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.