I think there’s good evidence that large numbers of people have started hearing the Hum for the first time. One classic sign of the Hum is that it is perceived to be louder at night than during the day. The presumed reason for this is that ambient daytime noises mask the Hum, and when the noise of civilization quiets down later at night, the Hum can be much more easily noticed. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the conditions to test this assumption. Anthropogenic noise around the world is now the quietest it has been in many decades. Air traffic, freeway traffic, and industrial activity and so on have been sharply reduced. And concurrent with this I have been flooded with emails from people who have independently searched for and found the World Hum Map and this blog. They are searching for the source of the noise that many of know all so well. It is also important to note that there are also people writing to me telling me that their hum has stopped. My hypothesis is that those people were not hearing the Hum in the first place, but rather classic acoustic noises that share similarities with the World Hum. The fact that there are far more people in the first category compared to the second, points to this conclusion. I will be very interested to analyze the data that has been reported after the first week of March 2020.
Of course, among those emails are the usual questions about the so-called “sky trumpets”, and so on. It was never my goal to determine the source of those noises, which I am sure are very ordinary, but this seems to be an unintended outcome of this project. You can find my analysis of that topic elsewhere on this blog.
Perhaps world events have provided many people with time to turn their attention to other things, such as the Hum. Over the past month, I have received hundreds of emails from around the world. Some people want answers, some want help, and some are simply telling me what they are experiencing.
I am sorry that I cannot respond to most of you. My teaching colleagues and I are facing a massive shift in the way we approach our work and I have been tasked with helping bring them up to speed on technology tools such as Moodle, Google Classroom, and Zoom that will help us make that transition. I feel very grateful that I am still earning a paycheck during the COVID-19 pandemic while many people in this community and in Canada are not.
So to those of you who wrote to me, could I get you to read the following, in this order:
- This article, which is currently the only major media piece written in my own words: https://theconversation.com/cracking-the-mystery-of-the-worldwide-hum-60296
- These two excellent guides from Henrik (resident scientist)
- My blog, which has commentary from scientists and non-scientists alike: https://hummap.wordpress.com/
- And, of course, be sure to examine the World Hum Map: http://thehum.info/newhummap/html_docs/
When the world and my professional life have both settled down, I should be in a better position to connect with people individually.
Until then, stay safe and healthy.
All the best.
I am in Covid-19 self-isolation now, having just returned to Canada from work-related travel through St Petersburgh, Helsinki, Kyiv, and Toronto. I feel very grateful to be back on Canadian soil. I am currently asymptomatic, and I wish good health to all those who may have been exposed or are working to limit exposure to themselves and others.
I received an email from a sharp-eyed reader who noted that over the next while, Hum hearers will be able to tell us if the dramatic reduction in world air travel is connected in any way to the perception of low-frequency noise and infrasound.
No doubt there are countless people out there who are overwhelmed with uncertainty and anxiety over much more important matters – issues such as the safety of elderly loved ones, putting food on the table, and whether they will have a job, for example. My empathy goes out to them during these extraordinary times.
For Hum hearers who are safe, properly isolated, and have the mental space and need to keep their minds active, perhaps take some time at night to listen for the Hum. What you hear, or don’t hear, could add to what we know.
I urge everyone to help stop this pandemic and to attend to their physical and emotional health. For those of you who recognize a personal need to keep your mind engaged and focused, feel free to listen for the Hum, and tell us what you hear.
Finally, we have a data set with construct validity and with significantly reduced confounding factors. Once we crossed the threshold of roughly 17 000 map entries, we then applied a very strict set of criteria to filter the raw information, resulting in just over 3000 high-quality entries to the database and World Hum Map. If you are experienced in statistical techniques, then feel free to download the database, and let me know what you learn.
One risk of applying stringent criteria for map inclusion is that there will be people who feel excluded, marginalized, or that we don’t believe them. Nothing could be further from the truth. One important result of our project is the realization that not only is the world awash in unwanted and nuisance low-frequency sound and infrasound but also that many of these sounds share many characteristics with the World Hum. In some cases, it can take considerable effort to separate the two and to track down exactly what is causing the disturbance in question. Here is your guide for doing that.
On this last day of 2019, I admit to a sense of disappointment that I cannot devote more time to this project. I am also grateful that we have Henrik, one of our resident scientists, and Jason Lewis, our volunteer programmer, who have both done heavy lifting to help bring the 3.0 Hum Map to fruition.
Slowly but surely we move toward the solution to this mystery. Just a few days ago, I chuckled out loud when, later at night, I heard that familiar distant idling engine noise and said to myself, “I wonder what that sound is?”. As long as I and others never lose that sense of scientific mystery and discovery, we will get to the bottom of it.
We have applied a very strict filter to our entire database (thanks to Henrik).
[In Henrik’s words: I stumbled over http://www.thehum.info by pure chance (March 2016), and took an interest in it mainly because I thought I spotted some shortcomings in the methodology, and partly because the then prevailing theories about VLF/ELF/RF and the power grid were close to my own competency area and experience. I am a retired electrical and telecommunications engineer (M.Sc.E.E.), who has spent 25 years with Nokia in R&D and sales support, and another 20 years as Chief Engineer and CTO for a number of smaller Asian telecommunication operator. Due to a quadruple heart bypass over 20 years ago, while living in a developing country, I also had to take more responsibility for my own health, and had to read up on various subjects in that field as well. I therefore have taken the liberty to cook up some hypotheses related to medicines, nutrition, metabolic and hormonal aspects and environmental chemicals. These, of course, need to be scrutinized by experts in the respective fields. Being a non-hum-sufferer, I have mainly focused on methodology and analysis and staying within the boundaries of known laws of physics, in addition to correcting misunderstandings concerning radio waves and electromagnetic fields, which at one point were key suspects in the project.]
We are now left with just over 3000 very high-quality data and map points, and we can now answer more definitively some of the questions that people have been asking about the Hum for decades. I will be releasing the full database in MySQL format, as well as the data filtering criteria over the next few days.
Google cancelled its Fusion Table feature, which drives the Hum Map. We are in the process of switching over to a “homebrew” solution with the help of Jason Lewis, our young and highly talented programmer.
We’ll be back online soon. And, thanks to Henrik’s keen eye, we are about to deploy a highly valid and reliable data set.
(I was taught in high school that “new developments” was a redundancy. Perhaps it is, but in either case, it gives the reader the sense that something interesting has happened, and that it is a development).
While I was in Russia, living on Marata Street in St. Petersburg, I was contacted by a Post-Doctoral Fellow working and studying at a serious university in Germany. I am protecting his identity because he fears – rightly so – future employers, for example, looking askance at his association with something that might be construed as some type of mental disorder. I wore him down on that point, and he conceded that he, I, and we, are all experiencing the same thing and that we should work together to figure out what is causing it.
It is very real. Most Hum Hearers are just everyday people, representing both genders about equally, and mean and median age distribution curves normally distributed and in tight correlation with population density. There are no such things as “hot spots” unless what they are hearing is actually emanating from a mundane source, such as an industrial roof-mounted fan unit. Henrik has written a seminal article on this topic, which also gives people who hear low-frequency noises a field-guide to tracking down what exactly is causing their local sonic disturbance. One thing we don’t understand yet is why fully ambidextrous people are much more likely to hear the Hum. Also, it appears there is a moderate correlation between Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Autism in Hum Hearers and their families. These are examples of what we have learned. The phenomenon is so well documented now that I think it’s time for serious people to start talking about it.
And I’m told they are about to. I am expecting to learn the initial results of some serious lab testing conducted recently at the previously-mentioned university lab in Germany. I’ve always said that once a serious lab was involved, within 18 to 24 months the answer would be at hand. If that lab’s results are accepted for peer-reviewed publication, then the Hum will enter mainstream serious scientific literature for the first time. Numbers of previous articles and data sources have appeared in journals that also published some far-out and in some cases outlandish science. A mainstream journal is important for all kinds of reasons. If and when that happens, the biggest part of the struggle will be accomplished. Ear-nose-and throat doctors, among other specialists, will get involved and so will their research dollars. It then becomes a race to see who will get the credit for solving it.
And when the answer comes I hope it also provides relief for people who are suffering from this. I feel lucky that it doesn’t bother me a lot, but it would nice to experience full quiet in a quiet environment; like almost everyone else, when I go into a very quiet environment later at night, I can hear it. I love the forest, and I’d like to eventually enjoy it without the Hum. I’m ready to have this solved and then move to other projects. But until then, we’ll keep working at it.