptstothepast and look for historical evidence of the Hum. You may need to get creative in your search terms. Keep track of what you find out.
  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper, explaining what the Hum is, what our project does, and what we are doing. Ask for local hearers to come forward.
  3. Write to any of the following people and get them emotionally involved in the scientific mystery: a research audiologist (like Dr. Alec Salt), a radio physicist or engineer, a seismic geologist, an ear-nose-throat specialist, and so on. Explain our project. Refer them to me at glen.macpherson@gmail.com.
  4. Borrow a sensitive infrasound microphone and take nighttime recordings in your home. Send me the mp3 file.

I welcome other ideas that are accessible to non-specialists.

Another simple test awaits, in Rustrel-Pays d’Apt, in France

First, scan the following abstract: https://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9910192

This is probably the most ideal place on planet Earth for conducting a Hum hearing test. Entering the testing room underneath that much earth and electromagnetic shielding provides an excellent environment for eliminating several hum hypotheses.

Our project at http://www.thehum.info has achieved international recognition now, and if you feel able to write a serious letter on my behalf – especially if you have some scientific or medical training – then do so. Ask for permission for a group of volunteers to access the chamber. I’m sure the international media would be interested, which would provide a win-win situation for the group running the room as well as those of us working to solve the Hum.

I’ll mention again that organized effort is the only method of side-stepping the profit motive that drives most university and serious private labs. But it takes time and effort, and I can’t do it all by myself. I need your help in reaching out to people who can assist us.

Some historical findings from England

I spent most of Sunday morning searching for and subsequently scanning hundreds of newspaper headlines going back almost 200 years. I have more than 20 years background in qualitative research, but this was a challenge. The signal to noise ratio on my searches was distressingly low. But note that anybody can do this research; you just need to scan the archives. Here’s an excellent source: http://pointstothepast.ca/.

I found a rich record of unexplained sounds. As an aside, I feel thankful to live in this era when I can learn so much in so little time. I’m old enough to remember the time when I had to approach the reference desk in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba with my educational database searches, and then return a few hours later to learn the results. And then I had to repeat the entire exercise, even if I wanted to tweak a single word in my search. What I did Sunday morning would have taken months in 1984.

I may have found some very early references to unexplained, low frequency sounds that were heard mainly at night. But I must mention reports of the “huge swarm of bees” sound that even today – and I mean this actual day – are reported to the World Hum Map and Database. I’ve always agonized over this description, because I always assumed that the collective sound of bees was a mid-range frequency. But apparently I was mistaken in that. The following serious research indicates a high spectral density around 110 Hz – well within the range of what we are studying. https://igor.crew.c-base.org/1-s2.0-S0168169908001385-main.pdf, and this: http://www.beehacker.com/wp/?page_id=103, and others. There is a chance that the worldwide Hum has been around for centuries. I can’t conclude anything yet.

But there’s more. Several amateur scientists worked behind the scenes, and helped to establish the modern theory of seismology. They documented the reports of people in England who claimed that there were audio precursors to minor earthquakes, as well as concomitant sounds. Their descriptions of those sounds struck a very familiar chord with me, having read tens of thousands of reports sent to the Hum Database.

My reading continues. Please let me know what you find.

Not a single Hum report from China

This is a surprise. The Chinese form has been available for months now at http://www.thehum.info, and has been advertised on a few Chinese forums in Vancouver. Not one report has been entered. There are a few possibilities, in order of plausibility:

  1. Word has not spread. If I can get a few readers to post to forums in Hong Kong, this may cause discussion of the Hum to go viral and get the reports flooding in.
  2. My site is being filtered from web searches by the Chinese Firewall (this should be easy enough to check).
  3. The Hum does not occur in China (I find this highly unlikely, but it is possible).

Stay tuned.

Otoacoustic Emissions: A simple test awaits

Several years ago I reported on the research from Frosch that suggests the Hum and Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs, or SOAEs) may arise from the same mechanism. One piece of evidence for this is that both the Hum and OAE are usually disrupted for several days by air travel.

I don’t know why I didn’t pursue this earlier, but OAEs can be recorded, even in newborns, using in-ear microphones. Here are some examples: http://www.otodynamics.com/supporthome.asp?CatID=2

Therefore, if the Hum is a type of auto-generated  emission, we should attempt to record it. The microphones used in OAE testing start around $500.00 and go up from there. I haven’t got the funding to conduct this, but if a motivated reader does, s/he could secure a place in history by being the first person to record the worldwide Hum. If the experiment fails to record the Hum, that would be an important finding as well.

Let me know if you intend to conduct this experiment.

Regarding the work of Audiologist Mark Williams and the Hum (from BBC4 Punt PI)

I have to admit that I don’t even listen to or watch most of the media that I appear in. Frankly, the thrill is long gone and it can often be something of a chore now. I don’t really care who gets credit for solving the Worldwide Hum, but I do my bit by speaking with almost everyone who asks me to. A reader of this forum pointed me toward a segment near the end of the BBC4 Punt PI piece, which prompted me to listen to the whole thing. And I’m disappointed to say the least.

The audiologist Mark Williams spoke eloquently during his segment on the same BBC4 program where I also appeared. He is obviously an expert in audiology, but I think Punt PI intentionally conflated his work with tinnitus sufferers with efforts to investigate the Hum. He made no distinction between high frequency tinnitus and low frequency Hum. It should be noted that the percentage of people who report to the World Hum and Database who have tinnitus is roughly the same percentage of the general population who report tinnitus. Those who hear both tell us the two experiences are entirely different. We can’t tell from the BBC4 editing if Williams conflates the two in the same way the medical community has for so many years. In some ways I think the manner in which the BBC producers presented Williams’ research was a setback for the Hum community, and perhaps a setback for him. When Williams’ patient entered the “sound-proof room” and put on ear defenders, she emerged later, reporting that the relief from sound was “bliss”, and reported now hearing a “hum”. This is not even the classic behaviour of the world Hum. The listener was given the strong impression that the Hum was silenced, but this would be a huge overstatement.

Low frequency sounds and in particular infrasound can penetrate materials (and so-called sound-proof booths) much more easily than higher frequency ones. There is now evidence from high quality Soviet research that mining noises can penetrate three kilometres of rock downward, and at least 10 km horizontally along the ground (https://goo.gl/5p65ib). Moreover, it’s recognized that even though there is not a lot of variation in the perceivable frequencies of the lower-end of the audible spectrum, there is great variation in the activation thresholds of individuals, including a subset of the population who are vastly more sensitive to lower frequency sounds (references available upon request).

So we continue to correct the record, separate the variables, and look for more conclusive tests.