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A Bad Start to 2019

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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.



  1. Col. Panek says:

    I read a lot of engineering and science news and magazines, and it seems that all the “journalists” have no clue about the science they write about. The worst are the press releases from college researchers fishing for financial backers. The school PR dept. blows it all out of proportion and the “science news” just repeats and amplifies it.

    You can always tell a real engineer; their spelling and grammar are atrocious.

    • Jim –

      I agree that “science reporters” generally don’t know sufficient details about what they attempt to relate – not even enough to have a clue that they MIGHT WELL be way off. Is it that they don’t even run their stories by the original authors/researchers?

      I disagree, however, about engineers being poor writers.

      In their enthusiasm for writing engineering-style reports; about material items that can be made to work (or not work), or about more abstract notions that might (or might not) have potential, their engineering writing may seem stilted with logic and with detailed self-contained accurate reporting! What is typical is little need to ask for clarifications. In fact, most engineering schools offer (or insist on) a fair amount of “engineering communications” instruction (even for ABET accreditation).

      We engineers sometimes (like the general writer), rely too heavily on spell-checkers (use) and grammar-checkers (turn off?) in lieu of SEVERAL careful and thoughtful proof-reads.

      As related by such as C.P. Snow (The Two Cultures) and John Paulos (Innumeracy), engineers (and scientists in general) get a bad-rap if they are even occasionally inelegant with language while literature majors get a full pass (even admiration, as just being deeper thinkers!) for a scientific/mathematical gaffe.


  2. Stephen Brown says:

    I cannot yet be completely sure that I do not have a brain-to-hearing issue also too to be associated with possibly fibromyalgia associated along with unknown other. I first began to hear this in about 1996. I call it a ‘drone’ It has been with me ever since. It comes and go’s with lower and greater intensity. I have always believed that this indescribable entity..is from outside my body….but I do not know for sure and research I have learned to date, no one else knows either! Perhaps we as humans, in this habitat..measured in longer times , we do not know who we may mean for why we …as we (human beings) can understand a greater picture than we are capable….

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