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The Work of Geoff Leventhall

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Follow World Hum Map and Database Project on WordPress.com

Geoff Leventhall’s work on what we now call the Worldwide Hum should be required reading for anybody undertaking a serious look at the science surrounding the phenomenon. His 2003 paper is a superior review of the published corpus on low frequency sounds, infrasounds, and their effects. He lays out his evidence on a handful of competing hypotheses, including the ELF/VLF theory that I am currently testing.

Becoming conversant in the biophysics of audiology has been a challenge for me, as it was with radio physics (including VLF radio transmission and propagation),  the history and psychology of mass hysteria, 19th century textual analysis, demographics, and so on. If you think you have the raw ability (note I did not write ‘formal education’) to eventually understand this material, then may I suggest you use a recursive process to learn it.

Try reading Leventhall’s article and stop the instant you read something you don’t understand. For example, in the first few paragraphs you see references to “dB”. This can refer to a number of things, each of which should be understood. And during that process you will stop to understand other things. To achieve scientific literacy, you must understand something at a level that permits further understanding. For example, once you understand the absolute basics about frequency and wavelength, you can dismiss out of hand the ridiculous excitement surrounding – again – the notion that ocean waves are creating a “hum”. It’s science reporters who are guilty in all this, with Yahoo Science among the most culpable.

And let me know if you need an explanation of anything you read in Leventhall’s article or any other. I’ll do my best to translate it into basic English and then post my answers here.


  1. Glen – I assume you mean:

    Leventhall, Geoff, et al, “A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise
    and its Effects”, Report for Defra (2003) [Defra = Department for Environment Food & Rural
    Affairs, UK] 88 pages: pages 20, 43-45 deal with the Hum.


  2. Missed your link – sorry. I was mainly interested in adding my associated comments about this reference (from my Webnote-40). With some 88 pages total, I think a reader needs to be directed to the relevant parts of Leventhall first. What a disappointment to hit page 43 where it gets VERY interesting and find the good stuff end with page 45! I thought we were on to something definitive.

    • I think the entire paper is relevant. Leventhall examined low frequency sound complaints in general, and did an outstanding job on the audiology end of things, in my view. I think he gives an honest treatment of hypotheses. What specific parts of pp. 43-45 capture your attention the most?

      • Well – for one thing, the title of that section is “The Hum”, and nothing else in the whole review directly discusses that. OR – what did I miss? Admittedly, it was 7 weeks ago that I read the whole thing and cited it.

        It read like an all too typical report by a government agency (in the UK in this case) trying to justify their funding! What we call a “white paper” in preparation for a grant proposal.

      • We may be dealing with several sources. It’s a lot of work, but I think sorting this out will require grappling with a curriculum of scientific material that may go beyond one field. In any case, I think Leventhall should be part of the curriculum.

  3. Yes – physics, perceptual psychology, and signal analysis. Basic stuff. Clear evidence and what it has to mean. Also what it almost certainly does NOT mean. Perhaps more – but that should be enough for now.

    As a very bright guy said:

    “But, as in all science, it seems best to start with what we know and is plausible, as opposed to what we don’t know and is implausible.”

    That was of course you Glen, in the article on the Conversation about 10 days ago. That was outstanding – by the way. That is what everyone should read.


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